‘One day I know he will beat me, then he will be a complete player’
By NATHAN CLARKE in New York
There will be more than just a place in the semi-final of one of squash’s most iconic tournaments, the 2017 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, at stake inside New York’s Grand Central Terminal come Monday (Jan 16) as family bragging rights will also be on the line for ElShorbagy brothers Mohamed and Marwan.
The 26-year-old World No.1 and 23-year-old World No.6 made light work of second round opponents Ryan Cuskelly and Stephen Coppinger respectively to set up a last eight showdown that will see them meet for the seventh time on the PSA World Tour – with elder brother Mohamed enjoying a 100 per cent record to date.
They last met at the same stage during the 2016 U.S. Open, when Mohamed claimed a 3-0 win on the way to the title, but after defeating Cuskelly in straight-games tonight the defending ToC champion admitted that he expects his brother to push him to the limits this time around.
“I’ve won all our matches so far but he’s learning every time we play and he’s getting closer and closer to that win,” said Mohamed.
“It’s something special to have two brothers playing and competing against each other – it’s like the Williams sisters in tennis – and it’s something our family can be very proud of.
“One day he will beat me, but hopefully not at this tournament because I felt like I played very high quality squash today. I have trained hard in the past month and I’m feeling good, so hopefully I can carry that on.
“It took me nine attempts to defeat (Amr) Shabana and Greg (Gaultier) and I had to take everything out of them to get those first wins. I make it as hard as possible for my brother as well because I know when he beats me he will be a complete player. When that happens I will be incredibly proud.
“It’s the second World Series event this season where we’ve met at this stage and he’s been playing well, so I’m looking forward to a good match.”
Ahead of the match up Marwan said: “I’m excited to be in the quarters. To play my brother in the last eight in a setting like Grand Central Terminal is something I never dreamed would happen.
“I’ve been close to him a few times and I’ll try to step up another level on Monday. He’s playing well, but so I am, so we’ll see what happens.”
The victor of their battle could find themselves lining up against 2009 Tournament of Champions winner Gregory Gaultier in the semis after the 2015 World Champion staged a resurrection in his second round encounter, coming from 0-2 down to defeat an inspired Fares Dessouky.
The 22-year-old Egyptian recorded his first career win over Gaultier in their last meeting, during last August’s Hong Kong Open, and looked to have gotten under the Frenchman’s skin as he recorded 11-9, 11-8 opening game wins. But the man know as “The General” found a way back into the contest, stepping up and asserting his physicality to extend the rallies and edge a decisive fifth game 11-7.
“Last time in Hong Kong he played very well and I was on the back-foot throughout so today I was very focused as I knew what could happen,” said Gaultier.
“But in the first two games I was rushing and making too many errors. At 0-2 down I tried to just make him work harder and be constructive and I could see he was beginning to tire.
“I had to dig in and play at the right pace. I’m glad I made it through, it was a good fight and I’m happy with how I managed to come back.”
In the Women’s tournament, which got underway with first round action today, it was plain sailing for defending champion Nour El Sherbini and eight-time World Champion Nicol David as they recorded dominant 3-0 wins.
El Sherbini easily dispatched Hong Kong’s Joey Chan while David, who fell to a 12 year low of No.7 on the World Rankings in December after a disappointing 2016 campaign, got her 2017 off to a positive start with a 23 minute demolition of former World No.2 Jenny Duncalf.
“2016 was a disappointing year in terms of results but I felt like I was enjoying my squash again towards the back end of the year and I feel like I’ve carried that through into 2017,” said David.
“It was a tough year and I really had to work hard because of the challenges. But that made it one of the biggest years of learning in my career and I’m still very motivated.
“I had to come out strong today and I felt like I was seeing the ball well and moving well. I put her under pressure from the start and I’m happy to start with a good win.”
World No.2 Nouran Gohar secured similarly straight forward passage into the second round with a 3-0 win over Mayar Hany while Egyptian qualifier Salma Hany Ibrahim produced the upset of the day to down England’s top ten ranked Alison Waters.
2017 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, Grand Central Terminal, New York, USA.
Men’s Second Round (Top Half):
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) 3-0: 11-4, 11-6, 11-6 (44m)
 Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) bt Stephen Coppinger (RSA) 3-1: 4-11, 11-2, 11-8, 11-7 (59m)
Tarek Momen (EGY) bt  Omar Mosaad (EGY) 3-0: 11-5, 11-8, 11-1 (34m)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt Fares Dessouky (EGY) 3-2: 9-11, 8-11, 11-3, 11-7, 11-7 (81m)
Men’s Second Round (Bottom Half)
 Nick Matthew (ENG) v James Willstrop (ENG)
[Q] Paul Coll (NZL) v  Ali Farag (EGY)
 Simon Rösner (GER) v [Q] Nicolas Mueller (SUI)
Cameron Pilley (AUS) v  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY)
Women’s First Round (Top Half):
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt Joey Chan (HKG) 3-0: 11-6, 11-8, 11-4 (30m)
[Q] Salma Hany Ibrahim (EGY) bt  Alison Waters (ENG) 3-2: 8-11, 11-1, 11-13, 11-9, 11-2 (62m)
 Annie Au (HKG) bt [Q] Coline Aumard (FRA) 3-0: 11-7, 11-8, 11-3 (32m)
 Nicol David (MAS) bt Jenny Duncalf (ENG) 3-0: 11-3, 11-3, 11-4 (24m)
 Camille Serme (FRA) bt Tesni Evans (WAL) 3-0: 11-4, 11-5, 11-7 (37m)
 Joshna Chinappa (IND) bt [Q] Fiona Moverley (ENG) 3-2: 9-11, 11-6, 11-5, 6-11, 15-13 (57m)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt Heba El Torky (EGY) 3-1: 11-7, 7-11, 11-9, 11-7 (44m)
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt [Q] Mayar Hany (EGY) 3-0: 11-9, 11-7, 11-6 (26m)
Women’s First Round (Bottom Half)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) v [Q] Olivia Blatchford (USA)
[WC] Natalie Grinham (NED) v  Joelle King (NZL)
 Victoria Lust (ENG) v [Q] Nele Gilis (BEL)
[Q] Hania El Hammamy (EGY) v  Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) v Donna Urquhart (AUS)
Mariam Metwally (EGY) v  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG)
 Emily Whitlock (ENG) v Dipika Pallikal Karthik (IND)
[Q] Hollie Naughton (CAN) v  Raneem El Welily (EGY)
Pictures courtesy of PSA