Yip and tuck as Gawad wins game 20-18
By ERIC BELANGER in Montreal
As the top four seeds battled through to the semi-finals of the $35k Montreal Open, tournament favourite Karim Abdel Gawad was involved in an extraordinary extended tiebreak.
In the second game against Hong Kong’s Tsz Fung Yip, both players traded winners before Gawad took it 20-18. The effort seemed to sap Yip’s energy and Gawad eased through the third game to reach the semi-finals, where he will face the resurgent Tom Richards, who overcame Todd Harrity of the USA.
Both semi-finals seem certain to deliver some high-quality, with No.2 seed Ali Farag meeting France’s Gregoire Marche after their victories over Nafiizan Adnan (Malaysia) and Leo Au (Hong Kong).
Tom Richards (3) (ENG) vs Todd Harrity (USA)
The first quarter-final saw Tom Richards, victor over local David Baillargeon in the first round, square off against Todd Harrity who upset Alfredo Avila yesterday.
It was Richards’ consistency that allowed him to rush off to a good start. Harrity, who was playing his fourth game of the tournament following the qualifiers, accumulated mistakes as he was trying to move the 23rd ranked player.
Richards would go on to comfortably grab the first game 11-3. After the break, Harrity seemed to have regained his composure and began to push Richards, enough to surprise him and win the second 11-9.
However, Richards wasn’t to be undone by the American’s increase in intensity. He would himself regain confidence in his placement shots, and found ways to absorb Harrity’s pressure, forcing him back into committing mistakes, and deservedly took the third 11-5.
Facing an uphill battle, there was not much the American could do to prevent Richards from taking the last game 11-6.
Karim Abdel Gawad (1) (EGY) vs Tsz Fung Yip (HKG)
The next match opposes tournament favourite Karim Abdel Gawad against Tsz Fung Yip. Gawad had an impressive display in the preceding round, and the crowd was certainly looking forward to watch the Egyptian work his magic on court again.
For the second time in two nights, Gawad began his first game slowly, and Yip took advantage of his opponent’s nonchalance to take the lead 7-1. It was however at that moment that the Egyptian began to connect on his shots, and at this point there was nothing for the Hong Kong representative to do. Gawad calmly climbed back, often sending his speedy opponent the wrong way and took the first 11-9.
The Hong Kong player, who showed his fighting spirit yesterday by overcoming multiple match balls against Waller, was not willing to give up. He took chances, and was able to stay in the match and push the world number seven to a tie-break. With both players offering a thrilling performance, Gawad was able to survive Yip’s surge and take a back-and-forth second game 20-18.
Fortunately for the favorite, the Hong Kong representative seemed exhausted in the third game, and accumulated many mistakes. The pace between the two players was noticeably slower, and the Egyptian seemed relieved to grab the third game 11-7.
Gregoire Marche (4) (FRA) vs Leo Au (5) (HKG)
The crowd witnessed a conservative beginning, as both players were content to rally and minimize risks.
The Frenchman, well familiar with the courts following his hard-fought win against Serme in the preceding round, was more comfortable pressing his opponents, and was rewarded with the first game 11-4.
Marche carried this advantage into the second, and again looked like the more decisive player at finishing his rallies, and took it 11-7.
Au wasn’t really able to threaten the Frenchman in the rallies, and lacked the cutting edge that he showed against Binnie in the first round. The tireless fourth seed would march on dominantly to the semi-finals, taking the third 11-5.
Ali Farag (2) (EGY) vs Nafiizwan Adnan (7) (MAS)
The last match of the night was set to be played between Egyptian Ali Farag and Nafiizwan Adnan, victor over crowd favorite Shawn Delierre yesterday.
Both players were able to begin the game strongly, and there was not much to separate between the two of them. Adnan was able to keep up with the rapid pace set by the Egyptian. Farag showed his composure during the business end of the game, and took the first game 11-9.
During the second, Adnan was able to prevent the Egyptian from getting into comfortable offensive positions, and the Malaysian was excellent in containing the second seed to keep the games close. The Egyptian would manage to stave off five game points from his resilient opponent to grab the second game 14-12.
Farag carried on with the momentum in the third game, but Adnan still impressed with his ability to match the second seed`s pace. The game would again be tightly disputed, with the Malaysian grabbing a late advantage at 10-6. Farag showed great composure during game points, but could not pull off a second consecutive comeback as he bowed down 11-7 in the third.
The Egyptian had to dig deep to find answers in the fourth, and was again involved in a tightly contested game. The players could not be separated as the game reached a crucial tie-break. Farag proved decisive in the important points, and it took him two match balls to take the fourth 13-11 against a resolute opponent who impressed the gallery with his effort. Adnan showed great defensive prowess, and really pushed Farag in a match that lasted an hour.
$35,000 Men’s Montreal Open 2016, Club Sportif MAA, Montreal, Canada
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt Tsz Fung Yip (HKG) 11-9, 20-18, 11-7 (37m)
 Tom Richards (ENG) bt [Q] Todd Harrity (USA) 11-3, 9-11, 11-5, 11-6 (43m)
 Gregoire Marche (FRA) bt  Leo Au (HKG) 11-4, 11-7, 11-5 (49m)
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt  Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS) 11-9, 14-12, 7-11, 13-11 (60m)
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v  Tom Richards (ENG)
 Ali Farag (EGY) v  Gregoire Marche (FRA)
Pictures by TREVOR BOWES