Ghosal stuns Rosner and King ends Adel’s run in Macau semis
By ALEX WAN – Squash Mad Asian Bureau Editor
Indian number one Saurav Ghosal put on his A-game tonight to turn the tables on top seed Simon Rosner in the semi-final of the Macau Squash Open. Playing in the opening match on the all-glass court erected on Amidaze Square, Saurav and Simon dazzled the early evening crowd with squash of the highest level.
The opening point of the evening ended up in a let. This was followed by numerous rallies with both players trying to get a feel of the court, playing cautiously and the points were never apart, up till 3-3. Saurav then launched himself forward from thereon, using the lobs and drops to full effect, to take the opener 11-5.
The tides were reversed in the next as Simon returned the favour, launching forward from 3-3 also and finishing in a similar score. Saurav wins the third 11-7 and all looked lost for Simon in the fourth. He was behind 3-4 and later 4-7 and 6-9. He looked tired and wasn’t running as freely as he usually did.
But a second surge of energy seem to have come and the German levelled to 9-9, then a game ball at 9-10 to force a tie break, but not before requesting for a change of shoes and socks, which were drenched by now. He saves another game ball at 10-11, before reaching his first at 12-11, at which he requested for his opponent to change his shoes and socks, as it was getting the court all wet, which Saurav duly complied. He returns, but loses the next point to lose the game.
In the decider, the rallies were competitive and close, up to 3-3. From here onwards, Simon once again looked worn and was struggling physically. Saurav sensed that and went a gear up, racing to 9-3 and wrapping up 11-4 for a place in the final tomorrow.
“It was a tough physical match. It was great, Simon played really well despite the heat. I would’ve loved to have won in four but Simon came back strongly to force the fifth. I’m not going to be beating Simon outhitting him – he’s a big guy. I just had to do what I do well – I have a good touch in the front and I used the height well. Hopefully I recover well and play even better than I did today, so the crowd will have a better match to watch,” said Saurav when interview by local player Rachel Wong after the match.
In the second semi-final of the evening, second seed Mohamed Abouelghar won convincingly against Omar Abdel Meguid who was clearly struggling with the court conditions throughout most of the match. After a 76-minute opening match, the blistering pace and length of the rallies in the first game of this match was a huge contrast. The rallies were short, with both players going for winners at every opportunity. It was a close opener, with Mohamed converting his second game ball for the lead.
After the break, it looked like a different Omar had come into court as he employed a highly impatient game, often going for winners and at times assuming they would be as he did chase the return of the shots. It was a first telling sign he was struggling. He fell behind 1-6, caught up to 3-6 and then lost the next 5 points in quick succession. 11-3 to Mohamed and a 2-0 lead.
In the third, it was pretty evident Omar was not able to play as freely as he would like to given the conditions. At 2-3, he sat down for a moment, took a few deep breaths, before playing on. He was able to match Mohamed up to 5-5. Mohamed then broke away to 9-5.
In the next rally, Mohamed’s shot went into the tin, and his racket clips the calf of Omar, resulting in an injury break. Omar came back on, won another two points but it just wasn’t his day as Mohamed would wrap up affairs after 33 minutes.
“We train together day in and day out. We knew exactly what to expect tonight. It’s a matter of who adapted first and I am glad tonight, I did. I knew he had an issue with the humidity so if I lengthened the rallies, I knew I’d have an advantage.”
“I’ve played Saurav before. He chopped me the last time, so this time, I hope to turn things around. It’s going to be a good match because he’s such a fair player. I’m looking forward,” Mohamed said when asked about the final against Saurav.
In the women’s matches, both the seeded players advanced tonight. Joelle King, the defending champion, halted the dream run of Egyptian Yathreb Adel, who had played through the qualifiers and took out the top seed en route to tonight’s last four.
Joelle was ruthless tonight. She kept the pace high throughout and forced the Egyptian so far back off the T. It was nearly flawless squash from the Kiwi in the first game, forcing the Egyptian to play winners from unideal situations which as many as five or more ended in the tin in the first game. Joelle raced ahead from 5-4 onwards to win six consecutive points for the lead.
In the second, Joelle took off from where she left, employing a very similar game plan of staying in front. Yathreb was made to stay even further back in this game and at times, it looks easy for Joelle. Yathreb only led once in this game, 1-0 and never again. It got to 3-3, and Joelle won the next eight points for the lead.
The start of the third was quick, both players attacking at every opportunity for a quick point. Joelle went ahead 3-1 and the next rally was a long one, with the Egyptian winning and that seem to have given her a little confidence as the rallies were very competitive up to 6-6. Joelle stepped up once again, went into override and overwhelmed Yathreb and close out 11-6 for her second consecutive final.
Joelle said later, “I didn’t know what to expect really. I’ve never played her before but like all Egyptians, I knew she had good hands. I just kept the pressure high and not give her any options. When they get that, they can hold and whip the ball very well. I just wanted to be in front all the time.”
Yathreb may have lost today, but she certainly has won herself many fans. The friendly Egyptian said, “I think the last couple of matches has finally took its toll on me tonight. My legs felt heavy tonight. All credit to Joelle, she played much better than I did today. I wanted to win tonight of course, but overall, I’m happy, it’s been amazing here. Hopefully there’s more to come, it’s only the start of the season.
I want to take this opportunity thank my coach and brother, Islam Yathreb, for all the hard work he and I have put in to get me back here.”
In the last match of the evening, there was some “local” interest. Annie Au from neighbouring Hong Kong played Nouran Gohar in a repeat of the 2015 semi-final. It was a contest of contrasting styles – Nouran being one of the hardest hitters on the tour against Annie, who uses the lob to slow the pace so effectively. Nouran came out the winner in straight games, but it was anything but easy.
It was Annie who started better, racing to a 4-0 lead courtesy of some reckless shots from the Egyptian world number 5. Nouran pulls one back to 1-4 and then tins the next. Annie comes up with a ridiculous and gets back her 4-point lead up to 6-2, which shook the Egyptian. Nouran comes back strongly with some power play, drew level 6-6 and continues unleashing her power play and wins 11-8.
Annie had her chances in the second game. Having had to come back from 4-7 down, she took five points in a row to lead 9-7, with the last point being a very generous stroke from the referee. She got to 10-8, but tins the next point before Nouran unleashes a low kill to force the tie break. Another low, hard kill and a stroke would give her the 2-game lead.
In the third, it was Nouran ahead all the way. It was a very quick game with short rallies. There was never a doubt whose game this was going to be. 11-7 and Nouran was in the final, and an opportunity to do better than in 2015, where she lost the final to Laura Massaro.
Nouran was asked how it felt playing to a local crowd who was obviously supporting Annie, to which she responded, “I love having a good crowd, even if they’re supporting Annie, because they know good squash. Thanks for coming,” to which the crowd acknowledged and cheered.
Saurav Ghosal (IND) bt Simon Rosner (GER) 11-5, 5-11, 11-6, 11-13, 11-4 (76m)
Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) bt Omar Abdel Meguid (EGY) 12-10, 11-3, 11-8 (33m)
Joelle King (NZL) bt Yathreb Adel (EGY) 11-5, 11-3, 11-3 (26m)
Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt Annie Au (HKG) 11-8, 12-10, 11-7(36m)
Pictures by Macau Squash Association