Squash Mad

Greg Lobban shows Power of Scotland as he guns down Gawad in Canary Wharf shoot-out

Greg Lobban shows his delight at beating Karim Abdel Gawad

Lobban to meet Marwan after Mosaad rolls his ankle
By GEOFF BEW, ALAN THATCHER and MATT COLES 

Greg Lobban pulled off the biggest victory of his career as he beat world No.4 Karim Abdel Gawad to make the quarter finals of the St. James’s Place Canary Wharf Classic. He had lost their six previous meetings, but used his electric movement to positive effect as he outfought his opponent on the way to an 11-7, 11-9 win in just 36 minutes.

It was sweet revenge for the Scotsman, who was beaten by the Egyptian in the final of last month’s Edinburgh SC Open.

Buoyed by victories against Daryl Selby and Paul Coll on the way to the Edinburgh final, the 27-year-old – being coached by England legend Nick Matthew – showed why is now a major threat to the top players.

Lobban came flying out of the gate and after a good run of points in the middle of the game, the Scot was able to take the first 11-7. He then got on a great roll at the start of the second game, scoring seven of the first eight points to take a commanding lead.

Gawad threatened to come back, as he has the tendency to do, especially in the best-of-five format, pulling it back to 7-8, but Lobban was able to push through. Despite seeing one match ball saved by the Egyptian, he was able to take the second, booking his place in the quarter-finals of a Gold level tournament for the first time in his career.

Speaking after his victory, he said: “There are very few players that play the game better than Karim so it is extremely rewarding to win this one.

“Without a doubt [the best result of my career]. Coming into today, it has always been tough getting into the last 16 of these tournaments because they are such strong events. 

“I had played Karim six times and never got close as that, never got two games off him before. Nick [Matthew] has played him plenty and I think it is good to go back to him to come up with a good game plan, and I was happy to execute it today.”

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No.7 seed Marwan ElShorbagy is waiting for Lobban in the quarter finals after beating Omar Mosaad in a match overshadowed by a nasty injury to his opponent.

ElShorbagy held a 4-2 lead in the third when he hit Mosaad on the back of the leg with the ball, with the Egyptian requiring treatment.

Just three points later, Mosaad went down again after accidentally standing on ElShorbagy’s foot. Mosaad actually rolled his ankle twice as he tried to move around his opponent in the region of the left-hand service box, crashing into the side wall and tumbling to the floor in obvious pain.

PSA physio Derek Ryan came on court to treat the 6ft 4in Egyptian who was then helped off court for a 15-minute injury break.

Mosaad bravely came back on court and hit the ball a few times but he was unable to continue and had to forfeit the match. ElShorbagy had earlier fought back after losing the first game 2-11 to take the second 11-6.

He appeared to be in control when his opponent’s injury happened. He said: “I just hope it is nothing too serious. We are in the middle of the season and I just hope that he recovers from it as fast as he can. Hopefully it is not serious, it is not the way I wanted to win. I just hope he is OK.

“To be honest, I didn’t understand what was happening but when I saw it on the replay I could see that it did not look good. We have a physio in Derek [Ryan] here, and I know Omar is in good hands.”

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Windy City Open champion Ali Farag eased into the quarter-finals after dispatching Declan James 2-0 in 27 minutes.

Farag may have lost the number one ranking last month, but there is no doubting the Egyptian’s determination to regain the top spot and he used guile and flair to win a series of physical rallies that saw him taste victory 11-6, 11-3.

The Egyptian spent just a couple of days on home soil before travelling to London, and it seemed to pay off, as he showed how fresh he was in his first match of the week, restricting the home favourite to just nine points.

Farag booked his place in the quarter-finals to further his aim of reaching a first final at the East Wintergarden. And he was complimentary about his opponent and the best-of-three scoring system which is delivering a tasty menu of high-intensity squash.

“Every time we play, he always pushes me to the wire. With the best-of-three I knew I had to start well. Even though I lost three of the first four point, I knew I started with the right game plan,” Farag said.

“I didn’t give him any easy points. If he was going to win then he would have to earn every single point and it paid off from that point on. I am really pleased. After I finished in the US, I wanted to go home for 24 hours but I pushed the flight back one more day, and I didn’t know whether that was the right thing to do. I was watching the tournament while I was still in Egypt and I was worried. The plan paid off today!

“People say that the best-of-three is still taking the physicality out of the game, but I would argue with that. We play at a very high pace because we know we only have a maximum of three games to play. It adds more pressure on the higher-seeded players because the lower-seeded has nothing to lose.”

The Dark Knight had pushed Fearless Farag to four games in each of their three previous encounters, but despite his best efforts was never allowed to get a foothold in the match.

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The front left nick of the glass court should be renamed the Fares Dessouky Corner after a succession of stunning crosscourt volley kills made the difference against Mohamed Abouelghar in a battle between two players ranked 11 and 12 in the world.

Dessouky, 25, stepped up the pace after losing the opening game 8-11 and his all-out attacking strategy paid dividends as he took the next two games 11-7, 11-5 to wrap up victory in 42 minutes.

Abouelghar started brightly and treated the crowd to some creative winners of his own, as both players delivered another high-paced spectacle.

But Abouelghar found that any crosscourt, no matter what the height, provided cannon fodder for Dessouky’s stunning volleys. After burying two flat nicks off shoulder height crosscourts, he leapt into the air to attack a lob and the ball ended up in exactly the same place … locked into the front left nick with laser-like precision as 

The winner admitted afterwards: “I had to change my tactics after the first game and I’m glad it paid off.

“It’s always a tough, close game against Mohamed and I’m very relieved to be through.”

The quarter finals promises to be another mouthwatering attacking spree with five Egyptians, a Peruvian, an Indian, and a lone Scotsman in the mix.

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St. James’s Place Canary Wharf Classic, East Wintergarden, London, England.

Second Round (bottom half):
Greg Lobban (SCO) bt [4] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) 11-7, 11-9 (36m)
[7] Marwan Elshorbagy (EGY) bt [9/16] Omar Mosaad (EGY) 2-11, 11-6, 6-3 ret. (63m)
[9/16] Fares Dessouky (EGY) bt [8] Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) 8-11, 11-7, 11-5 (42m)
[2] Ali Farag (EGY) bt Declan James (ENG) 11-6, 11-3 (27m) 

Quarter-Finals:
[1] Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) v [9/16] Saurav Ghosal (IND)
[3] Tarek Momen (EGY) v [6] Diego Elias (PER)
Greg Lobban (SCO) v [7] Marwan Elshorbagy (EGY)
[2] Ali Farag (EGY) v [9/16] Fares Dessouky (EGY)

Pictures by STEVE LINE courtesy of PSA and Patrick Lauson

 

Posted on March 11, 2020

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About The Author

Geoff Bew

Geoff Bew’s career as a news journalist has taken him from the Granite City of Aberdeen to Kent via Bahrain, where trying to escape temperatures of 48C he took his first tentative hits with a squash racket. Since then he’s become addicted to playing and religiously follows every tournament on Squash TV.

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