It was almost as though he had never been away as Karim Abdel Gawad won his first PSA World Tour title in a year in capturing the Optasia Championships squash title.
Gawad, the 2016 world champion, beat compatriot and World No.12 Youssef Soliman in a straight-game final 11-4, 11-7, 11-3 in 34 authoritiative minutes.
Gawad was competing in just his third event since recovering from a 10-month injury during which he questioned whether he would return to elite level.
He was tested by Diego Elias before the Peruvian was forced to retire and had since looked in emphatic, brilliant form. On Sunday he used his drops and kill shots to the hilt, with Soliman finding an answer hard to come by.
“A year ago I didn’t have a chance to be on court, I didn’t think I’d be on court again,” said Gawad.
“My only wish was to take every advantage I could, train as hard as I could and play every tournament I could. I learnt a lot from my injury, I’m really happy and grateful to have another chance to be on court in front of an amazing crowd and doing what I love the most in my life.
“It is a great pleasure to be on a court that all the legends have been on, thanks to the promoter, all the sponsors, all the crowd that came to watch. Without all these things, the tournament wouldn’t be able to happen so I’m looking forward to coming back and playing again.
“I was so down, I was very depressed. I lost 7kg of muscle. I want to thank my wife for taking care of me, my coaches, my physio, my mental coach, everyone. It was a hard time, luckily I’m back on court and enjoying every moment here and looking forward to the next one.”
The PSA World Tour next heads to Birmingham and the 2023 British Open.