Asal reveals his training secrets after another mighty battle with Diego Elias
By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor
Mostafa Asal meets Fares Dessouky in tonight’s final of the GillenMarkets Canary Wharf Classic after two dramatic semi-finals.
It was a night of magic and mayhem as Asal dominated the headlines once again after winning a ferocious battle against Peru’s Diego Elias lasting 127 minutes.
Dessouky beat fellow Egyptian Mazen Hesham in a highly entertaining opening match, dominating the fifth game to win 11-4 in 72 minutes.
These two first appeared at Canary Wharf in 2015 and Dessouky’s dominance in that fifth game takes him into his second Canary Wharf final, having finished runner-up to Nick Matthew in 2017.
Since then Dessouky and Hesham have both experienced numerous injury problems so it was great to see them return to Canary Wharf in fine form and excellent health.
The scoreline illustrates how the match fluctuated, with both taking it in turns to achieve spells of control until Dessouky dominated the final game.
Dessouky said: “It was a very tough match – Mazen is one of the most talented players on tour. He’s always very tricky.
“We’ve grown up playing together and have been playing since we were about nine. When we were hitting a few days ago we were remembering these times.
“It was always going to be a tough match and today was no different. I hope he stays injury-free because he’s one of the top guys, for sure.
“There were a lot of on and offs In the game. It depends on the fitness and game plans. He was playing very well with his game plan then mine started to work so lots of ups and downs.”
Both players conjured up some incredible winners and Dessouky hit one of the shots of the week with a brilliant corkscrew that hit the back right corner and rolled along the back wall.
He added: “He’s going to make me look silly on court with his shots so I have to play a few of my own.”
Looking ahead to the final, he said: “It’s going to be a tough match, for sure. Asal is younger and coming up, and playing very well. Diego has been playing very well since he’s been back too, so it’s going to be a tough one, but I hope they go to five like I did.”
Dessouky got more than he bargained for. Not only did Asal and Elias go to five, their battle lasted 127 minutes.
It shares the record for the longest match in the tournament’s 19-year history with that epic encounter between Matthew and James Willstrop back in 2010.
That occasion finished with an injured Willstrop lying in a heap in the back left corner, unable to finish the fight with Matthew leading 10-8 in the fifth.
This crazy contest finished with Asal literally climbing up the walls to celebrate.
It was classic Asal, a mixture of magnificence and mayhem. Full credit to Elias, who tried his hardest to stay focused as Asal’s antics constantly disrupted the flow of the match.
There were arguments, collisions and a flow of stoppages. Elias often gave as good as he got when matters turned physical and the baying crowd certainly got behind the Peruvian throughout the match.
We also saw squash of pure genius from both players, with incredible shots matched by phenomenal, breathtaking retrieving.
Asal constantly dived after the ball, and frequently crashed into the glass in the back right corner. These incidents caused numerous stoppages and physio Derek Ryan was almost as busy as court cleaner Ken Narain, who was cheered every time he came on to mop up the sweat left on the floor.
As the match progressed, Elias enjoyed long spells of dominance, spurred on by the crowd as he fought back to win the first game 16-14 and the third 13-11.
Many fans were in danger of missing their last train home but they all stayed in their seats to the bitter end of this captivating contest, totally immersed in the drama unfolding on court.
As the fifth game commenced, with the match almost two hours long, Elias began to tire and was unable to conjure up another comeback.
That final game still lasted 17 minutes as the magnificent squash was constantly punctuated by incidents and accidents.
Asal reeled off the points to win it 11-4 and extended his dance routine (copying the goal celebrations of his favourite Al Ahly football team) by jumping up the front wall, first in the front left corner, then running across the court to do the same on the opposite side.
When I was finally able to begin the post-match interview, Asal said: “First of all, it was an entertaining match. Me and Diego were playing some great squash, all credit to him.
“I used to watch him when I was a junior and watched him at the British juniors in Sheffield, and how he succeeded in the juniors was unreal. Thank you to everyone for coming to watch, you make it very exciting. We give it 110 per cent for you guys so thank you.”
When asked about his training regime, Asal said: “I play some soccer while I’m training, playing 11-a-side. I’m doing lots of fitness, two bike sessions per day and staying on court for two to three hours. It’s all about commitment. Here I am achieving, I will get the trophy, I promise you.
“Fares and I are good friends. He’s playing superb squash, and I’m really happy that he’s back. He’s amazing to watch. I think all the people watching Fares play think he’s unreal and I wish myself a good match tomorrow.”
Although just 20 years old, Asal is in fine physical shape. Following up his 95-minute quarter-final win over Joel Makin (a record for a best-of-three match) with a brutal battle like this is clear evidence of his stamina and staying power.
Dessouky will have been delighted to watch the match extend beyond the two-hour mark and must hope that Asal may have tired legs heading into tonight’s final.
Asal clearly loves playing the pantomime villain and another packed crowd will no doubt get behind Dessouky this evening.
But whatever your views on Asal, he is the biggest box office draw in squash right now and makes headlines wherever he goes.
He has pledged to win his first Canary Wharf title tonight and Dessouky will need to be at his absolute best to stop him.
Gillen Markets Canary Wharf Classic, East Wintergarden, Canary Wharf, London.
(7) Fares Dessouky (Egypt) beat (8) Mazen Hesham (Egypt)
3-2: 12-10, 9-11, 11-3, 7-11, 11-4 (72m)
(2) Mostafa Asal (Egypt) beat (4) Diego Elias (Peru)
3-2: 14-16, 11-9, 11-13, 11-8, 11-4 (127m)
Finals Night Schedule:
18:00 Dunlop Legends Challenge:
Nick Matthew v Gregory Gaultier
19:30 Gillen Markets Canary Wharf Classic Final:
(2) Mostafa Asal (Egypt) v (7) Fares Dessouky (Egypt)
Follow Alan’s tournament reports, previews and analysis on the official tournament website
Pictures courtesy of PSA World Tour and Patrick Lauson