Fares foils Farag and Marwan masters Coll in Black Ball quarters
By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor
Joel Makin mastered his training partner Mohamed ElShorbagy in a thrilling 91-minute battle and reigning champion Fares Dessouky beat world No.1 Ali Farag in the quarter-finals of the CIB Black Ball Open in Cairo. Both underdogs had to save match balls before fighting back to beat the world’s top two players.
On a day of intense drama and high quality squash in this PSA Platinum event, Marwan ElShorbagy also overcame Paul Coll and Tarek Momen dispatched Zahed Salem.
In the semi-finals, Makin meets Marwan ElShorbagy and Momen tackles Dessouky. Expect more fireworks in these two momentous battles. Dessouky, who beat Farag in December’s Black Ball final, will attempt to follow up his victory over the world No.1 by beating the world champion.
For world No.9 Makin and defending champion Dessouky to send the world’s top two players out of the event shows just how competitive the standard is inside the top 10.
Makin came back from two match balls down in a captivating 91-minute epic after ElShorbagy’s fighting spirit saw him come back from 2-1 down to force a decider.
He held a match ball advantage twice in the fifth, but the tenacious Makin dug in and converted his first match ball after a tin from ElShorbagy at the front of the court to reach the last four of a PSA World Tour Platinum event for the second time.
Makin said: “You know what it’s going to be like with Mohamed. The intensity is there from the start.
“He clearly had a set tactic from the start and he was slow balling me, but I was trying to do the same back, so it became a bit of battle that way. The pace wasn’t necessarily fast all the time, it was a bit in and out, but he’s just so hard to put away.
“I thought I had him hurt from 1-1 but he made it so tough. He’s so clever, his shutouts, his subtleties, his soft hands and stuff, it was just a good battle all the way through.
“You have to back yourself or you wouldn’t be in those kind of positions in the match. If you don’t take it when it’s on there or back yourself to run and win the point, then you have no chance at this level. Mohamed is going to hit far too many winners, so you have to back yourself and commit to it.”
Dessouky backed up December’s Black Ball Open final victory over Farag after he produced a mesmerising comeback from 2-1 down to win 11-8, 6-11, 7-11, 12-10, 11-4.
Farag looked in control after he walked off court after the third game. But Dessouky, who came back from two games down to clinch victory in December’s Black Ball finale, clawed back three match balls in the fourth to draw level and looked unbeatable in the decider as he rattled off winner after winner to seal his place in the semi-finals.
This tournament will be the first Platinum event not to feature either ElShorbagy or Farag in the semi-finals since the 2017 El Gouna International.
“It was a very tough match, Ali today was unbeatable,” Dessouky said. “I had to dig really deep to find the turning point to win the match. I found it at 10-7, match ball down, and I’m really glad that I found it.
“He was getting everything back, I was a bit disappointed on court that he was getting everything and it was hard to beat him and to win a point against him. All credit to him, today I had to take advantage from this match, I was solid again and was able to grab the win.”
Makin will now look to take out the younger ElShorbagy brother, world No.6 Marwan, as he bids to reach his maiden Platinum final.
ElShorbagy came through an absorbing 96-minute clash with World No.4 Paul Coll in one of the matches of the season so far. It was an extremely high quality affair, with ElShorbagy closing out an 10-12, 11-7, 11-9, 3-11, 11-9 win to reach his second Platinum semi of the season.
“It was a tough match and I just hoped everyone enjoyed it,” said ElShorbagy. “I gave it more than 100% today and Paul gave it more than 100%. It’s always tough playing Paul, especially in those conditions, I think we gave it everything. I stayed calm, I learnt my lesson and that’s why I won the match.”
Meanwhile, Dessouky will go up against world champion Momen in the semis after the World No.3 overcame Egypt’s Zahed Salem, who was appearing in his first Platinum quarter-final. Momen had a slight dip in the third game against a resilient opponent, but he held firm to close out the victory in the fourth, winning 12-10, 15-13, 9-11, 11-7.
“I don’t think it was my best performance of the tournament, there were far too many errors, and he made a few errors which helped me a bit,” Momen said.
“I would’ve loved to have played better today, but it’s OK, I’m allowed to have a performance that is not 100%. Still, I managed to play the important points well. Both the first two games went to the tie-break and I managed to close them out, so that was a positive thing.”
The semi-finals will take place tomorrow (March 24) and play begins at 11:00 (GMT+2). All of the action will be shown live on SQUASHTV and the channels of contracted broadcast partners.
Men’s 2021 CIB PSA Black Ball Squash Open, Black Ball Sporting Club,Cairo, Egypt.
 Fares Dessouky (EGY) bt  Ali Farag (EGY) 3-2: 11-8, 6-11, 7-11, 12-10, 11-4 (67m)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) bt Zahed Salem (EGY) 3-1: 12-10, 15-13, 9-11, 11-7 (67m)
 Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) bt  Paul Coll (NZL) 3-2: 10-12, 11-7, 11-9, 3-11, 11-9 (96m)
 Joel Makin (WAL) bt  Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) 3-2: 10-12, 11-3, 11-6, 7-11, 13-11 (91m)
Semi-Finals (March 24):
 Fares Dessouky (EGY) v  Tarek Momen (EGY)
 Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) v  Joel Makin (WAL)
Pictures courtesy of PSA