Saturday, December 9, 2023

Masterclass gives Mohamed ElShorbagy his fourth Qatar title but Victor Crouin is here to stay


England’s Mohamed ElShorbagy won the first Platinum title of the season and his first since May 2021 as he downed tournament breakout star Victor Crouin to capture his fourth QTerminals Qatar Classic title.

ElShorbagy triumphed 11-4, 11-6, 7-11, 11-8 in 48 minutes of intelligent squash from both players.

Crouin, who had already made history as the first player outside of the top eight seeds to reach the final since Lee Beachill in 2003, went into the match with a 2-0 losing record against ElShorbagy, who won the title here in 2017, 2015, and 2013.

Speaking after he came from behind to beat No.3 seed Mostafa Asal in yesterday’s semi-final, ElShorbagy referenced the first of those victories over Crouin, which came on this court in the 2019 World Championships, as a moment he knew the Frenchman, then aged 20, would be a future star of the game.

ElShorbagy’s prediction was further proven to be true in recent days, with Crouin reaching the final of the Bronze-level CIB Zed Open and impressively downing No.7 seed Joel Makin and No.6 seed Tarek Momen alongside Patrick Rooney and Qatar’s Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi en route to today’s final.

ElShorbagy, though, went into the match knowing he had a golden opportunity to not only begin his season with a major title but also to kick-start a charge up the rankings, with the game’s top two ranked players, Ali Farag and Paul Coll, crashing out in the third and second round, respectively.

Crouin looked positive at the beginning of the first game, taking the first point of the final before trading short rallies with ElShorbagy to go to 2-2.

From here, though, it was a masterclass from ElShorbagy. The Englishman went on the offensive and overwhelmed Crouin with a brutal run of points to storm into a one game lead with an 11-4 victory in a mere eight minutes.

Crouin, who until then was yet to trail in Doha, saw his rhythm consistently disrupted by ElShorbagy as the court cooled in game two, with the 31-year-old consistently finding his marks at the back wall while Crouin struggled to apply enough pressure.

Mohamed ElShorbagy on the attack against Victor Crouin in the Qatar final

After ElShorbagy took the second game 11-6, he was pegged back by an impressive fightback from Crouin, who rediscovered the measured and well-organised squash that took him into his first Platinum final to take the third game 11-7.

In an exciting fourth game, ElShorbagy went 10-6 up to go to the brink of a 45th title. Although Crouin played positive squash and was able to save two championship balls, he could do nothing about a perfect drop from ElShorbagy, who took the title with an 11-8 victory.

After the match, ElShorbagy said: “I can’t express how I feel right now. It was the first ever Platinum event I won, here in 2013. Now, almost 10 years later, I’m winning my fourth title here. It’s the place I’ve had the most success in my career and will always have a special place in my heart.

“As I said yesterday, France needed a superstar after [Thierry] Lincou and Greg [Gaultier, ElShorbagy’s coach and former World No.1]. Victor is here for the long run and is an amazing talent. I’m 100 percent sure this isn’t going to be the last time [he reaches the final]. He’s going to win this title many times, I’m sure!

Trophy time for Mohamed ElShorbagy

“I’d like to thank Greg Gaultier. Without him, none of this would have been possible. I was in a very bad place last year. No matter how much I try to speak about him, it will never be enough.

“Without him, none of this would be possible. We played the final here on this court and now he’s not my rival any more. He’s on the same side as me and I’m the luckiest person on this planet.”

Crouin added: “It’s been a fantastic week. I’d never gone past the third round of a Platinum event, then reached my first quarter-final, the next day a first semi-final and today a final!

The two finalists hug after a brilliant week of squash in Qatar

“Of course I wanted to go for the title today, but Mohamed showed me the way for the next time I reach the final!

“I’ll learn a tonne from this match and the whole event. I’m especially proud of the way I played this week.”

For Crouin, attention now turns to the Bronze-level Open de France de Squash 2022, which begins in Nantes on September 12, before he and ElShorbagy take part in the Platinum-level CIB Egyptian Open at the Pyramids of Giza, which begins on September 19.

2022 QTerminals Qatar Classic, Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex, Doha, Qatar.

[5] Mohamed ElShorbagy (ENG) bt Victor Crouin (FRA) 3-1: 11-4, 11-6, 7-11, 11-8 (48m)

Pictures courtesy of PSA World Tour 


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