Max Lee and Laura Massaro are Macau Open Champions
By Alex Wan – Squash Mad Asian Bureau Editor
After consecutive days of upsets, the finals will feature 5th and 6th seeds for the men’s event, where Max Lee will be playing Egypt’s Fares Dessouki in their very first meeting on the PSA World Tour. Both have played an equal number of games, two straight games and one five setters each.
The ladies will feature the top seed and 7th seed. Former world champion Laura Massaro of England, who has dropped just one game en route to the final will battle it out with current world junior champion, Nouran Gohar, who is having the form of her life.
Today turned out to be a bad day in the office for Egypt as both Fares Dessouki and Nouran Gohar lost in straight games to their respective opponents.
Massaro Wins First Title Since Becoming World Champion
England’s Laura Massaro bagged her first title since winning the delayed 2013 World Championships in Penang, Malaysia back in March 2014. She came into the today’s final, though seeded much higher, somewhat as an underdog, given the form Nouran Gohar’s been in since winning the World Junior title.
It was Gohar who started better between the two, always being in front up to 6-5 in the first game. While Massaro seem to be finding her way around the court, Gohar was somewhat fearless in going for her shots and was catching Massaro off guard with her forehand boasts. While many of them were returned, they were loose and opened up more opportunities for the Egyptian to do the Egyptian thing – put the ball in the front corner.
Massaro slowly found her touch and drew level at 6-6. She manages to get another 3 points consecutively, starting with a low backhand kill in the front that was sublime quality, then a serve that sailed by the side wall so nicely it was unreturned and then catching Gohar off guard with a forehand boast. Gohar manages another 2 points before she tins at game ball down.
Massaro started from where she left off and started off really well, winning the first 3 points by dictating the pace of the rallies and then finishing off when an opening came. In the last of the 3 points, Gohar was given a taste of Egypt when Massaro delayed a shot so well before she flicked her wrist to hit a boast, the Egyptian just stood and watch the ball go by.
Somehow, Gohar, who normally hits the ball with such power, wasn’t playing her game but instead was allowing herself to fit into Massaro’s game. Very quickly the 2nd game went by. Gohar simply did not stand a chance in this game. It was either Massaro sending Gohar around to force a loose shot before finishing it, or the Egyptian would send the ball into the tin.
The first rally of the third game was long and it was a display of what this game could have been. Gohar was hitting the ball through like how she did all week. The pace was upped and Massaro had to do more work. It paid off as the Egyptian won the rally and let out a rare roar just to show how much it meant to her. Massaro then drew level with yet another delayed shot finishing with a boast, something that has been working well for her all night.
The pair would trade points, never more than 2 points separating them. When Massaro won her 8th point, she let out a loud “come on” and followed it up with a cross court drop that totally sent Gohar the other way. Massaro loses the next rally through a lazy looking forehand boast into the tin.
By now, the audience was cheering for Gohar, not because they’re genuinely supporting, but more so because they have not gotten enough of action yet. But it was not going to make a difference as Massaro stuck in there. At game ball up, she hit a very, very tight drop but a let was given to Gohar, one which I suspect wouldn’t have been if it wasn’t for match ball. Massaro was obviously unhappy but kept her composure. Gohar sends a forehand straight drive into tin in the next rally to hand Massaro her first title since becoming world champion.
Laura Massaro said :
I just knew going into the match today that she was playing very well and that I would have to play well to even have a chance. Maybe the little experience of playing in finals helped me through today too. The 1st and 3rd games were really tough and I had to stay strong mentally.
It’s my first title since winning the World’s in Malaysia. It does feel like a long time now. I guess everyone’s improved over the year. Maybe, if I am being honest, I did not push hard enough after that. But I worked really hard over this summer. It feels good to have confidence in my ability to play back to back matches. The hard work (over the summer) has definitely paid off. I’m playing well and I knew I worked hard , but I really don’t know if I’ve improved until now.
Nouran Gohar said :
I’m not really happy with the way I did today. But I’ve been playing well the last two weeks. I basically played her game and not mine. That’s why I lost today. In Shanghai, I had two tough matches against Nicol (David) and Camille (Serme). Beating Nicol was such a big thing for me. And I was very tired going into the final there. But this isn’t the case today. I just wasn’t in there mentally today. Laura played really well and it just wasn’t my day today.
Max Lee Clinches His Biggest Title in Front of Adopted Home Crowd
It’s been a year Max Lee made a 50k final at the Malaysian Open, losing to world number one Mohamed Elshorbagy. Earlier this year he clinched the biggest title of his career, winning the HKFC International on home soil. Tonight, Lee, a first-time father of a six-week old baby girl, bettered that by winning the Macau Open in front of a capacity adopted home crowd. Having survived a first round encounter from 0-2 down, this was certainly not expected as Lee would say at the post-match interview.
Lee started well, getting up to 4-1 as both players worked to get their lengths and widths. At 4-3, Dessouki hit a tight backhand which Lee missed completely. In the next serve, Lee misses the ball again. Lead changes hands next when Lee tins a boast. A few rallies later, the score tied at 7 a-piece.
Lee next served to Dessouki’s forehand, one which gets slammed into the front left corner. The players traded points and Lee got to game ball 10-9, which was converted thanks to a tin from the Egyptian, whom many commented is akin a navy seal in reference to his built.
Lee was moving really well, akin a ballerina floating on court tonight. The way he would move around the other player is exemplary. Given his smaller frame, it’s probably an advantage he uses well, just as Nicol David uses hers.
The first 4 points of the second game went by lightning quick. 3 went into the tin and the other so tight it was not retrievable. 3 in favour of Lee and 1 in favour of Dessouki. In the next point, Lee was sent to all four corners of the court as Dessouki attacks. When changing direction, Lee clips the foot of Dessouki and both players went crumbling onto the ground. Thankfully, no one was hurt and the court attendants came in full force of 6 to dry the courts!
A stroke was awarded against Dessouki and Lee led 5-4. The next rally was competitive, both players having to be on the offensive and defensive. It ended with Dessouki tinning a boast, to which he reacted by throwing his racket. As expected, a conduct warning for racket abuse was given.
Dessouki started to look slower from hereon. He got to 6-6 and never won another point. Some shots, he was forcing himself to reach for it instead of taking the extra step. At 10-6, he pretty much gave up chasing a cross court drive and his body language walking out did not look good.
In the third, it was clearly Dessouki was not his usual self. In the post-match interview, he had cited problems with his quads and hamstring. He could’ve retired, but he did not and credit to the young Egyptian for that. He soldiered on but never won a point and in the last, he playfully hit the ball into the crowd.
Lee was ecstatic. He put his arms in the air, lets out a shout and acknowledges the crowd. Not something you would normally see from this quiet and private man of a few words.
Max Lee said :
I never thought I could get this far let alone win the tournament. I was 2-0 down in the first round! I’ve played in Macau so many times and I’ve never been this far. It’s also my first time having gone far enough to play on this glass court, so I’m very happy about it. I came into this tournament with no real expectations. I just came and focus on my game and to play my best. It’s my first 50k win. I was in the final in the Malaysian Open (but lost to Mohamed Elshorbagy). I hope this will carry me into the new season with more confidence and motivation.
Fares Dessouki said :
Today I started very well in the first game. But I was struggling mentally. I just felt very tired (mentally) and I kept telling myself that I’m not. I had to keep pushing myself. Then in the second game, I felt something in my leg, probably my quads and also my hamstring. So I struggled with my movement quite a bit and I wasn’t comfortable in there. But all credit to Max. He played a really good game and deserved the win.
Final Results :
Laura Massaro (ENG) beat Nouran Gohar (EGY) 11-8, 11-3, 11-9 (40m)
Max Lee (HKG) beat Fares Dessouki (EGY) 11-9, 11-6, 11-0
Pictures by Macau Squash Association