‘It’s a physical sport and can get tough at times’
By SEAN REUTHE in Cairo
World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy and compatriot Karim Abdel Gawad will face off for a place in the final of the 2016 PSA Men’s World Championship, the sport’s biggest tournament, after they overcame World No.6 Ali Farag and three-time winner Nick Matthew on the opening day of quarter-final action in Cairo.
ElShorbagy kept his title charge intact after he avenged a semi-final defeat to Farag in front of the iconic Great Pyramid of Giza in September, coming through a feisty encounter to move to within one win of a third World Championship final appearance.
The tournament top seed – a runner-up to fellow Egyptian Ramy Ashour in 2012 and 2014 – took the match 11-8, 11-5, 11-8 in 45 minutes, but it wasn’t without its controversy as both players let their frustrations with each other boil over.
“It’s a physical sport, things can get tough at times, you can’t help it,” said ElShorbagy. “You have to be tough to be at the top of the rankings. Nick Matthew and Greg Gaultier are great examples of that, as is Ramy [Ashour].
“It’s just part of the sport and you have to deal with that. Other than that, we were both aggressive, but I don’t think either of us took excessive space. I felt I played in the right spirit, the way that I needed to win and I’m just glad that I played fair.”
In-form World No.3 Gawad will appear in the semi-final stage of the illustrious tournament for the first time in his career after overcoming a struggling Matthew in the pair’s quarter-final clash.
Gawad – who broke into the world’s top 3 today after the November PSA Men’s World Rankings were released – lost out to Matthew three weeks ago at the U.S. Open, with the duo serving up a superb match in Philadelphia.
But Matthew was hampered with illness and, despite battling on, struggled to move freely, allowing Gawad to take a comfortable 11-9, 11-4, 11-9 victory in just 34 minutes to set up a mouthwatering semi-final clash with ElShorbagy.
“I feel great, over the moon, especially because I had a very slow start [to the tournament],” said Gawad.
“I was nearly out from the first round but I talked to [four-time World Champion] Amr [Shabana] and he told me to focus match by match. It’s just baby steps, I’m focusing on each match before moving on to the next one. It’s my first ever semi-finals in the World Championship.
“It’s another dream for me [to reach the final] but I’m not putting any pressure on myself. I’m still 25 and I keep working on things. If it doesn’t happen this time, I’ll focus on next year.”
PSA $325,000 Men’s Wadi Degla PSA World Championship 2016, Wadi Degla Club, Cairo, Egypt.
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt  Ali Farag (EGY) 3-0: 11-8, 11-5, 11-8 (45m)
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt  Nick Matthew (ENG) 3-0: 11-9, 11-4, 11-9 (34m)
Quarter-Finals (Bottom Half): To be played November 2
 Fares Dessouky (EGY) v  Ramy Ashour (EGY)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) v  Gregory Gaultier (FRA)
Pictures by STEVE LINE (www.squshpics.com)