Tuesday, May 28, 2024

How to deal with Mostafa Asal? Man up and learn how to beat him!

Mohamed ElShorbagy says he cannot wait to go into battle with Mostafa Asal again next season – and has advised Asal’s other rivals to “stop moaning on social media” and learn how to beat him.

In a wide-ranging interview with the PSA World Tour website, world No.3 ElShorbagy reflected at length on his brutal late-night battle with 22-year-old Asal at last month’s El Gouna International as “one of the matches I’ve enjoyed most in my career.”

ElShorbagy was two games down in the semi-final clash and the third was locked at 10-10. The Englishman took it 16-14, then levelled the match by taking the fourth, only to go down heavily in the fifth after 110 energy-sapping minutes (ElShorbagy even had to borrow some socks from his opponent to deal with excessive sweat).

“I absolutely loved that match, it had everything,” he said. “It was two warriors going at each other and we absolutely killed each other.”

It was an intense and physical encounter with plenty of collisions and verbal exchanges between the duo – but ElShorbagy refuses to complain about Asal’s conduct, as others have done.

The Bristol-based former world No.1 said: “At the top level, it’s going to get messy on court. You’ve got to accept it… He was trying to do anything to win the match, that’s when emotions get in the way and you can make mistakes.

“In terms of how he plays now, he’s definitely better. But the way I see it is that it’s not about him. Even if he didn’t get better, I have a warrior mentality, and I have to find a way to beat him. I don’t care about what he does on court. Whether you have to move around him or stand up to him, and I stood up to him.

“Every time I fell on the floor, I didn’t make drama out of it or moan to the referee, I stood up and talked to him and said, ‘Let’s fight each other.’ Because when we’d played in the past, it was always very soft and a very low quality match.

“Midway in the third game, I told him I don’t care about the respect you give me anymore. Come and fight me. Go hard at me like you do with everyone, and I’m going to go hard at you.”

ElShorbagy has advice to the players who have publicly criticised Asal after sharing a court with him on Tour.

“The players who complain are the players who cannot beat him. Have you ever seen Ali [Farag] complaining? Never. The way Ali dealt with it was to go back with his team and think how to beat him. It’s the same way I’m doing. I’m going to ask ‘how can I beat this guy?.’

“Instead of crying to the referee or crying on social media, just find a way to beat the guy. That’s it. I’ve always been taught that the best way to answer anyone is to beat them. That’s it, and once it’s over, shake hands and it’s done.

“If you watch the match, as much as we fought each other, there was so much respect at the same time. Like how he gave me his socks during the match. There were some nice moments that people could see. Fighting each other, but also respect.”

The 33-year-old said he will now “have a serious conversation about what is required from me next year” with coach Gregory Gaultier over the summer, before starting his season at the new Paris tournament in late August and re-launching his quest to win back the world No.1 spot. There’s no doubting who he’s relishing playing against most.

“I cannot wait to be on court with him [Asal] again,” said ElShorbagy.

“I cannot wait to be part of a match like [El Gouna] again. It was a huge match and I always tell myself, if Greg, Nick, Ramy, Shabana, all these greats of the game, if they had to face him, do you think any of them would have cried on social media? Do you think any of them would have complained the way they do?

“Why does an athlete have to go on social media and complain? Do you really need to get the approval of the people? I don’t care about that. I care about holding the trophy more than I care about the approval.

“You don’t need to talk on social media and give interviews, all of this. Do I agree with everything Asal does on court? No, I don’t. Does everyone agree with what I do on court? No, not everyone does. I don’t agree about stuff other athletes do, too. But once you go on court it’s you against your opponent. Man up and deal with it, that’s the way I see it.”

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