Squash Mad

Momen to meet Mo in Canary Wharf semi-final crunch

Eyes on the ball: Tarek Momen and Ryan Cuskelly in the middle of an intense rally

Castagnet meets Coll after stunning win over Dessouky
By ALAN THATCHER, MATT COLES and SEAN REUTHE at Canary Wharf

Mohamed ElShorbagy and Tarek Momen battled through contrasting quarter-finals in the Citigold Wealth Management Canary Wharf Classic to set up a repeat of last year’s final. The other semi-final will be between New Zealander Paul Coll and the unseeded Mathieu Castagnet, who followed his win over Simon Rosner by beating Egypt’s Fares Dessouky.

ElShorbagy weathered a tough opening game against England’s rising star Declan James before totally dominating the second.

Momen was simply outplayed by Australia’s Ryan Cuskelly in the first game of the opening match of the evening and was 6-3 down in the second before mounting a spirited comeback.

Cuskelly was repeating the clinical, high-paced attacking game that worked so well against James Willstrop in the second round. 

Momen almost blew it in the second game before winning a tiebreak and only began to dominate in the third as Cuskelly started to tire. The Egyptian won 8-11, 13-11, 11-5 in 51 minutes and said: “Ryan came out firing today. He was playing superbly well and I expected it because I had seen bits and pieces of his match with James Willstrop.

“I knew he would be aiming for too much attacking, and then if it goes in then I am going to be in trouble. It is kind of tough, backing up throughout the season. I have been having some really good results.

“However, it comes with the consequence that I am actually playing so many matches in every tournament. This is new territory for me, having to back up tournament after tournament.

“I am gaining a lot of experience and I am counting on my fighting spirit to get me through because today I was really behind. I was 1-0 and 6-3 down and I was not moving that well, which is something I always count on.

“When I don’t have my best movement, I try to come up with anything to get through. I even lied to myself, telling myself that the score was something else. I was 6-3 down and I was telling myself it was 5-5 to keep myself going.

“Eventually, what got me through today was my sheer desire to win and I am very happy to get through. I had a rest day yesterday which I really made use of. It was very important. The best of three is helping in that regard, so I am happy to go only three games today, and hopefully I will get some good recovery for tomorrow.”

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Mohamed ElShorbagy weathered a tough opening game against England’s rising star Declan James before totally dominating the second. He powered home 11-9, 11-2 in 28 minutes after threatening a whitewash in the second.

James had made a solid start and, at 7-7, he raised the roof at the East Wintergarden when he followed a dive behind the left service box with a big diagonal sprint to the front right to win the rally. 

ElShorbagy squeezed home to take the game and then orchestrated the second with a mesmerising range of shots, mixing power, touch and sublime skill.

“Declan is one of my good mates on tour. We trained together this summer. He came to Bristol and we trained a few times. But I don’t think I am going to train with him any more,” ElShorbagy said jokingly after the match.

“He beat my brother and I think Marwan is going to blame me for that. He has been playing really well and I am really happy for him. He is a great guy and we get on really well and I am really happy for him.

“I played him three years ago at the TOC and I said that he was the best English player from that generation, of those coming up the ranks. I think he has a great future in front of him.

“This season he has been playing so well. The last few years he would have a good result but then not back it up, but this season he has played many great tournaments in a row. He has shown the improvement that he has been working on and I am really happy for him.

“On the 1st of March, I lost the World Number One. On the 2nd of March, I lost the World Championships. I am not sure March is a very good month for me, but I am coming to this event knowing that it won’t be a test physically and mentally for me because I know what I can do on my day.”

ElShorbagy will be competing in his 500th PSA World Tour match when he clashes with Momen and he added: “This is going to be a test of character and I am going to challenge myself here and see. It is hard when you lose the World Number One. It is not an easy thing to lose. When you lose it because someone has raised their level over yours, you raise you hand up. Ali, right now, is playing the best I have ever seen him play and right now he is the best player in the world.

“I am going to be chasing him now. It is a different scenario with our matches, but for now, maybe luckily for all of us he is not playing this event, because he has been playing so well this season, but I look forward to tomorrow now.

“Tarek got out of jail a little bit today. Ryan was playing so well, but Tarek has been playing an amazing season. He beat me last week and I really forward to having another great match with him.”

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Mathieu Castagnet pulled off another stunning victory in the quarter-finals. After toppling the number two seed Simon Rosner the night before, Castagnet fought back from one game down to foil Fares Dessouky, winning 5-11, 11-7, 11-7 in 49 minutes of pure drama. Castagnet is the only unseeded player to reach the semi-finals and he will line up against No.4 seed Paul Coll.

In an intensely physical encounter, both players frequently collided around the middle of the court and at one point they both ended up on the floor after a clash of heads and rackets.

Castagnet, the 2016 Canary Wharf champion, looked in deep trouble when he fell a game behind to 2017 runner-up Dessouky, who attacked at every opportunity. Castagnet was able to squeeze some errors from the Egyptian in the second game though as he pulled away to level for the loss of seven points.
Dessouky marched into a 4-1 lead in the third, but Castagnet’s indomitable fighting spirit came to the fore as he hung in the rallies and played the big points well. The 32-year-old closed out the match to claim his first ever win against Dessouky after three previous defeats.

A delighted Castagnet said: “I have no words to express my emotions. It is like Simon Rösner. I had never beaten Fares [Dessouky], this is the first time I beat him.

“This is the right time to beat him, to reach the semi finals of the Canary Wharf Classic again. I would like to thank all the French guys in the crowd and all the people who supported me. Also, my wife is watching me with my little cat, so I say ‘Hi’ to both as well.

“I am pretty happy, I am trying to get back to a better shape and today and yesterday, I proved that I am able to get back into the world’s top 20, so I did my best for that.

“It was exactly the same situation in New York. He hit some great shots, he hit some mistakes and some tins. At the end of the first game, I tried to change my game plan and I am pretty happy because it worked at the end. That made the difference at the end of the match.”

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New Zealander Paul Coll, the No.4 seed and World No.7, defeated Welshman Joel Makin to earn his place in the semi-finals of this tournament for a second time.

Coll got the better of Makin in a brutal 106-minute encounter in the semi-finals of the Commonwealth Games back in April and their encounter at East Wintergarden was similarly attritional. 

This time, the match was held under a best-of-three games format – which is being trialled at this tournament for a second successive year – and Coll recorded an 11-9, 12-10 triumph in 47 minutes to book his semis berth.
Makin led 8-3 in the opening game but failed to take advantage of the situation. Coll gradually reeled him in, winning eight of the next nine points. In the second, Makin battled hard to stay in the match and in one astonishing rally both players dived across court to keep the ball in play. The packed crowd absolutely loved it and were cheering for Makin to grab the second, but Coll finished the match in spectacular style with a crosscourt volley nick.
Coll said: “I knew it was going to be so tough to win a point. I thought I had him on one of the match balls there when he dived and then I was trying my hardest to fish the stroke but he got out so fast and saved it.
“Credit to him, he is a fighter, and he is a quality player already. He is only going to get better. [It was] very fair, and I enjoyed the match as tough as it was.“
Asked about his slow start, he replied: “I just started too passive, expecting long rallies but not really taking the ball like I should have been. I knew what I had to do, and I wasn’t overly worried because nothing was making me feel really awkward.
“I was a bit off the pace, but I knew what I had to do. I just had to stay calm and I started attacking a lot more down my backhand where I was feeling comfortable, and it paid off.”

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2019 Citigold Wealth Management Canary Wharf Classic, East Wintergarden, Canary Wharf, London, England.

Quarter Finals:
[1] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt Declan James (ENG) 2-0: 11-9, 11-2 (28m)
[3] Tarek Momen (EGY) bt [8] Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) 2-1: 8-11, 13-11, 11-5 (51m)
[4] Paul Coll (NZL) bt Joel Makin (WAL) 2-0: 11-9, 12-10 (47m)
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) bt [7] Fares Dessouky (EGY) 2-1: 5-11, 11-7, 11-7 (49m)

Semi-Finals (March 14):
[1] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v [3] Tarek Momen (EGY)
[4] Paul Coll (NZL) v Mathieu Castagnet (FRA)

Pictures by STEVE LINE (courtesy of PSA), PATRICK LAUSON and ARTYOM LISS 

 

Posted on March 14, 2019

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About The Author

Alan Thatcher

Lifelong sports journalist and squash lover. Event promoter, coach, author, voice artist. Founder of World Squash Day.

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