Egypt’s Mostafa Asal will become squash’s youngest world No 1 for 35 years on Monday – but has there ever been a more divisive or controversial player to hit top spot in the sport?
On Saturday night, Asal beat compatriot Marwan ElShorbagy when the latter was forced to retire in controversial circumstances after a mid-court body clash in their fourth game of the Houston Open semi-final. Talk about a Texas slam.
It wasn’t immediately clear from TV pictures as to the extent of the injury following loud screams of anguish from ElShorbagy. He was helped off court and given an injury timeout having appeared to be hit in a sensitive area but was unable to return to action. He was holding six game balls at two games down and 10-4 up in the third.
It meant a 3-1 win for Asal and the guarantee of becoming world No 1 when the PSA publish the rankings following the Houston Open on Monday.
In normal circumstances, the fact that Asal will become the youngest since Pakistan great Jansher Khan in 1988 to sit atop the men’s rankings would be quite some moment.
Instead, Asal has become mired in controversy following a wealth of negative headlines in PSA matches.
“No words! If this is the future of our sport then good luck,” ElShorbagy wrote on Twitter afterwards. Asal responded that he hoped for a “speedy recovery” to tour.
Meanwhile, fellow players also weighed in on the sour end to the semi-final, which will now see Asal take on England’s Mohamed Elshorbagy in the final.
Tarek Momen wrote: “I’m reconsidering my insurance package, needs some serious upgrading.”
On Friday, Asal beat Frenchman Victor Crouin, who expressed his fears over the Egyptian’s use of body to hinder an opponent’s movement.
Crouin said: “If there happens to be a ref that (1) recognizes it, and (2) penalizes him, then things will be different. His sense of the game and his athleticism undoubtedly earn him the No.1 spot in the world right now.
“However, his antics will also sadly make him one of our sport’s worst ambassadors. That’s on him to change it, and to the refs to act accordingly.”
Results – semi-finals: Houston Open 2023
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (ENG) bt  Mazen Hesham (EGY) 3-1: 9-11, 12-10, 11-7, 11-8 (52m)
 Mostafa Asal (EGY) bt  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) 3-1: 11-7, 11-8, 4-11 retired (98m)
Final: To be played January 15
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (ENG) v  Mostafa Asal (EGY)