By ALAN THATCHER (Squash Mad Editor)
Defending champion Mostafa Asal has made a dramatic exit from this year’s U.S. Open after his opponent Lucas Serme was awarded their second round match after being struck in the head by a wayward shot from the Egyptian.
Serme was given 15 minutes to recover, but was unable to do so in that time. The match referee deemed it to be an “opponent-inflicted injury” and, applying the code of conduct, Asal was disqualified.
In a further development, the PSA announced today that Serme would not be able to play his third round tie this evening resulting in Marwan ElShorbagy being given a walkover into the quarter finals.
The incident occurred last night as Asal, who last year became the youngest winner in the history of the U.S. Open, was cruising with a two-game lead and was 6-4 up in the third. Serme hit a loose ball that bounced around at the back of the court and Asal decided to turn and hit a shot up the middle.
Serme – who was ducking – was struck in the head with the ball and fell to the floor. Asal immediately looked full of contrition for injuring his opponent.
After the 15-minute recovery period had expired, the PSA physio deemed Serme to be unable to continue, with the world No.43 from France requiring further medical examination.
Serme was taken from the Arlen Specter National Squash Center to a local hospital in Philadelphia and was diagnosed with concussion and a perforated eardrum.
The PSA said: “Everyone at the PSA wishes Lucas well and he will be monitored closely ahead of his potential return to the court.”
Serme was due to play ElShorbagy later today after the Egyptian beat England’s Patrick Rooney 4-11, 11-7, 11-9, 11-8 in 48 minutes.
Because of his concussion, Serme may face issues flying back to Europe to compete in next week’s Grasshopper Cup in Zurich, where he is due to play fellow Frenchman Baptiste Masotti in the first round on October 18.
🗣 @joeybarrington and @Lee_M_Drew discuss defending champion @mostafasal_'s disqualification from the @USOpenSquash following @LucasSerme's injury during their round two match pic.twitter.com/LqgsLDCYDR
— PSA World Tour (@PSAWorldTour) October 10, 2022
SquashTV commentator Lee Drew, who is the PSA’s referees liaison officer as well as being Lucas Serme’s latest coach, confirmed that Asal will inevitably face a disciplinary hearing because of the conduct decision to award the match against him.
Considerable debate has developed in the game following a nasty leg injury suffered by Hania El Hammamy after being hit by a shot from world No.1 Nouran Gohar. The shot was struck with such force that it burst the skin on her opponent’s calf.
In the recent Egyptian Open, Gohar herself was struck close to the eye by El Hammamy’s racket swing.
After the first incident, Gohar’s coach Rodney Martin blamed the referee for calling a “no let” when Gohar stopped play in a similar situation, believing her opponent to be in her path between her and the front wall.
Mike Harris, head coach at Wolverhampton Tennis and Squash Club, commented: “First of all, it’s an extremely unfortunate accident.
“Secondly ….. ASAL SHOULD NOT BE HITTING THE BALL.
“Serme is in doubt where to move to, hesitates on the forehand side before moving towards the middle.
“Asal DOES look up and sees Serme on the forehand, then looks down to hit the ball, which is when Serme moves across to the middle and gets one in the side of the head!”
Harris, who is blind in one eye following a stroke, added: “It was extremely close to his eye, (so pleased he was not hit in the eye) but a potential burst eardrum could cause long term damage and hinder his balance.
“Asal will feel awful and will have nightmares over this incident.”
Former women’s world No.5 (and former world junior No.1) Alexia Clonda, who is now coaching in the USA, said: “It was accidental, but, dangerous play. As he was running to get the ball he was aware of where where Serme was, but as Asal turned Serme had moved to the T and Asal did not check again to see and be aware of where Serme was.
“One of the golden rules is to be aware and know where your opponent is.
“Ideally it should have been a forehand drive. Unfortunately, Asal turned, hit his opponent and inflicted an injury. No fault on Serme’s part. The rule is clear, unfortunately for Asal. Before he hit that ball he should have been aware of where Serme was.
“It is now the time to start penalizing the disgraceful behaviours that have been creeping into the game more and more. But this was accidental dangerous play.”
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Pictures courtesy of PSA World Tour