Sunday, May 26, 2024

Mostafa Asal has John McEnroe qualities on court, says squash great

Former world squash champion Ross Norman has compared Mostafa Asal to John McEnroe for his ability to turn controversy into a source of match-winning motivation.

At 64, the New Zealander is one month older than the former three-time Wimbledon champion who was renowned in his 1980s pomp for rants like “You cannot be serious” and “This is the pits of the world”, which McEnroe used to fuel his competitive fires.

Asal recently courted controversy in the Houston Open last month when his acrimonious semi-final with Marwan El Shorbagy saw the latter carried off following an apparently accidental clash.

Asal, who went to World No.1 after being awarded that match on an injury default, has also become increasingly known for his own volatility and gesturing all of which has prompted Norman to suggest that while there is no comparison in his recollection in a squash sense there are plenty of parallels when it comes to the man famously dubbed as tennis’ very own ‘Superbrat’.

Norman said: “I remember John McEnroe, who I followed all the time as he was about a month younger than me, well the only way he could get fired up was to argue with the ref and upset his opponent and maybe it is the same with Asal.

“I just don’t know but it is very possible, maybe he takes after his dad who has been banned from the PSA tournaments for 10-months or so!

“There is no one from my day who you could compare with Asal, there were colourful characters but they never crossed the line. Sure they pushed it but I was a pro 16 years and although people blocked and had a crack at the ref there was nothing this extreme.

“More recently I remember Gregor Gaultier was a pretty colourful character on court but nothing like Asal who is very vociferous and demonstrative and pushes things to levels beyond anything Greg did.

Fenchman Gregory Gaultier

“Maybe that is what gets Mostafa going and the controversy is what motivates him just like McEnroe did back in the day and it worked for him pretty well you’d have to say.”

While Asal has stated in a recent interview with Squash Mad that becoming World No.1 saw him achieve his biggest career goal, Norman is firmly of the opinion he needs to win either the British Open or World Championship this season to cement that status.

The former World No.2 said: “I think Asal has emerged as the guy to beat, but that said he needs to keep his momentum going and that means winning either the British or World Opens this season.

“Momentum in sport is a massive thing, it’s big in life but huge in squash. Asal has just gone to No.1, he hasn’t won a British or a World Open and he needs to win one of those to confirm his status as the game’s dominant force.”

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