By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor
World No.9 Joel Makin narrowly avoided a shock defeat in the second round of the men’s CIB PSA Black Ball Open as he overcame England’s Patrick Rooney after 75 minutes of absorbing squash.
Rooney had won their only previous meeting on the PSA World Tour back in 2015 when Makin was ranked outside of the world’s top 100. Since that match, though, Makin has soared up the rankings to sit inside the top 10, some 43 places above Rooney.
However, Rooney was every bit Makin’s equal for large phases of this match in the PSA World Tour Platinum event at Cairo’s Black Ball Sporting Club as he took Makin to a decider. But the Welshman held his nerve to play the crucial points well, and he closed out an 10-12, 11-2, 11-8, 9-11, 11-8 victory to reach the last 16.
“I just felt flat with my movement, something wasn’t quite right,” said Makin. “I wasn’t relying on getting on the ball early, and he was getting in front of me all the time. That allowed him to use his skills and he was putting the ball away unbelievably to be fair to him.
“He didn’t give me much chance to settle, so I really had to dig in hard towards the end because I wasn’t feeling right. His quality going in short was pretty unbelievable on a glass court like that, so I just had to deal with it like I did and find a way. The quality wasn’t right. I’m not sure why but we haven’t played in four months so you can’t be perfect.”
Makin will play World No.14 Mazen Hesham in the third round after the Egyptian’s match with Spain’s Iker Pajares Bernabeu was cut short due to a knee injury to the Spaniard.
World No.2 Mohamed ElShorbagy marked his return to Egypt with a 3-0 win over Frenchman Baptiste Masotti. ElShorbagy hadn’t played on home soil since June 2019 when he lined up at the CIB PSA World Tour Finals and he had to be at his best to fend off the talented World No.37 today.
“I really enjoyed being back playing and competing again, it has been a long time,” said ElShorbagy.
“Since March last year, I have only played two events and in one of those, I lost in the second round. I haven’t really played for a long time, but at the same time, I was really looking forward to being back on the glass. I am a competitor, so I enjoy playing, I enjoy winning, and I am really happy to be back.”
ElShorbagy will go up against India’s Saurav Ghosal next as he looks to increase his current nine-match win streak over the World No.13.
French veteran Gregory Gaultier defeated Egypt’s Youssef Soliman in straight games to earn his last 16 berth. The 38-year-old was masterful in the opening stages to take a 2-0 lead and, while he tired as the match went on, he was able to keep his opponent at bay to record the victory.
“I felt really sharp and good during the first two games,” said Gaultier. “My movement was great for me, I felt okay and comfortable. It was boiling inside [the court], the ball was very bouncy, so I was just trying to hit with little pace, not to rush for all the shots or volley too much. I just tried to hit my targets to then get the openings and make him move around.”
He will play World No.4 Paul Coll after the Kiwi got the better of Switzerland’s Nicolas Mueller, winning 11-6, 11-8, 12-10 in 44 minutes.
“He [Gregory Gaultier] is playing really well for his age,” Coll said. “It is incredible how he keeps going and keeps playing at such a high level. I’m really looking forward to the match tomorrow, it is going to be very tough, he is super experienced and still very high quality, but I am really excited for it. He has one of the best backhands in the world, so it will be a battle down that side and I will just have to look out for the backhand kill that he loves.”
Egyptian pair Marwan ElShorbagy and Youssef Ibrahim will go head-to-head in the third round after they completed wins over Karim El Hammamy and Lucas Serme, respectively, in the day’s other two fixtures.
Men’s 2021 CIB PSA Black Ball Squash Open, Black Ball Sporting Club, Cairo, Egypt.
Second Round (Bottom Half):
 Paul Coll (NZL) bt Nicolas Mueller (SUI) 3-0: 11-6, 11-8, 12-10 (44m)
Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt Youssef Soliman (EGY) 3-0: 11-7, 11-8, 15-13 (65m)
Youssef Ibrahim (EGY) bt Lucas Serme (FRA) 3-2: 4-11, 11-9, 8-11, 11-3, 11-6 (61m)
 Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) bt Karim El Hammamy (EGY) 3-1: 11-9, 11-8, 8-11, 11-6 (67m)
 Joel Makin (WAL) bt Patrick Rooney (ENG) 3-2: 10-12, 11-2, 11-8, 9-11, 11-8 (75m)
Mazen Hesham (EGY) bt Iker Pajares Bernabeu (ESP) 3-1: 11-9, 13-15, 11-6, 5-0 retired (57m)
Saurav Ghosal (IND) bt Tom Richards (ENG) 3-0: 11-3, 11-8, 11-5 (42m)
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt Baptiste Masotti (FRA) 3-0: 14-12, 11-7, 11-9 (43m)
Third Round (March 22):
 Ali Farag (EGY) v Mostafa Asal
Omar Mosaad (EGY) v  Fares Dessouky (EGY)
Zahed Salem (EGY) v Mathieu Castagnet (FRA)
Gregoire Marche (FRA) v  Tarek Momen (EGY)
 Paul Coll (NZL) v Gregory Gaultier (FRA0
Youssef Ibrahim (EGY) v  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY)
 Joel Makin (WAL) v Mazen Hesham (EGY)
Saurav Ghosal (IND) v  Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY)
Pictures courtesy of PSA