By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor
New Zealand’s Paul Coll and Welshman Joel Makin are the only two non-Egyptians to win through to the quarter-finals of the CIB PSA Black Ball Open.
Makin earned his place by beating Mazen Hesham in straight games, 11-7, 12-10, 11-5. The 26-year-old was consistent and played an accurate game to reach his second successive quarter final of this PSA World Tour Platinum event at the Black Ball Sporting Club. He will face training partner Mohamed ElShorbagy, the world No.2, in the last eight.
“I thought that was a lot better today,” said Makin. “I got a much better weight of line and got across the middle a little bit more, so that was a lot better.
“You have to be careful against Mazen. I knew that if I wasn’t playing well or I wasn’t sharp or a bit negative then he would hit winners from everywhere, so I had to step up and I thought it made a big difference.
“That’s the fifth quarter final now, and I’ve made one semi-final. The quality of my squash just needs to improve. I’m getting there at times and I’m beating higher ranked players but it needs to consistent.
“I need to be confident taking it in and initiating from the start, not doing what I did yesterday – we haven’t played for a long time, but it needs to be better than that. I’m happy with today and that’s the sort of quality I want to play.
“I’m going to sit in the room for another 24 hours. Get some mobility, some food and protein and a stretch and that’s about it for the rest of the day.”
Coll’s much-anticipated clash with French veteran Gregory Gaultier lived up to expectations. Coll finally got the better of the 38-year-old Frenchman but the world No.4 dropped the third game as Gaultier slowed the game down and controlled the tempo.
Coll finally won through 11-3, 11-7, 7-11, 11-4 after 69 minutes of high-quality play and will meet Marwan ElShorbagy in the quarter-finals after the World No.6 defeated fellow Egyptian Youssef Ibrahim.
Coll said: “That was one of the highlights of my career. I look up to Gaultier a lot and that moment at the end when he just gave me a pat on the head there, that was huge for me.
“I loved every second out there. I went and trained with him early in my career, he taught me a lot and he taught me some more lessons today.
“The way he controlled me in that third game … he slowed it down but he slowed it so accurately and turned me. I just couldn’t inject the pace that I wanted to and it made me go into a negative state where he picked me off. It was a good lesson, and a class performance to be out there with him.
“It is going to be another tough battle. Marwan is a different player to Greg just now, but as good as any out there on his day. It will be a tough battle as it always is, but I am really looking forward to going out there tomorrow. I loved every second tonight and I can’t wait to be out there dancing.”
Marwan’s brother Mohamed, making a rare appearance on Egyptian soil, will face his regular training partner Makin after the world No.2 made it 10 wins in a row over Indian No.1 Saurav Ghosal.
The 30-year-old ElShorbagy, who is appearing at his first tournament in Egypt since June 2019, won 12-10, 11-9, 11-2 and said: “Saurav always plays well against me, even though our head-to-head is crazy in my favour.
“I think the last time I lost to him was in 2008, which is a crazy record to have against someone of his calibre. The last two matches we had we went to a tie-break in the fifth and then a tie-break in the third, so I knew I had to dig in deep in the first two games and win those big crucial points, which I did, and I am thankful for that.”
World No.18 Zahed Salem will appear in the quarter-finals of a PSA World Tour Platinum event for the first time in his career after he beat Frenchman Mathieu Castagnet.
Salem, from Alexandria, defeated 2018 champion Karim Abdel Gawad in the last round after he was forced to retire due to injury, and he came from a game down to overcome Castagnet, winning 6-11, 11-6, 11-7, 11-6 to set up a last eight fixture with World Champion Tarek Momen, who ended Greg Marche’s excellent run of form.
Salem said: “Castagnet is a very tough player. He’s a former World No.6 and we’ve always had very tough games.
“It’s my first time beating him. I think he’s beaten me four times, so I’m happy to get the win today.
“Today is the first time I have played this well in Egypt. I always lose in the first round or maybe in the second round. I’ve never had a good performance in Egypt, but I’m proud to win and get through and play tomorrow in the quarters.”
World No.1 Ali Farag had to come from behind to overcome world junior champion Mostafa Asal in an absorbing contest.
Asal, the World No.12, was unstoppable in the opening game as he overpowered Farag who, at 28, is nine years Asal’s senior. However, Farag’s big match experience paid off as he weathered the storm and absorbed Asal’s pace to avoid an upset against his teenage opponent.
“Playing Mohamed Abouelghar in the second round and then potentially either Asal or Declan James in the third round, I knew I had a tough task at hand,” said Farag.
“I keep telling Nour [El Tayeb, Farag’s wife] that I haven’t lost before the quarter-finals since El Gouna in 2017, so I didn’t want to break that record here. That was the first goal of the tournament and now that is done, it is time to focus on the quarters.”
Farag continues his tournament against defending champion Fares Dessouky next after Dessouky got the better of former World No.3 Omar Mosaad.
Men’s 2021 CIB PSA Black Ball Squash Open, Black Ball Sporting Club, Cairo, Egypt.
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt Mostafa Asal (EGY) 3-1: 6-11, 11-3, 11-2, 11-8 (60m)
 Fares Dessouky (EGY) bt Omar Mosaad (EGY) 3-0: 11-2, 11-9, 11-6 (36m)
Zahed Salem (EGY) bt Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) 3-1: 6-11, 11-6, 11-7, 11-6 (59m)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) bt Gregoire Marche (FRA) 3-1: 11-9, 8-11, 11-6, 11-9 (56m)
 Paul Coll (NZL) bt Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 3-1: 11-3, 11-7, 7-11, 11-4 (69m)
 Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) bt Youssef Ibrahim (EGY) 3-0: 12-10, 11-7, 11-4 (47m)
 Joel Makin (WAL) bt Mazen Hesham (EGY) 3-0: 11-7, 12-10, 11-5 (42m)
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt Saurav Ghosal (IND) 3-0: 12-10, 11-9, 11-2 (49m)
Quarter-Finals (March 23):
 Ali Farag (EGY) v  Fares Dessouky (EGY)
Zahed Salem (EGY) v  Tarek Momen (EGY)
 Paul Coll (NZL) v  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY)
 Joel Makin (WAL) v  Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY)
Pictures courtesy of PSA