Tuesday, October 3, 2023

PSA: Willstrop and Darwish power through in El Gouna

PSA players line up at the glass court

From STEVE CUBBINS in El Gouna

After a rest/travel day, it was time for the main draw of the El Gouna International Squash Open on Sunday. Four lunchtime matches at the Movenpick resort, then four on the all-new glass court at Abu Tig Marina in the top half of the draw.

Round One, top half :

Saurav Ghosal (Ind) bt [Q] Robbie Temple (Eng) 8/11, 9/11, 11/9, 11/7, 11/4 (85m)
[8] Laurens Jan Anjema (Ned) bt Omar Abdel Aziz (Egy) 11/5, 6/11, 11/4, 11/5 (49m)
Jonathan Kemp (Eng) bt [Q] Omar Abdel Meguid (Egy) 11/8, 11/4, 11/5 (27m)
Thierry Lincou (Fra) bt Cameron Pilley (Aus) 2/11, 11/6, 5/11, 11/5, 11/6 (76m)

[4] Karim Darwish (Egy) bt [Q] Adrian Waller (Eng) 11/9, 11/6, 11/6 (35m)
Tarek Momen (Egy) bt Mohammed Abbas (Egy) 11/8, 7/11, 11/7, 11/9 (48m)
[1] James Willstrop (Eng) bt Nicolas Mueller (Sui) 11/8, 11/4, 6/11, 11/4 (43m)
[7] Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egy) bt [Q] Ivan Yuen (Mas) 11/7, 12/10, 11/6 (34m)

Saurav comeback thwarts Temple, Thierry won’t be beaten

First up in the nice and compact single court (the building houses the court plus just about enough room for the referees and us) at the lovely Movenpick resort  was India’s speedy Saurav Ghosal against left/doubler-handed qualifier Robbie Temple.

The Englishman made a great start, always being ahead in two even opening games and having leads mid-way through the third and fourth too. But it was Ghosal who got the better of the second half of both of those games before making a fast start to the fifth which he took comfortably enough to advance to the last sixteen.

“I had to dig pretty hard to win this,” admitted Ghosal. “Winning the 3rd helped, but he was still in it. In the 4th, I had a good spell, and I started to believe, felt more confident. And physically, I felt fine…”

Dutchman Laurens Jan Anjema was too strong in the end for Omar Abdel Aziz, finishing off his match powerfully after the Egyptian had  fought back well to tak the second game, while Jonathan Kemp eased through with a quickfire win over Egyptian qualifier Omar Abdel Meguid, the Englishman’s shotmaking too hot to handle.

“He surprised me, because I thought of him as not a typical Egyptian player, more of a “grinder” in the positive sense, as in, able to make it tough and the rallies long,” said Anjema. “But when he took the opportunities I was opening for him in that game, I realised that he was probably not “not a typical Egyptian after all!”

The final afternoon match was another five-setter, with Thierry Lincou and Cameron Pilley sharing the first four, each won fairly comfortably – Pilley even got to 9-0 in the first. The fifth was a real toughie though, 31 minutes long with the Frenchman coming through from 6-all to secure his place in the  next round – just days after his 36th birthday.

“When I was able to get back into a bit more control at the back, I was able to come back into it tactically,” Lincou revealed. “I was really disturbed by that light on the court, after that, it moved, and was much better. Frankly, I’m extremely happy, I have found my confidence again into my body, into my ability to win if it hadn’t been for my mates, advising me between points, I’m not sure I would have made it today.”

Defending champion and top seed safely through

After the evening crowd were welcomed to the first international sporting event in Egypt since the revolution (Egyptians all seem to be happy to call it that), Karim Darwish got his title defence under way smoothly enough with a straight-game win over English qualifier Adrian Waller. Waller stayed with the home favourite until the middle of each game but Darwish mad sure he didn’t get any chances in the endgames.

“It was a hard game, I’m happy to finish it in three,” said the reigning champion. “Adrian has good racquet skills, he makes me think a bit of James, he likes holding the ball, but obviously has a bit of lack of experience on the glass court.

“It’s so nice to be back in El Gouna, everybody is enjoying the place so much. I really want to thank El Gouna, the sponsors and Amr Mansi for holding this tournament here again, and really we are grateful to the sponsors they invested in us at such a crucial time. It’s so nice to be playing at home again.”

Next up Tarek Momen took on Mohammed Abbas in an all-Egyptian youth v experience clash, and although Abbas took the second and threatened in the third, it was the speed and skill of the youngster which prevailed.

Top seed James Willstrop did “what I needed to do for enough games to win” against the dangerous young Swiss Nicolas Mueller, who gave the world number one a stiff test for two of their four games before seeing the fourth run away from him.

“He always takes the game to you,” said Willstrop of his opponent. “But actually tonight, I thought he was being a bit conservative for the first two games, but started to let go a little bit in the third. He broke me a little bit there, fantastic drop shots, sublime shots and nicks, so it was good to come back to business into the fourth. It was a very enjoyable match indeed.”

The final match of the day saw two old foes from junior days meet again, and it was Mohamed El Shorbagy who maintained his winning record over qualifier Ivan Yuen.  Shorbagy took a close first game, but the Malaysian led early in the second, got 10-6 up but couldn’t finish it as Shorbagy took six points in a row to double his lead before easing through the third.

It’s the same again tomorrow for the bottom half – four afternoon matches at Movenpick, four in the evening on the glass court.


Event website:  www.elgounasquashopen.com

James Willstrop at full stretch against Nic Mueller. Pictures by STEVE CUBBINS courtesy of host website www.squashsite.co.uk


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