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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Upsets Galore in Macau

Alex Wan
Alex Wan is an avid squash lover who writes, photographs, plays and coaches when he is not making a living with his Finance degree.

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Nafiizwan Adnan (right) shocks top seed Omar Mosaad
Nafiizwan Adnan (right) shocks top seed Omar Mosaad

Upsets Galore in Macau
By Alex Wan – Squash Mad Asian Bureau Editor

The quarter finals of the 2015 Macau Squash Open turned out to be a shocker as half of the matches played today ended in upsets. Kicking off the evening were men’s top seed Omar Mosaad against Nafiizwan Adnan of Malaysia, and women’s second seed Nour El Tayeb and Nouran Gohar, the in-form world junior champion.

 

Wan Gets His Second Top Ten Scalp

Nafiizwan Adnan and Omar Mosaad got the evening started with some ferocious hitting, as you’d expect any match that featured the Hammer of Thor Omar Mosaad. At a later point of the match, there was a conduct warning for ball abuse at which I thought, it is very well abused already in the last hour.

Mosaad came out firing, hitting most that came his way hard and low. So much that Adnan seem to have taken a step back further from the T as a precaution. But that meant every single drop or boast would require an extra lunge. Mosaad saw that and took advantage of it in the first half of the first game. In no time he was 7-3 up before a stroke against him turned things around a little. Adnan manages another 3 points before Mosaad slammed a forehand into the nick to take the lead.

In the second game, Adnan controlled the pace a lot better, slowing things down as it deemed fit. This proved to reap rewards as he won 6 points in a row to lead 6-1, 8-2 and 10-3. Mosaad slams the next serve into the nick but Adnan was not going to let this game go any other way.

The third was close up to 5-4, and then Adnan won 3 points in a row to open up a gap. It went back to point for point and Mosaad tins at game ball down to hand Adnan the lead 2-1 games. The pace was upped once again in the fourth and after a lot of running, Adnan was feeling the heat a little. A string of 4 points from 3-2 down did the damage in this game to Adnan, who eventually lost 11-6.

In the decider, Adnan got to a good start with a 4-1 score. What’s not pretty about the start is that two of the first five points were strokes. That pretty much did the damage to Mosaad, as no player too more than 2 points in a row from there. After 75 minutes of play, Mosaad tins a backhand volley to hand Adnan his second top ten player scalp.

Nafiizwan Adnan said:
This is my biggest win. I’m very happy with the results. I played Omar here last year and I lost 3-0 in less than half an hour. I’m a lot more patient this time round and I’m playing well I think. I’m not thinking about tomorrow yet. I’m just letting this win sink in and enjoy the moment. From experience, the more I think further ahead, it stresses me out. Come tomorrow, I’ll just do my best.

 

Nouran Gohar Continues Her Killing Run

At the court next door, two Egyptians battled it out. First, Nouran Gohar, the current talk of town and the other, Nour El Tayeb, the second seed. El Tayeb was already wary of Gohar the day before as she mentioned during the post-match interview. She was definitely right in feeling so.

It was El Tayeb who drew first blood, after Gohar’s forehand drop found the tin. From 3-3, Gohar started to slowly pull away. It was 8-5 and soon after, 11-7 in 7 minutes. The second saw Gohar playing with more confidence, probably from winning the first. She was playing a lot more aggressively and striking the ball with such aggressiveness and confidence. She manages a 7-3 lead at one point, then 9-7 and allowing El Tayeb just another point before taking a 2-0 lead.

Gohar continued on from where she left off in the second, playing some highly confident squash. But at the same time, El Tayeb had found herself playing better too. Though El Tayeb trailed 5-7 at one point, she did manage pump herself up enough to take the third 11-8.

Winning the third sure fired up El Tayeb, who is known to be a fighter on the tour. She came in strongly and took a 6-1 lead. Gohar tried to claw back from there. She gets nearer but it was never going to be enough. El Tayeb closes the 11-6 and lets out a roar so loud, nearly everyone at the men’s court turned around.

In the fifth, El Tayeb took a small lead in the beginning and after, it was all Nouran Gohar. The teenager simply was too good for El Tayeb, who could find no answer to stop her. At 6-3 down, El Tayeb did one of her famous dives to retrieve a ball in the front, and even that did not work today.

For a teenager so young to be playing such matured squash amongst the world’s best is really a marvel. What’s more scary is she will still be eligible to defend her world junior title the next round.

Nouran Gohar said:
This is one of the toughest match that I’ve played. Nour is a very talented player and you never know where the ball is heading with her. It’s always hard to play another Egyptian. I was 2-0 up and 7-5 up in the third, and I lost a little concentration to allow her back into it. Plus, she’s a real fighter. I’m really glad to have pulled through.

Nour El Tayeb said:
I’m trying to look into the positive side of things. I’ve lot of time raining all summer and I am seeing a little improvements here and there. It’s the first tournament of the season and I was playing a player who is very confident at the moment. My balls were more loose than usual, just not tight and deep enough. That was the difference today.

 

Dessouki Comes Back From the Brink of Defeat

The second men’s match on court turned out to be another cracker between the young Egyptian Fares Dessouki and Borja Golan from Spain, the third seed of the tournament. The pair had already met twice in 2014, with the Spaniard winning both in matches lasting 60 and 95 minutes, so a long battle seem to be on paper.

Long it was, but I doubt many would’ve put their money on Dessouki to be 2 games down to come back and win. Like Golan’s match yesterday, this one was filled with lots of drama involving the referees as well. There were way too many disruptions, many conversations with the referee.

The first two games were very equally matched, both never more than 2 points apart. But both times, it ended in the Spaniard’s favour, after a total of 45 minutes on court. In the third, Golan seem to have shut down and had not much resistance to offer, losing tamely 11-4.

The fourth was a much closer affair, but just around mid-game, Dessouki manages to take 5 points in a row and earned himself a game ball at 10-7. He then hit a lob out of bounds to allow Golan a point to 10-8, before a no let call was given next, thus ending the game.

Fares Dessouki then went into overdrive in fifth as he quickly took a 7-1 lead. However, Golan somehow manages to chase and got to 7-8. Two consecutive rallies that ended with Golan asking for lets were turned down and on both occasions, there was commotion from the Spaniard. That certainly got under the skin of Golan, who didn’t win another point more.

At 8-2, a rather awkward situation unfolded. Golan had hit the ball into Desoukki’s racket while attempting a cross court from the back. Now this would be a simple stroke to Golan by the rule book, which is what the referees decided anyway. But both Dessouki and Golan decided it shall be a let and the referee allowed it to be one. I have seen cases such as double bounces which the referee calls out but players think otherwise being overruled. But this is a clear cut simple stroke. I am not sure if this should be allowed at all – players overruling referees.

Fares Dessouki said:
It’s my first time beating Borja and I’m very happy about it. I was 2-0 down and it was tough mentally. I had to keep telling myself I could do it. It was a bit physical but it’s a test for me to know I can last the whole five games. It was even more so a mental test. In the fifth I was 8-2 up and I started to think about winning. That got me a little sluggish. Then at 8-7, I played two good shots. Overall it was hard mentally more than physically and needing to control my emotions.

Borja Golan said:
It was a difficult first two games and I was lucky to win it. In the third I relaxed a little and I realised he was getting better. He just kept getting better and better. I lost some confidence in the fourth while he was getting even better. I was down in the fifth and I realised he was struggling physically so I told myself, if I was going out I would try to make him work. It was good till 7-8 and I had two bad decisions go my way. But all credit to Fares. He played so well and truly deserves this win.

Annie Au the First Seed in Semis

After 3 upsets, Annie Au of Hong Kong was the first seeded player to check into the semi-finals. Her opponent today was Joelle King, who is using her last pegged ranking in this event. Going by the rankings, Annie Au is certainly the favourite. But for many, it is the reverse.

The first game opened up right from the start in Au’s favour, who raced to a 5-1 lead after dropping the first point. Slowly, King pulled back and saved 3 game balls before succumbing. The second game was closely contested. King would be using the pace while Au would be trying to slow it down as how she always does so well. But at 8-all, Au manages to win 3 points in a row to take a two games lead.

Au came firing in the third and established a 5-0 lead. But Joelle King herself did the same at the end to win 4 in a row from 8—9 down to win 11-9. She even started off well I the fourth, opening up a 4-point lead to 6-2. But at the end, the Hong Kong number one manages 5 points in a row to go 9-7 up. King did draw level at 9-all but it was not enough to save the game, sending Au into the glass court to face Egyptian sensation Nouran Gohar.

Annie Au said:
I played pretty well today. I think she’s a little tired physically. Overall I’m quite satisfied with my game today. But I still had a couple of mistakes here and there. Tomorrow, it’s going to be tough against Nouran, who is playing very well at the moment.

Joelle King said:
I was a bit up and down. I probably let a few refereeing decisions get under my skin. I feel a little flat coming in to a group of events. I’ll be heading home to rest for a week now before going to the US.

Max Lee Avenges Defeat

Two weeks ago, Max Lee was the talk of town when he ousted world number one Mohamed Elshorbagy in Shanghai, but only to fall to his younger brother rather easily in the next round. Today, Lee has a chance to turn things around and he took it in a rather brilliant fashion.

The first two games was beautiful squash from both players. The Hong Kong number one displayed quite a few times what a great retriever he is and this definitely worked to his favour, as it forces Shorbagy to play that shot just a little better. This would of course mean the chances of making a mistake is higher too. Having every winner being retrieved would unsettle even the world’s best, and here it was getting to Elshorbagy.

The first two were dead close, both ending up in Lee’s favour through tie-breaks. The third was rather anti-climatic after the first two games. Lee needed only two hands of serve to book his place in the glass court.

Max Lee said:
I felt pretty good out there. I had a discussion with my coach on how to play Marwan, having just lost to him in Shanghai. Basically I had to do much better lengths and cut down on my mistakes a lot more, which were aplenty in Shanghai. I’m a little surprised to win in three as he’s not an easy player to play with. Playing either Tarek or Omar will be tough tomorrow and I hope it will be good.

Faheem Khan (Max Lee’s coach) said:
Obviously it feels good coming out of such a win. Max already had confidence in himself after beating Mohamed in Shanghai. But he did badly against Marwan there on the glass court. He simply couldn’t keep it tight and get the lengths in. We decided he needed to keep the rallies going as long as possible. I am very pleased he stuck to the plan today. I’m not surprised that he won really. He’s a very talented player but he’s not peaked at his maturity level just yet.

Marwan Elshorbagy said:
The first two games were tight. It could’ve gone either way. I had a couple of game balls in the second. Max played better on the bigger points. In the third, he was just everywhere and I couldn’t get into the game. It’s a good tournament here but the level of refereeing needs to be improved. I will still look forward to come back here.

 

Top English Girls Win

England’s top two women’s players Laura Massaro and Alison Waters both won their matches in straight games, the former against Aussie left-hander Donno Urquhart and the latter against team mate Emily Whitlock.

Massaro did struggle more than Waters, especially in the first two games. When questioned, she mentioned about Urquhart being left handed, making her harder to play. Both spent about half an hour of play, so tomorrow should see a close match between the pair which is likely to mess up the schedule.

Laura Massaro said:
I felt pretty OK today. It’s always hard to play someone like Donna who’s a left hander. She throws a few shots into the nicks too. We haven’t played for a while, so it took a while to recognise the different patter of play. I felt that she kept changing tactics throughout the match so it was hard to read a pattern. I’m glad to come through in straight games and I’m looking forward to the glass court tomorrow. It should be a good match, both of us are ranked four and five in the world this month. Hopefully I can play my best squash tomorrow.

Donna Urquhart said:
It’s always disappointing to lose. Laura played better than me today. I feel I was in it today actually. The small difference could be the last two matches I had (both went to five). I’m really happy with my performance though. It’s my best results in the last 12 months since coming back from the injury.

Alison Waters said:
I thought I played well. Emily is a tough opponent as you can see. I knew that coming in and I had to do well to control the pace. I’m enjoying Macau very much and it’s going to be good in the semis on the glass court tomorrow.

Close Buddies Square Off with Each Other

Defending champion Tarek Momen and Omar Abdel Meguid both found it hard to be playing each other, as both are close friends. Momen had a good start taking the first games 11-4, 11-3. With Such a scoreline, who would’ve thought Meguid will seriously be mounting back a challenge.

He did just that, winning the third game but Momen’s experience saw him through in a fairly one sided fourth game.

Tarek Momen said:
I think my game was good today. It’s hard to play Omar because we’re close friends. We train and play together very often and it’s hard to feel like I’m playing in a tournament. It’s easy to lose concentration sometimes. Last year I played Max in the quarter finals and I was match ball down before winning in five. I hope I can put up a good performance tomorrow and win again.

Omar Abdel Meguid said:
It’s never easy playing someone you’ve been training with since 7 years old you know. I feel I played well in patches. But I made too many mistakes and he played well. I’ve had my best results here in Macau. I got into the semis two years ago, so yeah, I hope I will be back next year.
Quarter Finals Results :

Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS) beat Omar Mosaad (EGY) 7-11, 11-4, 11-8, 6-11, 11-7 (75m)

Fares Dessouki (EGY) beat Borja Golan (ESP) 9-11, 9-11, 11-4, 11-8, 11-7 (98m)

Max Lee (HKG) beat Marwan Elshorbagy (EGY) 12-10, 15-13, 11-2 (48m)

Tarek Momen (EGY) beat Omar Abdel Muguid (EGY) 11-4, 3-11, 11-5, 11-6 (38m)

Nouran Gohar (EGY) beat Nour El Tayeb (EGY) 11-7, 11-8, 8-11, 6-11, 11-4 (50m)

Annie Au (HKG) beat Joelle King (NZL) 13-11, 11-8, 9-11, 11-9 (53m)

Alison Waters (ENG) beat Emily Whitlock (ENG) 11-6, 11-7, 11-4 (31m)

Laura Massaro beat Donna Urquhart (AUS) 11-8, 11-7, 11-6 (29m)

Picture by Macau Squash Association

 

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