Elshorbagy finally ends Shabana hoodoo and advances into Motor City Open final
By MICHAEL CATLING – Squash Mad Editor
World number four Mohamed Elshorbagy’s six year quest to defeat his ‘idol’ and fellow Egyptian Amr Shabana ended at the semi-final stage of the Motor City Open in Detroit – but only after the defending champion was forced to concede their match after three games at the Birmingham Athletic Club in Bloomfield Hills.
It was a hollow victory for the top seed – who had never beaten Shabana in eight PSA Tour meetings stretching back to 2008 – but the 34-year-old embraced his younger Egyptian and explained that lightheadedness necessitated his retirement.
The four-time World champion triumphed at the Tournament of Champions in New York last week, but was clearly feeling the after-effects of his eighth match in 10 days.
“It’s of course a sad end for the crowd because the match was very high quality,” said Elshorbagy, who advances into his second Detroit final in four years.
“I want to congratulate Shabana for an amazing two weeks. He played unbelievable squash the past two weeks and the Tour is always happier when he plays better.”
Despite starting sluggishly to lose the opening game, Shabana edged a see-saw second game tie-break which saw both men squander game-balls.
However, a one-sided third game saw Elshorbagy capitalise on Shabana’s lethargic movement as the 23-year-old from Alexandria dropped just three points to reclaim the advantage.
Shabana extended his hand just moments later as Elshorbagy’s life-long dream to beat the former world number one was finally realised; albeit in undesirable circumstances.
“The first two games were so tough. He went for it at the end of the second game and I could see how tired he was,” admitted Elshorbagy. “After that I didn’t worry much because I knew I still had the edge.
“Because the court is very bouncy, my tactic from the beginning of the match was, if I could play a rally that lasts 30 minutes, I will do it.
“I wanted to get him tired because he just came from the Tournament of Champions in New York and didn’t have any rest days. I knew that he would feel it during the match.
“But after the second game, I could feel there was something wrong in the third. Even when I was winning, I asked him during the game: ‘Is there something wrong?’ I wouldn’t want to continue if I felt there was something wrong with him.”
Elshorbagy, now in the 16th Tour final of his career, will face England’s Peter Barker (pictured left), after the world number eight brushed aside Australian Cameron Pilley in straight games.
Barker, who is competing in only his second tournament since suffering a calf injury at the World Championship in Manchester, eased past the eighth seed 11-7, 11-6, 11-5 in 48 minutes.
“If someone said to me two weeks ago, you’d be in the quarterfinals of a major [tournament] and the final in another, I would’ve bitten a hand off,” said Barker.
“When you have an injury, it puts it into perspective because you lose that perspective when you’re so focused on winning. When you have a couple months off and aren’t able to do the thing that you really enjoy, it just makes you relax and enjoy it.
“I’m determined to enjoy squash now because I’m 30. I’m not going to be playing forever, so what’s the point of stressing? When I relax and enjoy it, that’s when I play my best squash.”
Pilley caused a huge upset by ousting second seed Karim Darwish in the quarter-finals but rarely troubled the England number three whose gameplan nullified the Aussie’s power and size.
The third seed was targetting a spot in the world’s top five before injury struck last year and will now contest his first final since winning back-to-back PSA titles at the Malaysian Open in September.
However, the Essex left-hander will need to become only the third man to beat Elshorbagy in his last 22 matches; a run which featured a straight game victory over Barker in the Premier Squash League earlier this month.
 Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) 3-1  Amr Shabana (EGY) 11-6, 12-14, 11-3 ret. (46m)
 Peter Barker (ENG) 3-0  Cameron Pilley (AUS) 11-7, 11-6, 11-5 (48m)
Pictures courtesy of the Motor City Open website