Elshorbagy and El Sherbini lead Egyptian hopes in dream venue
By NATHAN CLARKE in New Giza
The opening day of action at the 2016 Al Ahram Squash Open NewGiza saw Egypt underline its position as the leading force in world squash as World No.1s Mohamed ElShorbagy and Nour El Sherbini led an 11-strong local contingent into the quarter-finals of the M100 and W100 tournaments that are taking place in the shadow of the iconic Great Pyramid of Giza.
In the first match to take place at the location – one of the most iconic in all of world sport – in a decade, Women’s No.1 Nour El Sherbini put aside the distractions to defeat Australian Rachael Grinham 3-0 and set up a last eight meeting with Omneya Abdel Kawy.
“I’ve been really excited since I knew the tournament was happening,” said El Sherbini afterwards.
“It was my first ever time here at the Pyramids so it was very exciting. The court is amazing from the inside – and I think it will be even more amazing later in the week.
“But I had to focus really hard to play my game and focus on the squash and I’m happy to come through.”
Joining El Sherbini and Kawy in the last eight are former World No.1 Raneem El Welily and tournament wildcard Nour El Tayeb, who pulled off the biggest win of the day as she turned the form book upside down to stun the in-form World No.4 Nouran Gohar, winner of last month’s Hong Kong Open, in a thrilling five-game battle at the secondary court.
El Tayeb went 6-0 down in the first game as Gohar picked up where she left off last time out, playing at full power to annihilate the ball and leave her opponent stranded, but turned it around in the second to set up a thrilling finale that ebbed and flowed until El Tayed edged it to ensure she will play at the foot of the Great Pyramid of Giza in the last eight.
“I was so scared of being bageled in that first game – she was playing so well and it was hard to get into the match,” said El tayeb.
“I’ve been working on my attitude and to keep pushing regardless of the score. I kept pushing and stayed positive and she started to make errors and I was back in it so it’s a very good day.
“It’s a dream come true to be on the glass court. I remember going there in 2001 and it was so exciting – I can’t believe I will now be there but I have to treat it just like another venue.”
England’s Sarah-Jane Perry halted her dismal run of form against French star Camille Serme, producing a performance of precision and style to defeat the World No.6 3-1 to reach the quarter-finals to end a nine match losing streak against Serme.
Perry played with patience and perfect length from the off to nullify Serme’s traditionally strong volleys and made the court big for the Frenchwoman, taking the opening game for the loss of just for points.
Serme rallied back to take the second but Perry responded in style and powered home to the victory that sees her through to play against Nicol David on the stunning glass court – after the former World No.1 downed England’s Fiona Moverley in straight games.
“I tried to force it a little to much in the second but I felt like I was playing well and hitting great lines. I’m moving a bit better than I was at the worlds and managed to make her play a few more balls so it felt like it was all clicking,” said Perry.
“In the last two tournaments I keep losing just before the glass court, so I’m super excited to play out there now in front of the Pyramids. It looks amazing so it’s going to be great to play up there – it’s spectacular and when you show anyone, people outside of squash, they just go ‘Oh My God’ – so I can’t wait.”
In the third opening match of the day American star Amanda Sobhy, who reached the final of last month’s Hong Kong Open, was forced to dig deep into her locker to com through a tough and testing five-game battle with Welsh player Tesni Evans.
Evans came through qualification to set up the first round encounter but belied her lower ranking as she played with composure and variation to make life difficult for Sobhy. But after seeing a 2-1 lead eradicated courtesy of a highly tense 13-15 fourth game, the Boston-based star managed to re-gather her composure and secure the win that takes her through to the glass court to play the winner of tonight’s match up between Raneem El Welily and Joshna Chinappa.
In the Men’s draw ElShorbagy avenged two consecutive defeats to Australian Cameron Pilley to ensure he got his campaign off to a winning start at the head of a seven-strong Egyptian contingent and he’ll be aiming to end all international interest in the tournament tomorrow when he takes on Germany’s Simon Rösner.
ElShorbagy lost out to Pilley in last month’s Hong Kong Open – a tournament compatriot Ramy Ashour went on to win – but made amends by coming through 3-1, although he looked far from comfortable on court.
“I was really nervous throughout the match,” said ElShorbagy.
“He wasn’t playing his best and he almost took me out today. The last two times we played, he beat me and he was playing incredibly well so today, being in Egypt as well, made it extra tough.
“I had to be mentally strong – I wanted to win today however it took and I’m happy about that.”
Coming into the tournament 28-year-old Ashour was the only player in the Men’s draw to have previously played at the Pyramids, when he lost to Gregory Gaultier in 2006, and he’ll be hoping to reverse his fortune on the main court after seeing off the challenge of Omar Abdel Meguid on the secondary court to move into the last eight.
“The name of the tournament and the prestige of it is on your mind and I think if you asked every Egyptian player they all think the same about this tournament – there is so much energy in this area and it is so special,” said the three-time World Champion.
“When I was a kid I used to go there and watch the matches. I didn’t have a ticket one time and I remember crying to the security guards to try and get up there and it being one of the worst days of my life.
“I remember the goose bumps and the atmosphere of being up there. I only played there once and lost, so I’ll try and change that record now.”
Greg Lobban put up a great fight before bowing out to No.3 seed Karim Abdel Gawad, who realised the dream of a lifetime as he came through a testing encounter with the Scottish qualifier to reach the last eight.
Gawad, who reached the final of the Hong Kong Open last month, spoke pre-tournament of his memories of watching the Al Ahram International back in 2006 and dreaming of one day stepping on that court. And after recovering from a game down, the local man will see his dreams come true when he steps on court for a last eight showdown against Tarek Momen.
“Today the third game was crucial – I tired to move him around as much as possible and I’m pleased I won that third because it was the turning point of the match,” said Gawad.
“I never felt pressure like today’s match. With the chance to play at the Pyramids, it was the most pressure I ever had in a match – I wanted that opportunity so much.
“I’m glad I’m through and I can wait to play on there now – it’s a dream come true.”
Al Ahram Squash Open NewGiza, Egypt.
Women’s Round One Results (Monday, September 19, 2016):
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt [Q] Rachael Grinham (AUS) 3-0: 11-7, 11-4, 11-4 (23m)
 Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY) bt [Q] Low Wee Wern (MAS) 3-2: 11-8, 11-3, 14-16, 10-12, 11-6 (48m)
 Alison Waters (ENG) bt Victoria Lust (ENG) 3-1: 11-9, 7-11, 11-4, 11-4 (50m)
[WC] Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt  Nouran Gohar (EGY) 3-2: 2-11, 12-10, 5-11, 11-6, 11-7 (57m)
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt Joshna Chinappa (IND) 3-0: 11-8, 11-2, 11-7 (26m)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt [Q] Tesni Evans (WAL) 3-2: 9-11, 11-5, 11-4, 13-15, 11-7 (57m)
Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt  Camille Serme (FRA) 3-1: 11-4, 5-11, 11-6, 11-8 (42m)
 Nicol David (MAS) bt [Q] Fiona Moverley (ENG) 3-0: 11-8, 11-7, 11-9 (28m)
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v  Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY)
 Alison Waters (ENG) v [WC] Nour El Tayeb (EGY)
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) v  Amanda Sobhy (USA)
Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) v  Nicol David (MAS)
Men’s Round One Results:
 Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) bt Cameron Pilley (AUS) 3-1: 9-11, 11-7, 11-9, 11-8 (60m)
 Simon Rösner (GER) bt [WC] Youssef Soliman (EGY) 3-1: 11-1, 9-11, 11-4, 12-10 (55m)
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt [Q] Omar Abdel Meguid (EGY) 3-1: 11-5, 5-11, 11-7, 11-6 (43m)
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt Fares Dessouky (EGY) 3-0: 11-6, 11-9, 11-6 (40m)
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt [Q] Greg Lobban (SCO) 3-1: 10-12, 11-8, 14-12, 11-8 (69m)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) bt [Q] Mohamed Reda (EGY) 3-0: 11-4, 11-5, 11-3 (19m)
[LL] Zahed Mohamed (EGY) bt  Borja Golan (ESP) 3-2: 10-12, 11-8, 5-11, 12-10, 11-6 (102m)
 Omar Mosaad (EGY) bt [Q] Karim Ali Fathi (EGY) 3-0: 11-4, 11-6, 11-6 (46m)
 Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) v  Simon Rösner (GER)
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) v  Ali Farag (EGY)
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v  Tarek Momen (EGY)
[LL] Zahed Mohamed (EGY) v  Omar Mosaad (EGY)
Pictures by STEVE LINE (www.squashpics.com)