Tuesday, May 28, 2024

US OPEN: Underdogs look hungry

Simon Rosner chops Tarek Momen
Simon Rosner chops Tarek Momen


Mathieu Castagnet, Mohamed El Shorbagy, Peter Barker and Simon Rosner all have a massive point to prove in the US Open quarter-finals.

All four are the underdogs in their respective clashes against Gregory Gaultier, Karim Darwish, Nick Matthew and James Willstrop. But will there be a shock result?

Starting at the top of the draw, Castagnet is involved in a highly-charged, all-French battle with No.1 seed Gregory Gaultier.

Whatever the result, it is bound to be an emotional occasion but Castagnet must try to block out those feelings and concentrate on repeating his exceptional performance against Spain’s Borja Golan in the last round.

Peter Barker gets in front against Joe Lee
Peter Barker gets in front against Joe Lee

Gaultier, meanwhile, will be aiming to take full advantage of the absence of world champion Ramy Ashour to justify his seeding, collect vital ranking points and prize money, and consolidate his current position of physical and emotional harmony.

The other quarter-final in the top half of the draw is an equally volatile all-Egyptian affair between No.4 seed Darwish and El Shorbagy, who is seeded just one place behind.

Darwish has been looking sharp in Philadelphia this week, playing intelligent, controlled squash. But Elshorbagy is determined to force a change in the order at the top of Egyptian squash.

A lot is riding on this result, much of it linked none-too-subliminally to the political situation back home in Egyptian squash.

The bottom half of the draw is an all-European combat zone, with No.2 seed Willstrop tackling German “tree chopper” Rosner in a real battle of the giants.

These two guys are phenomenal athletes and Rosner will be aiming to repeat the quality of squash he produced in overcoming Egypt’s Tarek Momen in the second round.

It promises to be a mouthwatering contest, with Rosner’s power play in contrast to Willstrop’s accurate containment strategy and soft attacking volleys and drops.

Former world champion Matthew provides a formidable obstacle to Barker’s ambition.

The two are good friends, England team-mates and athletes who never deliver less than 100 per cent commitment.

Barker wants to improve his rare win ratio against Matthew and fight of the challenge from a group of talented players grouping behind him in the rankings.

But the Yorkshireman is equally determined to continue playing successfully at the highest level at the age of 33.

With the World Championships on the horizon, this is a fascinating phase at the top end of the men’s game.

It’s such a shame that Ramy Ashour is not in Philadelphia to join the fray.

Perhaps wisely, he is nursing his body and keeping his powder dry for Manchester.

Check out the second round highlights here:


Quarter-final line-up (top half Tuesday; bottom half Wednesday):
[1] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v Mathieu Castagnet (FRA)
Head To Head: Gaultier 1-0.

[4] Karim Darwish (EGY) v [5] Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY)
Head To Head: Darwish 8-2.

[3] Nick Matthew (ENG) v [6] Peter Barker (ENG)
Head To Head: Matthew 20-2

[2] James Willstrop (ENG) v Simon Rosner (GER)
Head To Head: Willstrop 4-0


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