‘I’m trying to figure out what’s going on as I aim for consistency’ admits Crouin
By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor
Victor Crouin added another major scalp to his collection when he beat the 2017 champion Karim Abdel Gawad to reach the quarter-finals of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in New York.
A 22-year-old student who is soon to finish his stay at Harvard University, Crouin overcame Gawad 11-4, 13-11, 7-11, 12-10 in 64 minutes of highly intelligent squash to reach his second PSA Gold level quarter-final.
Crouin had already beaten world No.1 Paul Coll in the GillenMarkets Canary Wharf Classic in March soon after winning his second College Squash individual title by beating Egypt’s Youssef Ibrahim.
Beneath the chandeliers of Grand Central Terminal, Crouin made a quick impact as he won the first game 11-4 against an opponent who is one of the most skilful players in the sport but is also a notoriously slow starter.
Crouin kept the ball straight and tight, giving the 2017 champion no angles to work his usual magic. The second game was much closer as Gawad began to create more attacking opportunities but Crouin survived a game ball to win a decisive exchange 13-11.
Gawad imposed his style of play more consistently to win the third game 11-7 but Crouin refused to let things slip away in the fourth.
Crouin maintained his consistency and his attacking squash played at a high pace produced several winners and forced the Egyptian into making a number of unforced errors.
After squandering a match ball at 10-9, Crouin regrouped to take the next two points and book his place in the last eight.
The Frenchman said: “I’ve watched Karim for many years and I remember watching him at the World Championships in Egypt, where he nearly lost in the first round and then basically chopped everybody else.
“I knew it would be tough. I’ve never played against him and usually, when I play someone for the first time, it takes me a few matches to get the right tactic and play my game.
“Usually, my strength is my consistency. I’ve beaten almost all the players ranked below me and not beaten many people ranked above me.
“I beat Paul Coll and Gawad today but I have lost to some up and coming players, but still ranked below me, so I’ve just been trying to figure out what’s going on. I need to keep winning those matches but also get my consistency back.
“It’s hard to know what to do when you’re two up against Karim. You feel like you’re playing well and you want to play even better. But after losing the third I tried to tell myself to not change anything – keep it on his backhand and play a three-quarter game and try to avoid that front left corner.
“But every time I hit off the back wall it went over there and I thought ‘Damn you’re going to be in trouble’ and usually I was, but I was just trying to win one point at a time.”
Crouin will face the new world No. 8 Mazen Hesham (No.4 seed this week) in the third round tomorrow (Thursday) after the Egyptian dispatched Team USA’s Shahjahan Khan in three games.
American hopes ended in the men’s draw as wild card Timmy Brownell lost to India’s Saurav Ghosal.
No.2 seed Diego Elias powered past Egypt’s Moustafa El Sirty in straight games in the bottom half of the draw which lost Mostafa Asal prior to the tournament following a positive Covid test.
In the women’s tournament, No.2 seed Amanda Sobhy gave the crowd plenty to cheer as she beat Egypt’s Farida Mohamed in straight games.
Mohamed was a semi-finalist in the recent Carol Weymuller Open across the river at Brooklyn’s Heights Casino, but found world No.4 Sobhy in fine form as she celebrated her 350th match on the PSA World Tour.
Mohamed, who broke into the top 20 for the first time this month, has established a reputation as a banana skin fixture for any of the top players, but the World No.19 had no answer to Sobhy today as the American completed an 11-8, 11-6, 11-8 victory in 32 minutes.
Sobhy was the more consistent of the two and hit her targets at both the front and back of the court, while Mohamed hit a number of errors early on as Sobhy built up an unassailable lead.
Mohamed’s best work came in the latter stages as she fought back from six match balls down to come back to within two points, but Sobhy kept her composure to close out the win.
Sobhy will end a six-year absence from the last eight of this prestigious tournament when she takes on another Egyptian in Nada Abbas next.
Sobhyy said: “It’s nice to be back, I’ve waited two and a half years for this.
“I wanted to show the ref that I was making an effort to play the ball. I didn’t want to get into a scrappy match with lots of lets. I wanted to show that I’m here to play squash, and if you’re going to get in my way, I’m going to push you out of my way, I’m going to go and get the ball.
“There was a minor panic at around 10-7 in the third but I kept my cool. I think a couple of decisions all of a sudden didn’t want to end the match, but that happens.
“She hit some good winners, she hit some lucky winners, and I just said to myself to stick at it, keep the game plan and one of them would go in my favour. Thankfully, it did.”
Sobhy’s sister Sabrina came desperately close to joining her in the next round but World No.8 Rowan Elaraby came back from two match balls down to avoid an upset.
Elaraby won 11-7, 3-11, 11-7, 8-11, 12-10 after a dramatic battle lasting 57 minutes.
After control switched repeatedly from one player to the other, Sobhy squandered a 10-8 lead in the fifth game. Elaraby held firm and scrapped hard to work her way back into the contest and a shot out of court from Sobhy sealed the American’s fate.
“That was brutal,” said Elaraby. “I’m really glad I’m through. ‘Beans’ (Sobhy’s nickname) is a very tough opponent, and playing her is always tough. We just played last month (at the Carol Weymuller Open, which Elaraby went on to win) in the early rounds as well. I knew from the very beginning that it was going to be a tough one.
“She’s a really good friend of mine. There will always be traffic on court, but we have to get through it.
“I was in trouble (at 10-8 down) but I was trying not to hear the score and trying to play point by point and give it my all. Even if I had lost it, I would have still been proud because I feel I gave it my all.”
2022 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, Vanderbilt Hall, Grand Central Station, New York, USA.
Men’s Second Round:
Victor Crouin (FRA) bt  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) 3-1: 11-4, 13-11, 7-11, 12-10 (64m)
 Mazen Hesham (EGY) bt Shahjahan Khan (USA) 3-0: 11-5, 11-5, 11-6 (32m)
 Diego Elias (PER) bt Moustafa El Sirty (EGY) 3-0: 11-6, 11-4, 11-5 (31m)
 Saurav Ghosal (IND) bt [WC] Timothy Brownell (USA) 3-0: 11-7, 11-8, 12-10 (47m)
Men’s Second Round (to continue on Wednesday, May 4):
 Ali Farag (EGY) v James Willstrop (ENG)
Auguste Dussourd (FRA) v  Miguel Rodriguez (COL)
Nicolas Mueller (SUI) v  Gregoire Marche (FRA)
Youssef Ibrahim (EGY) v [L] Dimitri Steinmann (SUI)
Women’s Second Round:
 Rowan Elaraby (EGY) bt Sabrina Sobhy (USA) 3-2: 11-7, 3-11, 11-7, 8-11, 12-10 (57m)
 Salma Hany (EGY) bt [WC] Chan Sin Yuk (HKG) 3-1: 12-10, 11-7, 9-11, 11-9 (43m)
Nada Abbas (EGY) bt  Nadine Shahin (EGY) 3-2: 13-11, 11-7, 7-11, 10-12, 12-10 (62m)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt Farida Mohamed (EGY) 3-0: 11-8, 11-6, 11-8 (32m)
Women’s Second Round (to continue on Wednesday, May 4):
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) v Danielle Letourneau (CAN)
Lucy Turmel (ENG) v  Hollie Naughton (CAN)
 Olivia Fiechter (USA) v Sivasangari Subramaniam (MAS)
Melissa Alves (FRA) v  Olivia Clyne (USA)
Pictures courtesy of PSA World Tour and US Squash