Saturday, June 15, 2024

Wild card Andrew Schnell goes down to speedy top seed Gawad in Bluenose

Big diagonal coming up for Andrew Schnell as Karim Abdel Gawad volleys
Big diagonal coming up for Andrew Schnell as Karim Abdel Gawad volleys

Ryan Cuskelly advances as Marwan Elshorbagy succumbs to illness
By JASON NEWPORT and FARLEY MacLEOD – Squash Mad Correspondents in Halifax


Top seed Karim Abdel Gawad ought to be called “top speed” after an impressive performance of skill and athleticism to overcome Canada’s wild card Andrew Schnell in the semi-finals of the Welaptega Bluenose Classic.

After a string of upsets, Schnell went down to Egyptian Gawad, who showed as deft a touch as we have seen in the tournament so far, seemingly finding the nick at will in the third game today.

In response to MC Neil Harvey’s question “what sort of things are you doing to get that quick?” Gawad replied, “I think that is a little bit of a gift”, noting that he spends more time training his “basic game” rather than his speed. Harvey went on to tease, “do you actually have a different muscle than everyone else?” to laughter from the crowd.

Ryan Cuskelly of Australia will be Gawad’s opponent in the finals, after a convincing victory over Egyptian Marwan Elshorbagy. Cuskelly demonstrated patience and consistency, though the match and Elshorbagy wasn’t able to keep up with the pace today.

Each match was just over a half hour today, and as a result, the players are expected to be relatively fresh and energized heading into their final contest of the tourney.

[1] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt [WC] Andrew Schnell (CAN) 11-8, 11-7, 11-4 (32 minutes)

The Bluenose Classic was down to its last four players, but only two would survive the semi-final action. The first featured the giant killer Schnell, who took out the 8th seed in the first round, and the 3rd seed in the quarters. Today, he faced the number one seed, and world number 12 – Karim Abdel Gawad. It was Schnell’s terrific court coverage and patience that allowed him to progress this far, while the Egyptian used attack after attack to make it to the semi without dropping a game.

The first game started with Gawad looking to take the ball short. He ended the first four rallies, two with winners, and two into the tin. Meanwhile the Canadian was playing patient rallies, hoping for more tins than winners from his opponent. The game progressed to 6-6, with the knowledgeable Halifax crowd appreciating the wonderful attacks from Gawad, yet clearly rooting for their compatriot, Schnell. The game was close all the way to the end, but Gawad edged it out 11-8.

The second game started with devastating counter attack from Schnell that got the crowd into the game straight away. However, it would be the Egyptian dictating the game. He went up 8-2 from a flurry of attacks, seemingly finding the nick at will. Schnell would not give up, though, and won five points in a row, to make it within one of Gawad. But the attacking Egyptian was just too much, and closed out the game 11-7.

The crowd cheered for Schnell as he walked on to the court for the third game, willing him to press on. Unfortunately, Gawad again went on the attack. He used his explosive speed to get to and attack the ball before Schnell had a chance to recover. Tournament organizer Neil Harvey said after the game, “Some of the time they (the crowd) don’t clap because they’re just mesmerized by how good the ball was. They’re like, wow, did he really do that?” Schnell put in a great effort, but Gawad took the game 11-4 to close out the match.

In a post match interview, Schnell said, “This was my third time getting the wildcard, and you guys have continued to have faith in me, and I really appreciate it. I’m glad I actually had a performance that was worthy of the audience that you guys are.”

Gawad jovially said of the atmosphere at the tournament, “I want to thank everyone who came and supported the game and the match. I know everyone was supporting Andrew today, but I’m still enjoying the crowd and the full house… Maybe tomorrow I can have more support.”

By Jason Newport

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[4] Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) bt [2] Marwan Elshorbagy (EGY) 11-8, 11-6, 11-4 (37mins)

It was no secret that Elshorbagy has been battling illness all week, so it wasn’t a surprise when his start to the match was lacklustre. He didn’t seem ready to put full effort into retrieving, and he hit a couple of shots into the tin to go down 6-1. Elshorbagy was able to hit his targets more so in the second half of the game, but one could not say he looked energetic. Cuskelly was steadfast in his performance, and marched to an 11-8 victory in the first game.

The Egyptian took a different approach to start the second game, increasing his aggressiveness, or perhaps it was simply that he didn’t hit the tin in the first half of the game. Nonetheless, he achieved a 5-2 lead. A few long rallies ensued, and coincidence or not, Cuskelly was able to knot the score at 5-5, and continue on to a 7-5 lead. Elshorbagy was only able to achieve one more point, and at game ball, basically conceded the game to Cuskelly with little effort to get to the drop shot.

Elshorbagy began the third utilizing many angles at the front, perhaps trying to achieve some points with minimal effort. He was successful in getting to three, but again, Cuskelly fought back to tie. Elshorbagy seemed flat footed at times, and his aggressive shot making more often hit the tin. He certainly had many more unforced errors than his opponent. Cuskelly continued to show the good form and consistent play that has got him to this place in the tournament.

In the post match interview, Cuskelly acknowledged that he has been focusing his efforts on playing medium-sized tournaments such as this. He feels this has helped his game, stating “now that I have had a few wins in these tournaments, I feel I can beat the guys in the bigger tournaments, so that has got the confidence up, so that is good”.

In discussing his finals opponent tomorrow he stated Gawad is a “pretty skilful player….but hopefully I’m coming out on top tomorrow”.

By Farley MacLeod

2015 Welaptega Bluenose Squash Classic, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

[1] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt [WC] Andrew Schnell (CAN) 11-8, 11-7, 11-4 (32 mins)

[4] Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) bt [2] Marwan Elshorbagy (EGY) 11-8, 11-6, 11-4 (37mins)

Pictures by Jon Boody 


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