Fares Dessouki comes within a point of blowing away the Windy City Open top seed
By NATHAN CLARKE in Chicago
Egyptian World No.1 Mohamed Elshorbagy came within a whisker of suffering a shock first round exit during the opening day of action at the 2015 Windy City Open presented by Guggenheim Partners and EquiTrust Life Insurance Company in Chicago earlier today.
Elshorbagy, 24, has been in phenomenal form since August 2014, winning three World Series events and reaching the World Championship final. But his 20-year-old compatriot Fares Dessouki, the World No.23, tore up the form book in a compelling battle of attrition as he took the tournament-favourite to the brink – coming within one point of what would have been a famous victory.
But after failing to capitalise on a match-point opportunity, Dessouki allowed 24-time-finalist Elshorbagy back in and he made no mistakes, eventually sealing an 11-9, 3-11, 10-12, 11-7, 13-11 victory after 101 punishing minutes.
“Being World No.1 one is about being able to win when you are not at your best and that’s what I was able to do today,” said Elshorbagy.
“It was a tough match today but I’m just really happy to be coming back for another day.”
The duo both started the match strongly with Dessouki in particular racing out of the blocks and looking composed as he opened up a 7-4 lead. Elshorbagy showed why he is atop the world rankings however as he responded to take the opening game 11-9 and set the scene for what promised to be an enthralling battle.
The younger man from Alexandria upped his level in the second and brought the scores even and he continued to attack during the third, holding his nerve during some tense exchanges, mixing up his approach with great effect to take the lead for the first time.
But it was short-lived as Elshorbagy restored parity after just edging the fourth.
High drama accompanied almost every shot in the deciding game, with both players fighting tooth and nail for the upper hand and when he survived match ball to gain one of his own, Dessouki looked on the brink of glory. But a simple error into the tin allowed Elshorbagy back in to seal the match.
“I’ve known Fares for a long time, since we came through the same club, and he’s already competing with the top players and he’s only 20,” added Elshorbagy.
“It was experience that made the difference at the end but it’s only a matter of time until he’s competing in the finals of major events.” Elshorbagy revealed later that he had been feling unwell and running a temperature in the run-up to the tournamen in the freezing Americancity, and told his online followers:
“You will always get days when you have all the excuses to stop and not to go on court…but being world number 1 is never about winning matches when you are feeling great…it’s about finding a way to win when you aren’t feeling so great and can’t play your best…been in bed the past three days with bad temperature and had to make a decision whether to play the tournament or not and when I decided to play I was either going to take everything out of him If he beats me or win!! Yesterday was one of those moments when I was proud of how I kept fighting despite everything and still won!! Have a rest day today and hopefully by tomorrow all the medicines and Antibiotic effect will be out of my system!! I live in this tournament to fight another day!”
Earlier in the day four-time World Champion Amr Shabana, the 35-year-old Egyptian who paved the way for the current plethora of top-class Egyptian stars, moved into the second round with an assured victory over Chris Simpson.
Shabana (right) never looked troubled as he saw off the Englishman 3-0 to set up a second round match-up with World No.14 Marwan Elshorbagy, the younger brother of World No.1 Mohamed.
There was further joy for Egyptian squash with victories for World No.7 Tarek Momen and World No.20 Karim Abdel Gawad while Indian Saurav Ghosal, Swiss star Nicolas Mueller and Colombian live-wire Miguel Angel Rodriguez rounded out the top half of action with victories.
Ghosal had to battle for 76 minutes before squeezing past Hong Kong No.1 Max Lee in a dramatic finale, winning 13-11 in the fifth game of a brutal encounter.
Results: 2015 Guggenheim Windy City Open
Round One, Top Half:
 Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) bt Fares Dessouki (EGY) 3-2: 11-9, 3-11, 10-12, 11-7, 13-11 (101m)
Saurav Ghosal (IND) bt Max Lee (HKG) 3-2: 11-5, 4-11, 11-8, 11-13, 13-11 (76m)
Nicolas Mueller (SUI) bt [Q] Omar Abdel Meguid (EGY) 3-1: 9-11, 11-3, 11-5, 11-9 (37m)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) bt [Q] Alan Clyne (SCO) 3-1: 11-5, 11-6, 7-11, 11-9 (51m)
 Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) bt [Q] Zahed Mohamed (EGY) 3-1: 11-7, 11-8, 9-11, 11-4 (61m)
Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt [Q] Gregoire Marche (FRA) 3-1: 11-5, 11-1, 8-11, 11-5 (46m)
Marwan Elshorbagy (EGY) bt Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) 3-1: 6-11, 12-10, 11-7, 11-5 (54m)
 Amr Shabana (EGY) bt Chris Simpson (ENG) 3-0: 11-6, 11-6, 11-8 (42m)
Draw: Round One, Bottom Half:
 Nick Matthew (ENG) v Borja Golan (ESP)
Daryl Selby (ENG) v [WC] Chris Hanson (USA)
James Willstrop (ENG) v [Q] Cesar Salazar (MEX)
Stephen Coppinger (RSA) v  Peter Barker (ENG)
 Omar Mosaad (EGY) v Simon Rösner (GER)
Alister Walker (BOT) v [Q] Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY)
Cameron Pilley (AUS) v [Q] Greg Lobban (SCO)
[Q] Henrik Mustonen (FIN) v  Gregory Gaultier (FRA)
Picture courtesy of PSA