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Exclusive – Inside the mind of Mostafa Asal: ‘I have sorted out my footwork issues and my target is to be world number one’

RJ Mitchell
RJ Mitchellhttp://www.spitfiremediascotland.co.uk
RJ MITCHELL has been writing about squash for 24 years and has played the sport all his adult life. Former captain of the West of Scotland county team, he became a professional journalist and has written for the Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser, the Glasgow Evening Times, The Herald and The Scotsman. Mitchell has also become a regular contributor for the PSA World Tour website. He is also the author of the DS Thoroughgood crime fiction series based on his career as a Glasgow cop between 1989 and 2001.

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‘If the US Open was my darkest day then winning the Grasshopper was my brightest moment’

In part two of his exclusive interview with Squash Mad Mostafa Asal has reaffirmed his determination to become World No.1 by the end of the season.

Asal, the biggest draw in world squash, firmly put behind him the heartbreak of his controversial disqualification from the US Open to bounce back with a victory at the Grasshopper Cup that left the young Egyptian “over the moon”.

The 21-year-old has also been devoting major court time to work on solving the “movement issues” that caused him to call for the introduction of a new rule dealing with simulation on the squash court similar to that in play in football.

Asal has revealed that he is also competing in the GIZA 2022 FISU WUC Squash 2022, or in plain English, World University Squash Championships this week in his homeland.

But first after a start to the new campaign that was, to say the least decidedly sticky, Asal says that his recent victory in Zurich has helped him refocus on his long-term goal to become squash’s next global ruler.

He said: “I am focussing on world No.1 but I don’t want to let it get into my mind like I did at Qatar, as that was not good.

“I am still young at 21 years old and I am still learning and getting experience. I know how to beat the other guys and fight every match and I play it like a man inside the court.

“So I will give it 150% and I hope at the end of the season it will be a gift for me to be No.1, but that is what I am fighting for.

Mostafa Asal winds up for a backhand against Marwan ElShorbagy in the final of the Grasshopper Cup

“But again in that process I must again mention Jonah Barrington’s article. It has revealed everything that is happening on the court and I just want to thank him again for it, as it has helped make my focus and resolve even stronger to achieve my goal.”

When it comes to his return to the winners’ paddock, which came courtesy of his 3-0 defeat of Marwan El Shorbagy, Asal believes that this proved once and for all that he has the mental fortitude and strength of character to complete the journey from challenger to undisputed champion.

He said: “So to bounce back at the Grasshopper, well, I am over the moon. If the US Open was my darkest day then winning the Grasshopper was my brightest moment.

“My first match was with Gregoire Marche and I have to admit I was very emotional on court with lots of thoughts and feelings stirring up after Philadelphia.

“But to come through and it against a player like Marwan in the final, it felt like I was back. I tried so hard just to focus on my squash, not speak to the referees, and even to move outside the players reach so they could not make claims.

Mostafa Asal on the attack in Zurich

“So now I am trying to make sure that I get so far out of the way if something does happen then it must be so and not something created.

“At the Grasshopper Cup hopefully I showed I was mentally strong and I owe many thanks to the Egyptian embassy team who sorted out my visa, as it was a bit last minute and really tight!

“Then after Grasshopper I just wanted to enjoy it. After the World Tour Finals and after El Gouna and the other titles I have won I finish and two days later I am back in training and forget about it.

“This time I took five days watching my matches again, taking my time and savouring it – as I needed this win emotionally, mentally, and maybe even physically.

“I also went to Sweden for an exhibition and they made me feel so much better, they were just 100 people there but I was very emotional as it was my first game back on court after the incident with Lucas (Serme) and the way they treated me in Sweden meant the world.”

When it comes to the traffic incidents on court that Mostafa discussed in depth in part one of this Squash Mad exclusive the world No.3 was keen to shed some light on his work in that respect: “I feel like I have solved my movement issues.

“It is tough when you come from the juniors to the PSA World Tour but I have worked hard with my coaching team of Mohamed Abbas and Mohamed Kadir.

Lean machine: Asal uses the wall to help his balance

“I do lots of footwork and movement work and when the ref is giving conduct strokes it makes a player … well, it is not about squash, it becomes a different game.

“When a player sits on the floor and says: ‘He blocked me, he interfered with my swing, he tripped me, well it is not good and I am so glad Jonah highlighted all of this and that he sees it.

“But now I have done the work to make sure this will not be an issue and you saw some of that at the Grasshopper.”

But this week it is all about the FISU World University Squash Championships which are played over seven days with competitors representing the nation of their citizenship rather than their individual university.

Asal undoubtedly heads the draw at Giza. However, he will face competition from his compatriot 21-year-old Moustafa El Sirty (world No.24), Switzerland’s Yannick Wilhelmi, and the talented 22-year-old Edwin Clain of France worth a watch.

Asal added: “The event started yesterday and is just five minutes from my home, and then it will be onto Singapore and then Hong Kong with my next tournament on the PSA World Tour the Singapore Open next week.

“But the World Universities is a championship I would love to win and with Sirty also in the draw that will be tough.”

Pictures from the Grasshopper cup courtesy of Nathalie Goossens (@LadiesSquash on Twitter)


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