Thursday, June 13, 2024

Mostafa Asal timeline: The squash career of Egypt star

Egypt’s Mostafa Asal had a junior career suggesting there would be a fine senior career ahead. Few could have believed the events which have unfolded on and off court over the next few years as he took to the PSA World Tour.

2019
Mostafa Asal, nicknamed the Raging Bull, plays his first British Open, taking a game off Ali Farag before losing in the second round. Wins final world junior title in August, doubling up his British junior crown at the start of the year.

2020
Starts the year by reaching a first major quarter-final at the Tournament of Champions in January 2020. Ends it by ripping off his shirt and yelling in delight after beating Paul Coll at the CIB Black Ball Open.

June 2021
World champion Tarek Momen threatens to quit in astonishing attack on Mostafa Asal. He wrote: “The day I feel MY NAME IS PAIRED UP WITH ASAL in any context other than the draw, is the day I would retire immediately and ask to be stripped of any titles I’ve achieved.”

A new superstar is born in our sport! I hope people start appreciating the talent,” Mohamed ElShorbagy says after Asal beats him to the World Tour Finals title.

Mostafa Asal
Mostafa Asal in action against Mohamed ElShorbagy

July 2021
Asal, still the world junior champion after the pandemic, breaks into the top 10 of the PSA world rankings for the first time. He is also forced to withdraw from the senior World Championships due to visa issues. The PSA offers to delay his opening match, but Asal’s team opts not to travel after only receiving clearance with 24 hours to go.

October 2021
Asal captures the US Open, beating Tarek Momen in five to win his first major PSA title – and becomes the youngest ever men’s champion at the age of 20 in the process. His last three matches took 104 minutes, 96 minutes and a 91-minute final.

December 2021
Controversy flares up as now world No.6 Asal receives a penalty game punishment as he holds off fellow Egyptian Youssef Soliman in a dramatic, near 80-minute battle to reach the quarter finals of the Black Ball.

January 2022
Asal accepts a two-month suspension from the PSA following on-court disciplinary matters. “Mr Asal apologises for his conduct and will be working with the PSA moving forward to ensure that such issues do not reoccur,” a statement reads. “To be suspended from something you love is really tough, few players get suspended in squash and that was tough mentally,” Asal later tells SM.

July 2022
Asal becomes the youngest man since Ramy Ashour in April 2008 to feature inside the top three of the men’s ranking. Beats Paul Coll to land his second World Tour Finals title.

September 2022
To the CIB Egyptian Open and the tournament which becomes the centre of more Asal controversy the squash world will find out six months later. A complaint is made against Asal’s father, Mahmoud, regarding his behaviour after the semi-final between his son and Ali Farag.

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Asal’s charge relates to PSA Code of Conduct under Article 4.P relating to ‘Dangerous Play’. “These incidents occurred during his quarter-final and semi-final matches at the 2022 CIB Egyptian Open,” the PSA would say in a statement.

The PSA doesn’t specify the exact nature of Asal’s charge following his win over compatriot Mazan Hesham in the last eight and defeat to Ali in the last four. That latter match sees Asal penalised several times for conduct strokes in a highly contentious clash.

October 2022
Asal is disqualified from the US Open after bursting opponent Lucas Serme’s eardrum with a wayward shot. Asal turns on a wide crosscourt and hits a powerful forehand up the T, striking the Frenchman on the ear. He is taken to hospital.

November 2022
The Egyptian star reveals in a series of Squash Mad interviews that ‘squash should punish players with cards for simulation’, that he has sorted out his footwork issues and aims to be World No.1, while calling the US Open as his ‘darkest day’. To underline his rapid rise, Asal plays in the FISU World University Squash Championships and duly wins.

January 2023
Asal’s father, Mahmoud, is suspended from attending any PSA tournaments until November. Asal snr was involved in a courtside confrontation – believed to be with Hussein Abaza, CEO of CIB Bank and major squash benefactor – at the Egyptian Open. The incident is captured on camera and posted on social media.

January 2023
Asal courts controversy in the Houston Open when his acrimonious semi-final with Marwan ElShorbagy sees the latter carried off following an apparently accidental clash, leaving the world no.6 writhing on the floor. Asal now has the required points to become World No.1 after being awarded that match on an injury default. 

“No words! If this is the future of our sport then good luck,” ElShorbagy says after the match.

Other players weigh in. Tarek Momen writes: “I’m reconsidering my insurance package, needs some serious upgrading,” while Victor Crouin adds: “His antics will also sadly make him one of our sport’s worst ambassadors. That’s on him to change it, and to the refs to act accordingly.” “Every single rule was broken,” ElShorbagy later tells SM in an interview.

January 2023
Following his Houston Open run, Asal becomes the youngest man since Jansher Khan in 1988 to reach World No.1. It comes less than five years after making his debut on the tour.

The Egyptian withdraws after the opening game of his third-round encounter against Victor Crouin at the ToC, citing breathing problems and then blaming “severe psychological and nervous pressure from those in charge of the game in Egypt”. Crouin tells SM that the debate ‘around Asal is completely polarising right now’.

Egypt’s youth and sports minister contacts Asal’s club in Egypt, Al-Ahly, asking it to provide any evidence relating to the matter. “The Ministry affirms our support to the player, especially in light of his financial sponsorship from Ezz Steel Company, which is not inconsistent with CIB Bank’s sponsorship of other Egyptian players,” it says in the statement.

February 2023
Issues a stinging rebuke to Victor Crouin labelling him as ‘jealous’. Brands Marwan ElShorbagy’s conduct in their bad-blood battle of Houston ‘embarrassing.’ In an interview with Squash Mad, the Egyptian also wants to help squash break out from the “silence” which is holding back the sport.

March 2023
Fares Dessouky sends the World No.1 crashing out in round two at the Black Ball. “He’s the World No.1, he’s so talented, but the last couple of times we played each other he was very dodgy in terms of his movements,” Dessouky says. “He deserves everyone to respect him on court because he’s the World No.1, but it’s unacceptable that every time he talks about players in a bad way.”

Fares Dessouky

Asal faces a disciplinary hearing on the day of his semi-final defeat at the Canary Wharf Classic, Squash Mad reveals. The Egyptian meets with PSA officials before he falls to defeat against Wales’ Joel Makin at East Wintergarden. Following his defeat, Asal cryptically tweets: “Those who wronged will know which way to turn.”

March 2023
A few days after the hearing, the PSA announces a six-week ban and £2,000 fine for Asal with immediate effect over incidents of dangerous play. “Good luck with your sport,” Asal quips on social media. The timing of the ban means that he misses the Optasia and British Open events. 

April 2023
Asal, who has dropped to World No.3, arrives in Chicago for the World Championships ahead of his court return and writes on social media that “the king [crown emoji] is back”. His ban is due to end a day later on May 1.

May 2023
Clips posted on social media of the Egyptian grabbing an opponent’s hand mid-rally and a “chop on the forehead” to another player during his run to the World Squash Championship semi-finals.

August 2023
Asal handed his third tour ban – this time the biggest one yet at 12 weeks. It centres on two matches at the World Championships where Asal is cited for dangerous play, abuse of racket, unsportsmanlike conduct and physical abuse. 

October 2023
Asal returns to tour for his first match of the season at the Grasshopper Classic but exits after winning his opener. It followed a spell in the UK working with James Willstrop at Pontefract on his movement.

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