Mohamed Elshorbagy achieved his career-long dream of a win over illustrious fellow Egyptian Amr Shabana to reach the final of the Motor City Open in Detroit - but it was only when the tired defending champion was forced to concede the match after three games in the PSA World Tour International 70 event at Birmingham Athletic Club in Bloomfield Hills.
At the conclusion of the third game, with Elshorbagy leading 2/1, Shabana embraced his 22-year-old opponent and explained that he couldn’t go any further because he felt light-headed. Shabana, the 34-year-old four-time World Champion who stunned the squash world last week by winning the PSA World Series Tournament of Champions title in New York, was clearly feeling the effects of his eighth match in 10 days.
“It’s of course a sad end for the crowd because the match was very high quality,” said Elshorbagy (pictured above with Shabana), whose 11-6, 12-14, 11-3 (ret.) win takes him through to his second Detroit final in four years. “I want to congratulate Shabana for an amazing two weeks. He played unbelievable squash the past two weeks and the Tour is always happier when he plays better.
“The first two games were so tough,” continued top seed Elshorbagy, who went into the match 9-0 down to Shabana in their Tour head-to-head tally. “He went for it at the end of the second game and I could see how tired he was. After that I didn’t worry much because I knew I still had the edge.
“Because the court is very bouncy, my tactic from the beginning of the match was, if I could play a rally that lasts 30 minutes, I will do it. I wanted to get him tired because he just came from the Tournament of Champions in New York and didn’t have any rest days. I knew that he would feel it during the match.
“But after the second game, I could feel there was something wrong in the third. Even when I was winning, I asked him during the game ‘Is there something wrong?’ I wouldn’t want to continue if I felt there was something wrong with him.”
Elshorbagy, now in the 16th Tour final of his career, will face England’s Peter Barker. The No.3 seed from London, side-lined for two months with a calf injury, looked in top form as he despatched Australian Cameron Pilley 11-7, 11-6, 11-5.
Eighth seed Pilley, from New South Wales, had reached the semi-finals after a shock defeat of second-seeded Egyptian Karim Darwish.
“If someone said to me two weeks ago, you’d be in the quarterfinals of a major (tournament) and the final in another, I would’ve bitten a hand off,” said Barker, the World No.8 who reached the Tournament of Champions’ last eight. “I’m really chuffed.
“When you have an injury, it puts it into perspective because you lose that perspective when you’re so focused on winning. When you have a couple months off and aren’t able to do the thing that you really enjoy, it just makes you relax and enjoy it.
“I’m determined to enjoy squash now because I’m 30. I’m not going to be playing forever, so what’s the point of stressing? When I relax and enjoy it, that’s when I play my best squash.”
Barker is celebrating his 24th Tour final appearance.
Official event website: http://themotorcityopen.com