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World Champs: Day 2 - As It Happens

After a gargantuan day of first round action – which saw a staggering 32 matches completed – we’re into the second round of the 2016 PSA Men’s World Championship.

With the biggest title in the sport at stake the competition is set to intensify even further.

Here’s a look at what’s coming up on Day 2:

12:00 Omar Abdel Meguid (EGY) v Karim Ali Fathi (EGY)
13:00 [10] Ali Farag (EGY) v James Willstrop (ENG)
14:00 Chris Simpson (ENG) v [16] Max Lee (HKG)
15:00 [12] Simon Rösner (GER) v Cesar Salazar (MEX)

18:00 [6] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY)
19:00 Leo Au (HKG) v [4] Nick Matthew (ENG)
20:00 [1] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v Olli Tuominen (FIN)
21:00 Mohamed Reda (EGY) v [8] Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL)

Fathi Fights Back To Down Meguid In 5

Karim Ali Fathi followed up his first round heroics at the 2016 World Championships – which saw him take out Australian Cameron Pilley in one of the biggest upsets of the tournament so far – to record an impressive come-from-behind victory and deny powerful Omar Abdel Meguid a place in the third round of the tournament.

Just 24 hours after downing Pilley the 23-year-old looked like he was facing a second round exit as Meguid took the opening two games of what eventually turned into a scrappy encounter – with the big Egyptian's movement frustrating Fathi as the referee was forced into action later on.

Meguid began in form, keeping Fathi on the defensive and recovering from 8-10 down in the second game to take it 12-10 and assert himself on proceedings. But a slip in the third, that saw the big man hit the ground hard, changed it all and Fathi used the change in momentum to his advantage.

But World No.40 came out looking like a different player when he match resumed, playing with improved length and variation to take advantage of Meguid's larger frame and return to the type of squash that had paid so much dividends against Pilley, and it was a tactic that worked as he took three games in succession to ensure himself a berth in the third round and a place on the glass court – where World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy is likely to await – as Meguid’s frustration with the referees saw him consigned to defeat in the latter stages.

“After the second game my mum came down and just told me to enjoy it,” said Fathi.

“I started to ask myself what the fuss was about. Yes it's the Worlds but if you don't relax then you won't perform.

“I was nervous with my movement in the first two games – he's a big guy. It's tough when you play big guys on court – yesterday was hard with Cameron but he is such a nice guy and he gives you a line to the ball. The way Meguid plays, you have to go around him and it's very tough mentally – even a straight drive can be hard to play.

“But he's a very good player too. I worked on getting the ball to the back and attacking more in the third onwards and it paid off in the end. I changed the angles and I changed the game.

“And I'm happy to pull through. I got to the third round last year at the World Championships as well but this year, in Cairo it feels so much better.

“I'm playing the winner of ElShorbagy and Ollie so I'll see how it goes. At Al Ahram I got to the first round and was lucky enough to play on the glass court – and there's no better venue in the world but here, in the World Championships at home in Egypt, it's almost as good.”

Karim Ali Fathi (EGY) bt Omar Abdel Meguid (EGY) 3-2: 7-11, 10-12, 11-7, 11-8, 11-4 (81m)

Farag Halts Willstrop In Cairo Classic

Rising Egyptian star Ali Farag, the 24-year-old who is already an established presence in the world's top ten, came through a thrilling 66-minute, five-game battle with the recently resurgent James Willstrop to delight the home crowd at the Wadi Degla Club and book his place in the third round of the prestigious World Championsip.

In a compelling battle that will take some beating as contender for match of the tournament, the duo, both of whom have been in some of their finest ever form in recent months, went head-to-head for the first time on the PSA World Tour and it was a spectacle that lived up to the billing as the fans inside the Wadi Degla Club to an exhibition of squash at its finest.

It was Willstrop, who had to dig deep into his locker to avoid a surprise first round defeat against compatriot Jaymie Haycocks in five games, that began the brighter of the two, as he used his tactical prowess and trademark accuracy to his advantage to profit from any wayward shots from Farag to take the first game 11-5.

But the 33-year-old almost instantly found himself 0-10 down in the second as Farag hit winner-after-winner before sparing Willstrop any blushes with a tinned backhand to grant the Englishman a solitary point before the scoreboard was reset.

The match regained some semblance of normality in the third as they engaged in quality rally after quality rally, with all four corners being used and every shot in the manual coming out, but a few costly decision from Willstrop with the court at his mercy allowed Farag to pounce and when the Egyptian came from 4-8 down in the fourth to mount an onslaught, winning 5 consecutive points including a mammoth exchange at 8-8, it looked like the writing was on the wall for Willstrop's tournament aspirations.

But the wily old head pulled out two sumptuous winners to stop the rot and take it to a fifth, which continued to be played at a standard above anything else seen so far in the event despite an hour of play passing. But the exertions of yesterday's encounter combined with the exploits of the first four games began to tell as Willstrop fell off the pace and Farag stormed home to complete the win.

“I'm feeling so good about the win but not just that,” said Farag. “I struggled to find the fire within me since Al Ahram – something was wrong.

“I lost a bit of confidence in myself and I was struggling get out of that dilemma. But that's the beauty of playing in Egypt – I had so many people yesterday talking to me. My parents, Nour, my brother, Shabana, Hassan from Heliopols club and they talked me out of that situation and I felt better going to bed last night.

“I knew that today would be different and that I'd give it 100 per cent. And if you want to stand a chance against James you have to be at your best, so I'm very happy to get through in the end.

“It's very tough to play against him – he's so accurate and the best ball controller on Tour. He did that well in etc first but Shabana told me to be more patient in the second, to not go short so early, and it paid off as I got a strong start that took me through.

“But he's so smart, he keeps changing the game plan to confuse you. My team could see that from the outside, but I couldn't from inside.

“Then, especially after 8-8 in the fourth and that huge rally I won, I though the end was in sight – I knew that if I took that one then I'd be there, but boy was I wrong! Abouelghar told me, as he played him at the US Open, that the more tired he is the more accurate he gets, and he proved that was the case at 9-8, he played immaculate – I did nothing wrong, he was just perfect.

“But in the fifth Shabana said play it as if it's 0-0 for every point and it paid off. I'm excited now to get on the glass – today would have been even tougher against James on the glass. But I'm excited for what its to come – I hope the tournament is far from over for me and I'll give it my best to hopefully go even further.”

[10] Ali Farag (EGY) bt James Willstrop (ENG) 3-2: 5-11, 11-1, 11-8, 9-11, 11-5 (66m)

Rösner And Lee Secure Third Round Spots

Max Lee and Simon Rösner came through their second round encounters against Chris Simpson and Cesar Salazar, respesctively, to ensure that there will be representation for both Hong Kong and Germany in the third round of the 2016 World Championships.

Lee managed to do just enough to stop the run of England’s Chris Simpson 3-0 while Rösner held off a spirited challenge from Mexican Salazar to edge a closely fought three game battle – with the German saving game ball in the third to avoid what could have been an even trickier encounter.

“I’m very happy to make the third round because last year I lost in the second round to Ali Farag,” said Lee – the Hong Kong number one.

“I wanted to do better here this year so I’m just happy to get past Chris – he’s very steady and strong. He was in front of me throughout the first game but he made a few errors that helped me. I managed to stay mentally strong and take that first game which I think was crucial.”

Lee will now take on either Karim Abdel Gawad, the World No.4, or Mohamed Abouelghar for a place in the quarters while Rösner will likely face England’s three-time champion Nick Matthew.

“I’ve played Cesar a few times recently and he’s a very tough boy – he’s skilful and fast so it’s not easy to play against him,” said Rösner.

“I think I did very well to get a lead in each game because he was getting better as the games, and the match, progressed so I’m happy with how I managed to do that.

“Getting it done in three was huge. He gets more confidence with each game and even when he gets a few points in a row he gets more and more aggressive and works even harder, so I have to be happy to finish it in three.

“I have a day off now but for me it’s not great – I’m the kind of player who likes to keep going. I’d rather play tomorrow and it would be a great scenario because I’ve won 3-0 in both matches and not been on court too long.

“But I’ll try and have a proper hit tomorrow and try and keep the rhythm up so I can settle into it straight away in the next round and just give it my best shot.”

[16] Max Lee (HKG) bt Chris Simpson (ENG) 3-0: 11-9, 11-6, 11-7 (48m)
[12] Simon Rösner (GER) bt Cesar Salazar (MEX) 3-0: 11-8, 11-7, 12-10 (42m)

Gawad Dispatches Compatriot Abouelghar in Straight Games

In-form Egyptian Karim Abdel Gawad came through a second brutal five-game battle in as many days after he was pushed to the limit against compatriot Mohamed Abouelghar to move into the third round stage for the second time in his career.

Coming just a day after he battled back from two games down to defeat England’s Nathan Lake, Gawad appeared to have kept the fatigue at bay as he played with poise and accuracy to go two games to the good against Abouelghar.

A dip in form from the 25-year-old let Abouelghar back into the match to level, but Gawad dug his heels in the fifth and final game to advance, completing a sixth successive win over his fellow Egyptian.

“In the second and third games I went on court and I just tried to win quickly and without too much effort, but this is the biggest mistake you can ever do with Abouelghar or any talented player.

“He can steal the game very quickly and he can win the match very easily. It’s my first time to do this with him and I don’t think that I will ever do it again.

“When I play with Abouelghar, whoever controls the middle wins the match, and in the first two games I controlled things really well. I wasn’t in a rush to play drop shots or any shots in the middle.

“But in the third and fourth I was in a hurry to put in winners and to win points, and Abouelghar is very talented, very strong physically. It’s my first time in my career that I’m playing finals and semi-finals at four tournaments in a row, so it’s a little bit painful on my body.

“I just have to forget about this, focus and be strong mentally.”

Gawad, whose last appearance in Cairo saw him win the Al Ahram Open in front of the stunning Great Pyramid of Giza, was pushed hard by Abouelghar in an even start to the encounter, but went 1-0 ahead after taking command towards the end of game one.

His impeccable shot-making abilities saw him rise above his opponent in the second to double his lead, but Abouelghar respond brilliantly and he rattled off a succession of winners at the front of the court to halve the deficit, before maintaining his revival into the fourth to send the match into a nail-biting decider.

A slip from Abouelghar while chasing a drop shot resulted in a short injury break, after which a scrappy ending to the game saw both players trade points. After going 9-8 up, Abouelghar looked to be on the verge of a sensational comeback, but it was then Gawad’s turn to come back from the bring as he took the next three points to set up a meeting with Hong Kong’s Max Lee in the next round.

[6] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) 3-2: 11-7, 11-9, 5-11, 7-11, 11-9 (95m)

Matthew Through in Straight Games After Downing Au

Three-time World Champion Nick Matthew put in a clinical performance to ease through to round three, beating Hong Kong’s Leo Au in a comfortable 3-0 triumph.

Matthew, the 36-year-old from Sheffield, only just emerged unscathed from a punishing first round encounter with New Zealand’s Campbell Grayson, but he was in fine fettle to counter Au’s superb retrieval skills with some intelligent shots in all four corners of the court.

‘The Wolf’ controlled proceedings at the Wadi Degla Club to wrap up an 11-7, 11-7, 11-8 victory to seal his place in the third round of the sport’s biggest tournament for the 10th straight time.

“I was happy, especially after yesterday, to get 3-0 today,” said Matthew.

“I was telling myself to stay fresh but sometimes you can rush it, so that was the danger. Sometimes you have to put the hard yards in to win quicker. That was the biggest battle I found tonight, he’s such a laid back character but all of a sudden he sparks back into action.

“He was more accurate in the third game so I think I tried to force it in the first three points. I tried to force it because he wasn’t giving me any pace and I was playing the same shots from a different position.

“You don’t get any pace on the ball, you don’t get any emotion from him and there’s nothing to feed off. The crowd aren’t getting into it the game so much compared to when it’s the Egyptians playing, understandably, so I was trying to get the atmosphere going with my squash.”

Matthew will take on German No.1 Simon Rösner for a place in the quarter-final, with their last meeting taking place less than three weeks ago at the U.S. Open, and Matthew is hoping to draw on his previous winning experience against the tall World No.12.

“Last time [against Rösner] it was a big match for me at the U.S. Open, we played in the second round after I came off a defeat in San Francisco [at the NetSuite Open] in the first round there.

“I played the wildcard, Chris Gordon, in the first round of the U.S. Open, so I wasn’t really tested at that level and then I was 2-1 down to Simon. If I had lost that match it would have been a tough season for me, but I battled through that match and then I went from strength to strength last week, from which I took confidence.

“I have to remember what I did to come back from 2-1 down and how I fought through, but he’s going to be ready. I think he’s one of those players who is due that big win, he’s come so close in five setters against all the top players and I’m going to have to be ready for him, he’s going to think that it’s his time.”

[4] Nick Matthew (ENG) bt Leo Au (HKG) 3-0: 11-7, 11-7, 11-8 (45m)

ElShorbagy Axes Tuominen to Sweep Through

World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy continued his title charge at the Wadi Degla Club in Cairo as he overcame experienced Finnish campaigner Olli Tuominen in straight games to reach round three.

The opening game was the closest of the lot, with Tuominen’s proficiency at the front of the court enabling the 37-year-old to unsettle ElShorbagy and push the Egyptian powerhouse all the way in game one, before the top seed came through to win it 11-9.

It was one-way traffic in the second game though, with ElShorbagy capitalising on a fatigued Tuominen to double his lead for the loss of just two points, before the 25-year-old overturned the Fin’s 8-7 lead in the third to close out the victory in three.

“The thing with a glass court is that every day is different, you have to deal with a different atmosphere,” said ElShorbagy.

“People speak a lot about how squash should be indoors, but I think playing outdoors is very interesting. I love to see how everyone is going to deal with the different weather, it makes everyone think more. Whoever deals with it the best is going to win. 

“Today was different to yesterday [against Rex Hedrick in round one] and when I was 10-6 up I lost a little bit of concentration and I shouldn't have done that against someone with as much experience as Olli.

“I felt that he got tired after the first game, which helped me a little bit. In the third I was tired like him and I had to keep digging, especially when I was 8-7 down because I didn't want it to go to a fourth.

“Other than that, I'm so happy to get a rest day tomorrow and I'm looking forward to the next round.”

Next up for ElShorbagy is a fixture against fellow Egyptian Karim Ali Fathi as he looks to improve on his performance at last year’s World Championship, where he bowed out in the third round after a shock defeat to former World No.1 James Willstrop in Bellevue.

[1] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt Olli Tuominen (FIN) 3-0: 11-9, 11-2, 11-8 (34m)

Rodriguez Takes Out Reda to Set up Farag Clash

‘Colombian Cannonball’ Miguel Angel Rodriguez will take on Egyptian World No.6 Ali Farag in one of the standout third round fixtures after he defeated Mohamed Reda to secure back-to-back wins for the first time this season.

The explosive 29-year-old suffered a torrid start to the season after falling to four straight first round defeats but he rediscovered the kind of form that took him into the world’s top four last year, following up his first round win over India’s Mahesh Mangaonkar with a straight games triumph over Reda.

He snuck the opening two games by narrow 11-9 margins, but put in a display full of attacking intent in the third to storm to the win and move into round three for the fourth year in a row – and the World No.11 insists he is over his blip in form.

“All athletes at a high level go through these kind of moments,” said Rodriguez.

“But I’m really fresh, I haven’t had any tough matches and these kinds of events, especially the most important ones, gives you something special and motivates you to play better.

“I’m just trying to enjoy the game because you when you have a few losses you get so frustrated and it’s difficult to come back, really difficult.

“I’m being more positive mentally, I have the game, the strategy, the tactics but you have to apply them on court, you have to play patterns.

“You also have to fight with your mind, with your brain. With the first three or four tournaments that I played, I got negative thoughts and it’s not easy to put them in the back of my mind. These kinds of wins bring you back to earth again and I’m grateful to win again. Each day counts and I’m just enjoying the moment.”

[8] Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) bt Mohamed Reda (EGY) 3-0: 11-9, 11-9, 11-2 (43m)

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