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Defending Champion Mohamed ElShorbagy begins his title defence today

Qatar Classic - Day One: As it Happens

Follow us here for reports and reaction as the 2016 Qatar Classic – the third stage on the 2016/17 Road to Dubai – begins in Doha.

World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy will look to get his tournament off to a winning start against Peruvian Diego Elias, while former World No.1 James Willstrop clashes with World No.20 Chris Simpson in an all-English affair.

2009 winner Nick Matthew is also in action and he will take on tournament wildcard and local hero Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi for a place in round two – and there will be a number of other superb fixtures in store throughout the day.

You can watch the action LIVE on SQUASHTV and Eurosport Player.

Not able to watch? Check out our live scoring page

Here's the Order of Play
(All times are local GMT+3)
12:00 James Willstrop (ENG) v Chris Simpson (ENG)
13:00 Gregoire Marche (FRA) v Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY)
14:00 Saurav Ghosal (IND) v [Q] Alan Clyne (SCO)
15:00 [6] Tarek Momen (EGY) v [Q] Paul Coll (NZL)
17:30 [WC] Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi (QAT) v [4] Nick Matthew (ENG)
18:30 [1] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v Diego Elias (PER)
19:30 Leo Au (HKG) v [Q] Campbell Grayson (NZL)
20:30 [Q] Declan James (ENG) v [7] Simon Rösner (GER)

Willstrop Battles Past Simpson to Reach Round Two

Picture by squashpics.com

Former World No.1 James Willstrop moved into the second round of the 2016 Qatar Classic after coming through a four-game battle with fellow Englishman Chris Simpson in the first match of the World Series tournament.

Both players struggled to get the ball to the back of the court in the early stages, and it was Simpson who adapted his game more in the opener, getting in front of Willstrop and lifting the ball to move the Englishman out of position, eventually taking it 11-7.

33-year-old Willstrop came into the fixture having never lost to Simpson in four attempts, and ‘The Marksman’ was soon level after stepping up the court to take the ball on the volley, building on a storming start to take the second for the loss of just two points, before rattling off winners in a dominant third game to take the lead for the first time.


The Willstrop masterclass continued into the fourth against an increasingly frustrated Simpson and he was in complete control to seal it in stunning fashion and bagel Simpson without dropping a single point – earning a 7-11, 11-2, 11-4, 11-0 win in 53 minutes to move through to round two.

“He was playing well, but I didn’t really panic because I felt that my quality was there,” said Willstrop.

“You’ve just got to ignore the scoreboard a bit really, otherwise you get carried away with being behind and that becomes a negative thing. I just kept telling myself that it didn’t really matter and what did matter was how well I was playing squash. I held it together and it worked for me a little bit later in the match.

“I know he’s playing well and he’s in good shape. There are all sorts of reasons why it sort of petered off, but I stayed on it all the time. The bagel thing, people love that stuff, but I can’t not concentrate and I can’t not give him respect on every single point.

“Because I did that and worked that way, that gave me that emphatic result. As you saw in the first game, the lines are pretty fine at these events between all the players from qualifiers to number one in the world.”

Result:
James Willstrop (ENG) bt Chris Simpson (ENG) 3-1: 7-11, 11-2, 11-4, 11-0 (53m)

Marche Axes Abouelghar in Five-Game Affair

Frenchman Gregoire Marche overcame Egypt’s Mohamed Abouelghar in a highly-competitive five-game encounter to reach the second round of this tournament for the second year in succession.

The duo traded blows in a series of short rallies punctuated by errors throughout the first four games until, with the scores poised at two games apiece, the quality of squash rose dramatically as a series of exciting rallies had both players scurrying around the court.


Abouelghar looked to have seized the initiative after going 8-4 up in the decider, but a resilient Marche battled back to take the next seven points in succession to wrap up an 9-11, 11-6, 11-9, 3-11, 11-8 triumph.

“It’s tough, even from the beginning against him you can’t let him in the front,” said Marche.

“He’s dangerous and he’s really, really talented. He’s maybe not consistent enough at the moment, but that’s good for us because he hits so many shots, and every time you open the court up he can be everywhere.

“The plan was to play as straight as possible and try to put him in the back and wait for some mistakes. I managed to hit some winners, which is good against these types of guys. I’m really happy to be through after being 8-4 down in the fifth.

“I was thinking about last year, when I was 7-3 up against [Karim Abdel] Gawad in the fifth. It didn’t go my way last year, so this year it’s a bit of revenge in my head maybe.”

World No.21 Abouelghar took the opener, despite a litany of errors from the Egyptian’s rackets, after displaying his considerable attacking talents, but a focused Marche came back to take the next two games without reply.

The fourth was one-way traffic as a clinical display from Abouelghar saw the 23-year-old drop just three points to level, but he was unable to capitalise on a rampant start to the fifth and final game as he relinquished his four point lead to Marche, who let out an almighty roar as he closed out a narrow victory.


Result:
Gregoire Marche (FRA) bt Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) 3-2: 9-11, 11-6, 11-9, 3-11, 11-8 (54m)

Superb Clyne Takes out Ghosal

Scottish World No.35 Alan Clyne put in an extremely high-quality display to dispatch Indian No.1 Saurav Ghosal and move into the second round of the Qatar Classic for the first time in his career.

Both Clyne – who battled through qualifying to reach the main draw – and Ghosal are two of the quickest players on the PSA World Tour, and their sublime court coverage and impressive retrieval abilities were evident as the duo played out a series of brutal rallies throughout the 47-minute encounter.

Ghosal looked to have edged the opening game after amassing two game balls, but a tenacious Clyne held on to take the next four points in a row to go a game to the good by a 12-10 margin.

A resurgent Ghosal went 5-0 up in the second, only to see Clyne’s prevalence on the back-hand side put the Scotsman right back into the encounter. From there it was neck and neck as Ghosal just managed to sneak it, but the reprieve was short-lived as an accurate Clyne restored his lead by taking the third.


Ghosal looked to have lost his usual zippiness in the fourth as a composed Clyne refused to let up and he closed it out for the loss of a solitary point to end a five-match losing streak to his opponent.

“I’ve been working on trying to play positively a lot more recently in training,” Clyne revealed.

“On this court especially and with that ball, it seemed a bit deader than it was yesterday, so you have to be positive.

“It was all going in, I felt that I couldn’t miss, which is definitely a good feeling to have because I’ve not had that for a while. I was looking to attack, looking to volley and was trying to put him under pressure with every shot and rather than just using my speed to retrieve, I was trying to use my speed to put him under pressure, so I’m very happy with that.

“I haven’t played him in a while, but I haven’t had a good record against him. He always seems to get me on a string, so this time I tried to be the one that was dictating rather than him. I felt like I did that and used his speed against him, so I think that’s what turned the tables a little bit.”

Result:
[Q] Alan Clyne (SCO) bt Saurav Ghosal (IND) 3-1: 12-10, 9-11, 11-7, 11-1 (47m)

Momen Overcomes Kiwi Coll in Thriller

Egypt’s World No.9 Tarek Momen prevailed over New Zealander Paul Coll in an absolute humdinger of a match to set up a second round clash with Frenchman Gregoire Marche.

In a high-octane, 101-minute fixture, Coll looked to have done enough to force a big win over the line as he went 9-8 ahead in the fourth while leading two games to one, but Momen remained strong mentally in the crucial points to force a decider.

Both players fought against cramp as the match crept towards its conclusion, with Coll overturning multiple match balls to stay in the encounter. At 16-15 down though, a lunge towards the back of the court left Coll doubling over in pain, enabling Momen to force the win over the line to close out a nail-biting 7-11, 11-8, 8-11, 12-10, 17-15 victory.

“In that last lunge I did, both my hamstring and my quads cramped together. I was wondering when he would cramp, up until he cramped I thought he wasn’t human to be honest, it was unbelievable.

“I had no idea how I pulled that off to be honest. My motto today was that I wasn’t going to give up until the last point. I knew I had good momentum after the World Championship, I didn’t want to break that momentum.

“A loss today would mean that I would lose my confidence again and I didn’t want that to happen so I just killed myself. I had a shaky start today, but then I regrouped in the second. From then on, I thought I played okay, I did pretty well, but he was unbelievable today, he doesn’t give you any anything cheap.


“He’s so disciplined and his footwork on court is ridiculous. A win today is so great against such a good player and he definitely deserves to be in a much higher place in the World Rankings with this kind of form.”

Coming less than 24 hours after he survived a bruising 78-minute battle with England’s Joe Lee in the final round of qualifying, Coll showed no signs of fatigue as he hit the ground running and took a one-game lead in comfortable fashion.

Momen recovered though and looked to have found his range in the second as he levelled despite some outrageous retrievals from Coll, but the World No.33 was back on top in game three as his impeccable width and intelligent shot selection enabled him to restore his one-game cushion.

The dynamic rallies got even faster in the fourth with Momen showing nerves of steel to bring the scores back to all square once more. Coll started the better of the two in the decider, but Momen launched an all-out assault, eventually taking it by the tightest of margins.

Result:
[6] Tarek Momen (EGY) bt [Q] Paul Coll (NZL) 3-2: 7-11, 11-8, 8-11, 12-10, 17-15 (101m)

Matthew Digs in to Defeat Local Hero Al Tamimi

Three-time World Champion Nick Matthew called on all of his 18 years of professional experience to escape a huge upset against tournament wildcard and home favourite Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi.

Matthew looked to be heading through in straight games after resisting Al Tamimi’s attacking talents to go two games ahead, but a vocal set of spectators got behind their country’s number one player, with Al Tamimi producing a magnificent comeback to draw level.


A stunning start to the decider from Al Tamimi saw him go 8-4 up, sending the crowd into an even further state of delirium. But Matthew wrestled back momentum of the match to take seven of the next eight points on offer, sealing an 11-9, 11-8, 9-11, 10-12, 11-9 victory to reach the next round.

“Physically I felt great, but he is such a clever player and anything I played short he was able to counterattack me beautifully,” said Matthew.

“In his corner, he has one of the greatest brains in squash, [four-time World Champion] Geoff Hunt, the legend, and also Stewart Boswell and Jonathan Kemp who both played me a lot, so he had plenty of information on how to push me and beat me.



“I’m not sure how I won that to be honest. I think today, he deserved to win. When we had that ridiculous rally where we both ran like headless chickens, and he ended up playing that incredible winner, I thought ok, maybe this is not your day, maybe it’s his day, you’ve got to take it on the chin.


“The only thing I tried to do was to hold my head high and hope that maybe at the end he would get a bit nervous.



“I’ve been coming here since 2001, and it’s really nice to come back, year after year. The Qatari welcome and hospitality is second to none, and I hope that thanks to [tournament sponsor] Mr Ali Bin Ali and [Secretary General of the Qatar Squash Federation] Hisham Algosaibi, the tournament will still keep going and going year after year.”

Result:
[4] Nick Matthew (ENG) bt [WC] Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi (QAT) 3-2: 11-9, 11-8, 9-11, 10-12, 11-9 (71m)

ElShorbagy Fends Off Elias to Kickstart Title Charge

Defending champion Mohamed ElShorbagy held off a determined challenge from Peru’s Diego Elias to take a 3-2 win into the second round as he bids to become the first man to win this tournament three times.

The hard-hitting Egyptian, who defeated Frenchman Gregory Gaultier in last year’s final, went ahead twice but was forced all the way to a fifth by two-time World Junior Champion Elias, who hit some superb winners.


ElShorbagy looked to be struggling with his movement a little bit towards the end of the fourth game, but he recovered to take the fifth, closing out an 11-4, 8-11, 11-8, 6-11, 11-5 triumph.

“I have great memories in Qatar, that’s where I won my first World Series title, so it’s a very important place for me,” said ElShorbagy.


“It’s very hard to back up tournaments, we just finished the Worlds in Cairo, and win or lose, it’s very hard to back them up. It’s just different emotions, but it’s very hard for the body.



“I’m just very happy to get through and live another day in this event. I think it’s just my experience that paid off at the end of the fifth, I got a good start there too.



“All credit to Diego, he played superbly. He is an amazing guy, we are very good friends on and off court. I know we’ll have many more hard battles in the future, and I know that soon he will beat us all, but for now I’m happy to try and beat him a few more times.”


ElShorbagy started the match strongly and gave Elias little chance to hit any winners as he powered into a one-game lead for the loss of four points.

Elias responded brilliantly though as he controlled the tempo of the second game, hitting his lines well and he even produced a spectacular between the legs winner mid-game to halt ElShorbagy and draw level.

The duo then took a further game apiece before ElShorbagy got himself back in front in the decider to earn his second round spot, where he will take on either Hong Kong’s Leo Au or New Zealand’s Campbell Grayson.

Result:
[1] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt Diego Elias (PER) 3-2: 11-4, 8-11, 11-8, 6-11, 11-5 (63m)

Au Recovers From Game Down to Beat Grayson

Hong Kong’s Leo Au overturned a one-game deficit against Kiwi qualifier Campbell Grayson to move into the second round for the first time at this tournament, setting up a fixture with World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy in the process.

The World No.32 was originally a qualifier for the World Series event, but was moved into the main draw due to last year’s runner-up Gregory Gaultier being forced to withdraw from the tournament after sustaining an ankle injury.

Grayson, who did come through qualifying to reach the main draw, went a game ahead after dominating the ’T’ in the early stages, but Au fought back to take the next three games without reply, earning a 6-11, 11-6, 11-5, 11-8 victory.

“I’m happy to get into the second round,” said Au.

“I feel that I’m a bit lucky because I was in the qualifying round at the beginning and then some players pulled out, so I moved into the main draw. At the same time, I am sorry that so many players were getting injured and I hope they can recover quickly.

“Tomorrow I’ll be playing against Mohamed, but I don’t need to think much, I just need to do my best and enjoy the match.

“I think Campbell was playing well in the first game, most of the time he was controlling the ’T’ and trying to put me in the back corners. After that, I tried to move him away from the ’T’ and luckily it worked.”

Result:
Leo Au (HKG) bt [Q] Campbell Grayson (NZL) 3-1: 6-11, 11-6, 11-5, 11-8 (55m)

Rösner Defeats James to Bring Day One to a Close

German No.1 Simon Rösner put in a composed performance to overcome England’s Declan James in straight games and set up a mouthwatering second round clash with James Willstrop.

The tall World No.13 was on top from the off as he controlled proceedings, taking the ball early and varying the pace well as he took it 11-6, before doubling his advantage after coming out on top in a scrappy second game, with both players – who are over 6 feet in size – having slight traffic issues.

Rösner was too clinical for the duration of the 36-minute clash and he held off a spirited attempt at a comeback from James in the third and final game to secure his place in round two.

The Paderborn-based 29-year-old last met Willstrop in the quarter-final stage of the NetSuite Open, with the Englishman prevailing in an exciting five-game battle and the two are set to lock horns once more for a place in the quarter-finals.

Result:
[7] Simon Rösner (GER) bt [Q] Declan James (ENG) 3-0: 11-6, 11-8, 11-6 (36m)

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