World No.3 Mohamed ElShorbagy got his El Gouna International Squash Open tournament off to a winning start after the 2016 champion overcame Frenchman Mathieu Castagnet on day one of the World Series tournament staged in El Gouna’s New Marina.
ElShorbagy was making his first PSA World Tour appearance since losing his World No.1 spot to Castagnet’s compatriot, Gregory Gaultier, and the 26-year-old came out on top to prevail by an 11-9, 11-7, 13-11 margin.
“I’ve been World No.1 for 28 months and I enjoyed every single minute and every single day of it,” said ElShorbagy, who will take on Mohamed Abouelghar in the next round.
“I felt free from pressure today and I have nothing to lose. I can enjoy my squash again, I haven’t enjoyed it this whole season.
“At the British Open, I felt like I was back mentally, my hunger was back, my passion was back, but this time, knowing I have absolutely nothing to lose, there is no pressure on me.
It’s just about enjoying my game and I’ll see how it goes. My main goal this week is to enjoy my game.”
Former World No.13 Mazen Hesham – whose injury issues have seen him fall outside the world’s top 50 – stepped up his return from a seven month absence with a superb 3-1 win over World No.11 Tarek Momen.
Hesham, the 23-year-old from Cairo, became one of the most popular players on the PSA World Tour after a breakthrough 2015/16 campaign and, speaking after his 11-9, 11-13, 12-10, 11-8 win over Momen, says he is delighted to be back.
“Tarek was the worst draw I could have had, he twists you, he tests your body like nobody else, he flicks the ball all over the place, wrong foots you, then plays a strong basic game,” said Hesham.
“But then again, I came on court with no pressure. Sometimes, it just works out fine. I’m just so happy I’m healthy.”
He will face Gaultier in the next round after the 34-year-old Frenchman extended his unbeaten run to 15 matches courtesy of a 3-0 victory over tournament wildcard Marwan Tarek.
Gaultier, the 2016 runner-up, was pushed hard by British Junior Under 17 champion Tarek, but soon took command as he closed out a 11-6, 11-2, 11-6 triumph to progress to the next round.
“I don’t think about the big picture, I just think about having a good time and enjoying every practice on the Tour,” said Gaultier.
“A few months ago I was really down mentally because of too many injuries in 2016 and being away from the squash court can frustrate you.
“But if you take it positively, it gives you the anger to come back and this is what I tried to prove when I came back in January.”
Former World No.1 James Willstrop is also through after he scraped past Colombian Miguel Angel Rodriguez in five games, with New Zealand’s World No.13 Paul Coll awaiting him for a place in the last eight after he dispatched English qualifier Tom Richards.
Australia’s Cameron Pilley claimed his first win on Egyptian soil since 2010 over New Zealand’s Campbell Grayson to set up a meeting with World No.5 Marwan ElShorbagy – who overcame former World No.3 Omar Mosaad.
Results – First Round (Top Half): 2017 El Gouna International Squash Open
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) 3-0: 11-9, 11-7, 13-11 (43m)
Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) bt [Q] Adrian Waller (ENG) 3-0: 11-5, 11-9, 11-7 (38m)
Cameron Pilley (AUS) bt [Q] Campbell Grayson (NZL) 3-2: 6-11, 5-11, 11-3, 13-11, 11-9 (97m)
 Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) bt Omar Mosaad (EGY) 3-0: 11-5, 13-11, 11-5 (43m)
 James Willstrop (ENG) bt Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) 3-2: 9-11, 11-8, 9-11, 11-7, 11-9 (94m)
Paul Coll (NZL) bt [Q] Tom Richards (ENG) 3-0: 11-7, 11-4, 11-3 (40m)
[Q] Mazen Hesham (EGY) bt Tarek Momen (EGY) 3-1: 11-9, 11-13, 12-10, 11-8 (53m)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt [WC] Marwan Tarek (EGY) 3-0: 11-6, 11-2, 11-6 (31m)
Draw – First Round (Bottom Half): 2017 El Gouna International Squash Open (To Be Played April 8)
 Nick Matthew (ENG) v Fares Dessouky (EGY)
Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) v [Q] Mohamed Reda (EGY)
Cesar Salazar (MEX) v [Q] Gregoire Marche (FRA)
Diego Elias (PER) v  Ali Farag (EGY)
 Simon Rösner (GER) v [Q] Raphael Kandra (GER)
Saurav Ghosal (IND) v [Q] Karim Ali Fathi (EGY)
Borja Golan (ESP) v [LL] Omar Abdel Meguid (EGY)
Zahed Mohamed (EGY) v  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY)
Draw – Second Round (Top Half): 2017 El Gouna International Squash Open (To Be Played April 9)
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY)
Cameron Pilley (AUS) v  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY)
 James Willstrop (ENG) v Paul Coll (NZL)
[Q] Mazen Hesham (EGY) v  Gregory Gaultier (FRA)