Tournament top seed Mohamed ElShorbagy, the World No.3 and former World No.1, was forced to call on an act of escapism to avoid a shock first round exit at the hands of local hero Nicolas Mueller and keep his 2017 Grasshopper Cup campaign alive – coming back from 2-1 down inside Zurich’s Puls 5 venue today.
Inspired by a partizan and vocal crowd Mueller, the World No.34, recovered from a slow first game to take control of the encounter and force ElShorbagy – a naturally aggressive and attacking player – onto the back foot. And the Egyptian, now based in Bristol, England, struggled to adapt, looking off the boil and at times cutting a lethargic figure on court.
But a series of early errors from Mueller in the fourth game gifted ElShorbagy an opening which he grasped, upping the pace and attacking at every opportunity to tire Mueller and complete the turnaround win.
“Nicki played some great squash today – he was playing really high quality and made it difficult,” said ElShorbagy.
“He’s always had great potential and we played together in the World Juniors. Today was another battle, but one that I think it was played in great spirit and I’m very grateful to Omar (Mosaad), Tarek (Momen) and Ali (Farag) who were there to help me today. I wouldn’t have won without them.
“The support he had today was fantastic – that kind of support is what makes the sport special and I think it’s a great set up here for the tournament, so hopefully I can do well this week.”
After the match Mueller said: “When I play him I know I have to be at my very best just to be close. In the fourth I had a bad start and he got the momentum – and managed to silence the crowd as well.”
ElShorbagy will now face compatriot Farag in the quarter-finals after the former Harvard student impressed to defeat Australian Cameron Pilley 3-0 while Mosaad secured his last eight place with a 3-0 win over Omar Abdel Meguid.
After enduring a season of disappointment to date, in which he crashed out at the first round in seven events and saw his World Ranking crash from 3 to 32, Mosaad looked to have turned the corner as he put in a controlling performance to defeat Meguid.
“This season has been tough – I’ve not played well,” said Mosaad after the match. “I tried to refocus during the last few months and I’m happy to win today because it’s a good win for my confidence.
“I’m just happy to be through and into the next round. It’s great to be back here in Zurich again. I enjoy playing here and hopefully I can improve my level again for the next round.”
Mosaad will take on England’s Nick Matthew, the three-time World Champion who marked his debut at the tournament with a comfortable 3-0 win over Zahed Mohamed – preventing an Egyptian rout on day one.
The 36-year-old World No.4 was imperious in the opening two games as he bossed the play, commanding the centre of the court and making Mohamed do all the hard yards. To his credit the young Egyptian came back strong in the third and matched Matthew, trading points with ‘The Wolf’ all the way to a tense tie-break, but Matthew’s class told as he squeezed the errors to secure the match in three.
“To have a crowd like this in the first round is a real pleasure – hopefully they had a great time. It’s like a crowd we get a finals at some tournaments so it’s great to be here,” said Matthew.
“There was a quick turnaround after the European Teams so I wasn’t sure how I would I would be coming in. These guys all keep getting better and I’m trying my best to stay up there. I can’t take any of them for granted, the first rounds are so tough now days.”
Results – First Round (Top Half): 2017 Grasshopper Cup
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt [WC] Nicolas Mueller (SUI) 3-2: 11-8, 7-11, 7-11, 11-7, 11-4 (54m)
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt Cameron Pilley (AUS) 3-0: 11-9, 11-9, 11-4 (46m)
 Omar Mosaad (EGY) bt [Q] Omar Abdel Meguid (EGY) 3-0: 11-6, 13-11, 11-9 (41m)
 Nick Matthew (ENG) bt [Q] Zahed Mohamed (EGY) 3-0: 11-8, 11-7, 15-13 (53m)
Draw – First Round (Bottom Half)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v Daryl Selby (ENG)
Paul Coll (NZL) v  Simon Rösner (GER)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) v [Q] Mathieu Castagnet (FRA)
[Q] Gregoire Marche (FRA) v  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY)
For more information, and to purchase tickets, go to https://gc-cup.com/