INTERVIEW by RJ Mitchell
In an exclusive interview with PSA World Tour, rising star Diego Elias has revealed that his breakthrough victory over global squash ruler Mohamed ElShorbagy has given him the belief that he has the game to beat anyone in the top 10.
The Peruvian Puma pulled off the biggest win of his career when he defeated World No.1, World Champion and defending Qatar Classic champion ElShorbagy in five epic games in Doha to reach the semi-finals of a PSA World Tour Platinum event for the first time last week.
But although admitting that managing the mental challenges of his finest victory proved tougher than the physical toll of taming 'The Beast of Alexandria' the ebullient Elias has no doubt the experience he has banked can provide the foundation for his bid to gate-crash the world top 10 for the first time before Christmas.
The 21 year-old also revealed that the inspiration behind the deceptive front court hold and attack which ultimately took the bite out of 'The Beast' is Canada's former World Champion Jonathon Power.
Diego told PSA: “Beating Mohamed for the first time has given me a lot of confidence and belief that if I play to my best I can beat anyone. The important thing is that I must improve my consistency but I am only 21 years old and I am cool that if I continue to work hard and stay focussed that will come.
“The other big thing about my match with Mohamed in Qatar was that I learned how important it is to recover both mentally and physically. Obviously if you have played a match against someone as tough and determined as Shorbagy over 76 minutes you are going to have paid a big physical price but also there is the mental price.
“I was lucky the hotel I stayed in had a spa with an iced bath and everything I needed to recover as good as possible physically, so it was not so much the problem. But mentally you experience so much euphoria and are on such a high. I had just beaten Mohamed for the first time, he is the World No.1, the World Champion and the defending champ in Qatar. It was massive but then I have the semi-final with Simon Rosner the next day and it was tough to re-focus.
“So I have learned massively from that and the experience of making my first Platinum semi-final and all of that will be very important when the next time comes. But although I Iost big against Rosner in the semi, Qatar was a huge tournament for me, a real breakthrough and I can't wait for the Hong Kong Open.”
There is no doubt that the languid grace of the Puma's movement has more than a touch of the big cat about it and combined with that superb hold and a wicked cross court flick that kept the World No.1 off balance, ElShorbagy found himself unable to exert a grip on their grapple.
Having lost to Mohamed in both of their previous two encounters, in the first round in Qatar last year and also in round one of the Allam British Open, Diego revealed just where he drew 'the power' to tame the beast!
“For me growing up, Jonathon Power was the player I most looked up to and I think that is why I love to use the hold when I'm in the front court. Jonathon was very deceptive and when I watched him play, as a kid back in Peru alongside my dad Jose, I just loved the way he would use his deception to really break opponents up and I like to do this too,” revealed Diego.
He continued: “Particularly against someone as strong and powerful as Shorbagy, it is important to break up his rhythm and keep him guessing and whenever I got the opportunity I attacked him to the front court in Qatar and used my hold to keep him off balance and it worked really well.
“But now I have beaten Shorbagy once and know I can do it I need to back it up so Hong Kong is a really important tournament for me.”
Next up for Diego is indeed the $180,000 Eyebright Sun Hung Kai Hong Kong Open in just under two weeks and the Puma has admitted if he is to have a sniff of making the top-10 before Christmas it's vital he backs up his seminal success in Qatar.
Elias said: “My target is to break the top 10 by the end of the year, so basically I have two tournaments to do that. Then the World Championships are in Chicago in February and I want to give myself the best chance to do as well as I can, so if I can break the top-10 before that it would be really cool.
“For me I feel like Qatar has given me real momentum, I have a few days training with my good friend Paul Coll in Holland and then we go to Hong Kong and for sure I'm really looking forward to it.”