Colombia’s Miguel Rodriguez and Egypt’s Karim Abdel Gawad narrowly avoided surprise defeats on day two of the Grasshopper Cup as they claimed 3-2 wins over World No.14 Zahed Salem and World No.24 Max Lee, respectively, at Halle 622 in Zurich, Switzerland.
33-year-old Rodriguez overturned four match balls as he won 8-11, 11-6, 9-11, 14-12, 11-5 triumph against Egypt’s Salem to reach the quarter-finals of the PSA World Tour Gold tournament, where he will play top seed and last year’s runner-up Mohamed ElShorbagy in the last eight.
“I knew it was going to be very tough, Zahed has been playing very well and I’ve been struggling a bit,” said Rodriguez afterwards.
“It’s always difficult coming to play the first match coming from Colombia, but there are no excuses, we fought until the end and I’m pretty happy with the way I fought back in the third game when I was down by those match balls.
“I was just focusing on playing and giving everything, and fortunately I won that fourth game and had the confidence to play in the fifth.”
Rodriguez and ElShorbagy will meet in a repeat of the 2018 British Open final, where Rodriguez prevailed. ElShorbagy has won all three of their fixtures since then though and he earned his spot in the last eight courtesy of an 11-7, 11-6, 11-7 victory over Spain’s Borja Golan.
ElShorbagy claimed a narrow win over Golan two weeks ago at the Citigold Canary Wharf Classic, with that match played using a best-of-three games scoring format. The traditional best of five format is being used in Zurich though, and ElShorbagy put in a composed display to earn his spot in the next round.
“I think this is the only tournament on the calendar that I haven’t won yet,” said ElShorbagy.
“Last year, I was one match away, but Ramy [Ashour] was on his best form, and no-one can match him when he’s on that form. This year, I’m going to try to go one more match, but I have to win three more matches to win this title and each match is like a final. A lot of players are playing great squash at the moment, and I am just trying to stay alive in this tournament as much as I can.”
Meanwhile, former World No.1 Gawad ousted Hong Kong’s Lee in five games as he twice came back from a game down to advance to the next round, winning 10-12, 11-6, 9-11, 11-4, 11-7.
Gawad twice fell a game behind, which left him staring down the barrel of a second successive upset after a shock defeat to compatriot Youssef Soliman during last month’s PSA World Championships in Chicago. The 27-year-old kept his composure to draw level on both occasions and he held off Lee in the decider to advance to the next round.
“Playing Max is always very tough,” said Gawad.
“Most of the time it’s a five setter and, for me, he is one of the best movers on court. It was very tough today, especially when you’re not playing your best squash and you’re being passive with your winners.”
His quarter-final opponent will be Germany’s Simon Rösner after the World No.5 defeated England’s Daryl Selby 11-7, 11-8, 11-6 to record his sixth successive win over the 36-year-old.
Rösner will aim to avenge a 3-0 defeat to Gawad in the quarter-finals of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in January.
“We’ve played a few times now and it’s always tough, even though he played a five setter yesterday [against Australia’s Cameron Pilley],” said Rösner.
“It’s very tough to beat this guy and wear him down, so I’m glad to get through in three. I’m going to try to figure out a tactic [for the next match], I lost 3-0 to him [Gawad] in New York, so I’m trying to get revenge for that match and I’ll see how it goes.”
Round two continues on Thursday March 28. Play starts at 17:00 (GMT+1) and will be shown live on SQUASHTV (rest of world), Eurosport Player (Europe only) and the official Facebook page of the PSA World Tour (excluding Europe and Japan).
Results – Second Round (Top Half): 2019 Grasshopper Cup
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt Borja Golan (ESP) 3-0: 11-7, 11-6, 11-7 (36m)
 Miguel Rodriguez (COL) bt Zahed Salem (EGY) 3-2: 8-11, 11-6, 9-11, 14-12, 11-5 (102m)
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt Max Lee (HKG) 3-2: 10-12, 11-6, 9-11, 11-4, 11-7 (71m)
 Simon Rösner (GER) bt Daryl Selby (ENG) 3-0: 11-7, 11-8, 11-6 (41m)
Draw – Second Round (Bottom Half): To Be Played March 28
 Tarek Momen (EGY) v [9/16] Mathieu Castagnet (FRA)
Declan James (ENG) v  Saurav Ghosal (IND)
 Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) v Nicolas Mueller (SUI)
Joel Makin (WAL) v  Ali Farag (EGY)
Draw – Quarter-Finals (Top Half): To Be Played March 29
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v  Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL)
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v  Simon Rösner (GER)