World No.1 Ali Farag says he is excited to perform in front of his home crowd ahead of the El Gouna International, PSA World Tour Platinum event which gets under way on the banks of Egypt’s Red Sea this week.
Farag, who took over the World No.1 spot in March a day before he became World Champion, currently resides Cairo, which will host the World Tour Finals in June and the PSA Women’s World Championships in October – but he believes that the El Gouna International is one of the most important tournaments on the calendar for an Egyptian.
“For us Egyptians, the most important tournament is obviously the World Championships, secondly might be the British Open, but for many of us it is Gouna because we play in front of our home crowd, our family and our friends,” Farag said.
“It is a week we really look forward to the entire year. Black Ball is a new one so we were not used to it, and we were probably not looking forward to is as much as Gouna because we did not know it was going to happen.
“Gouna is the one week we really look forward to every year. The fact that it is in Gouna, which is such a beautiful resort as well, makes it even better, and I am really excited for that one.”
The El Gouna International begins on Wednesday, just three days after the final of the DPD Open in Eindhoven, in which Farag beat World No.2 Mohamed ElShorbagy to win his fifth PSA Tour title of the season.
Farag went into the tournament in the Netherlands off the back of a disappointing quarter-final exit at the Grasshopper Cup but says that an extended break after winning the World Championships will help him stay fresh for an arduous end to the 2018-2019 season.
“It is a good thing for me that I took a bit of time off after the World Championships. I did not play Canary Wharf because of that, because I knew I had many tournaments back-to-back. It was important to be fresh,” he explained.
“However, I guess we are used to it. Everyone has pretty much got the same schedule and this is what we train for the entire year and I am looking forward to hopefully doing well here, and then backing that up in Gouna.”
Farag hasn’t won a PSA Tour event on home soil since 2015 despite reaching finals at the Al Ahram Open, Black Ball Open and last year’s El Gouna International, where he lost to compatriot Marwan ElShorbagy.
The 26-year-old Harvard-graduate will go into this tournament as the No.1 seed, but he does not believe that he will feel any added pressure.
“I still approach every tournament the same. I really want to win it, but I don’t look at myself as the favourite, I look at myself as one of the contenders, and it is going to be no different this time.”
96 of the world’s best players will descend on El Gouna between April 17-26 hoping to win the PSA Platinum event and the lion’s share of the $352,000 prize pot, which is split equally between the men’s and women’s draws. Matches will be split between a glass court situated at El Gouna Marina and at the El Gouna Squash Complex.
Live matches from the glass court will be shown on SQUASHTV (rest of world), Eurosport Player (Europe only) and the official Facebook page of the PSA World Tour.
Entry up to and including the quarter-finals is free.Tickets are available for the semi finals and finals through the tournament website.