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Throwback Thursday: Story of the 2018 men's Oracle NetSuite Open

The Oracle NetSuite Open gets under way on Tuesday September 24 as the PSA World Tour Gold tournament sees the top men’s and women’s players in the world battle it out on the glass Squash Engine Court in the shadow of San Francisco’s iconic Ferry Building.

This year’s Oracle NetSuite Open features its largest prize fund in 10-year history, with $242,000 split equally between the men’s and women’s events, while a best-of-three games scoring format will be used up to and including the semi-finals. The final will revert to traditional best of five scoring used elsewhere on the tour.

We take a look back at the story of the 2018 men's Oracle NetSuite Open.

Results: Round One
Karim Ali Fathi (EGY) bt Cesar Salazar (MEX) 3-2: 11-9, 8-11, 11-9, 4-11, 11-7 (68m)
Mazen Hesham (EGY) bt [WC] Charlie Johnson (ENG) 3-0: 11-8, 11-7, 11-7 (32m)
Gregoire Marche (FRA) bt Joel Makin (WAL) 3-0: 11-7, 11-6, 11-5 (55m)
Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi (QAT) bt Omar Abdel Meguid (EGY) 3-0: 11-7, 13-11, 11-8 (42m)
Saurav Ghosal (IND) bt Campbell Grayson (NZL) 3-0: 11-9, 11-7, 11-5 (49m)
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) bt Lucas Serme (FRA) 3-1: 11-9, 11-9, 5-11, 11-5 (63m)
Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) bt Nathan Lake (ENG) 3-0: 11-9, 15-13, 11-7 (52m)
James Willstrop (ENG) bt Alan Clyne (SCO) 3-0: 11-8, 11-4, 12-10 (34m)

The opening round in the men's event featured a compelling all-French battle between Mathieu Castagnet and Lucas Serme which went the way of Castagnet after 63-minutes of compelling, attritional squash.

The opening game alone lasted 20 minutesas the pair probed for openings before the more experienced Castagnet struck the first blow before doubling his lead. Serme struck back to take the third, however, Castagnet was able to regroup to take control in the fourth game and complete his win.

Results: Round Two
[7] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi (QAT) 3-1: 11-7, 6-11, 11-5, 11-4 (47m)
[3] Tarek Momen (EGY) bt Saurav Ghosal (IND) 3-2: 9-11, 11-6, 2-11, 11-5, 11-7 (71m)
[1] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt Gregoire Marche (FRA) 3-1: 11-3, 10-12, 11-3, 13-11 (61m)
[5] Miguel Rodriguez (COL) bt Mazen Hesham (EGY) 3-1: 11-7, 11-4, 9-11, 11-2 (50m)
[4] Simon Rösner (GER) bt Karim Ali Fathi (EGY) 3-0: 11-5, 11-5, 11-3 (26m)
[6] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) 3-0: 11-5, 11-9, 11-3 (39m)
[8] Diego Elias (PER) bt Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) 3-2: 11-7, 10-12, 8-11, 11-7, 11-7 (86m)
[2] Ali Farag (EGY) bt James Willstrop (ENG) 3-0: 11-6, 11-5, 11-5 (25m)

Defending champion Mohamed ElShorbagy begain his campaign with victory over France's Gregoire Marche as he looked to keep his hands on the title in San Francisco.

The pair traded the opening two games, before ElShorbagy injected his trademark pace and power into the play to send Marche into all four corners of the court. While Marche stuck with him, ElShorbagy ultimately had too much quality at the critical moments and prevailed 11-3, 10-12, 11-3, 13-11.

Results: Quarter Finals
[1] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt [5] Miguel Rodriguez (COL)3-0: 11-7, 11-7, 11-8 (45m)
[7] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt [3] Tarek Momen (EGY) 3-1: 7-11, 11-6, 11-6, 13-11 (74m)
[2] Ali Farag (EGY) bt [8] Diego Elias (PER) 3-0: 11-5, 11-8, 11-1 (33m)
[6] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt [4] Simon Rösner (GER) 3-0: 11-3, 11-5, 11-8 (42m)

Defending champion ElShorbagy produced a masterclass to beat then-World No.6 Miguel Rodriguez of Colombia, the man he lost in the final of the British Open to, to set up a semi-final encounter with compatriot and former World No.1 Karim Abdel Gawad after he prevailed in a difficult encounter with Tarek Momen.

The other semi-final will see France's former World No.1 Gregory Gaultier challenge then-World No.2 Ali Farag for a place in the final.

Gaultier, three-time tournament champion, was rapant as he overcame Germany's Simon Rosner in straight-games as he deneyed the tall German any opportunity to use his height and power to good use.

Farag, meanwhile, dispatched Peru's Diego Elias in straight-games as he rarely looked troubled to record an emphatic 33-minute victory.

Results: Semi-finals
[1] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt [7] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) 3-1: 7-11, 11-7, 11-9, 11-8 (65m)
[2] Ali Farag (EGY) bt [6] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 3-2: 2-11, 11-6, 9-11, 11-5, 13-11 (77m)

Farag escaped the clutches of defeat by saving two match balls to defeat in-form Frenchman Gaultier in a thrilling 77-minute five-game battle and set up a Championship showdown against then-World No.1 ElShorbagy.

Farag twice came from a game down to take the match a decisive fifth, which went all the way to a nail-biting tie-break that saw both men squander match balls before the Egyptian finally secured his place in the final.

The Egyptian would go on to take on his fellow countryman ElShorbagy in the final after he defeated Gawad in a compelling four-game battle that saw him bounce back from losing the first game to triumph 7-11, 11-7, 11-9, 11-8.

Results: Final
[2] Ali Farag (EGY) bt [1] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) 3-1: 11-9, 13-11, 4-11, 11-9 (64m)

Farag, who lost four of five meetings with ElShorbagy during the 2017/18 campaign, underlined his intention to challenge his compatriot for the coveted World No.1 ranking spot this season with a clinical display that saw him nullify ElShorbagy’s power and pace to prevail an 11-9, 13-11, 4-11, 11-9 winner.

There was little to separate the pair as they battled it out for 64 minutes of spell binding action on San Francisco’s Embarcadero, trading points tit-for-tat during a series of physically punishing rallies to the delight of the crowd. But it was Farag who settled quicker, using his relaxed attacking style to edge a tight opening game, before doubling the lead courtesy of a dramatic second-game tie-break.

ElShorbagy replied in style to dominate the third game before Farag once again enjoyed the better of the exchanges in the fourth to come through and win his first tournament since February’s Swedish Open.

“I’m feeling great right now, I’m very, very happy to have won this title,” said Farag afterwards.

“When I first saw the entry list I thought I would withdraw from playing because the draw was so strong. But my mentor Karim Darwish told me that I should play the event and show people that they should be scared when seeing my name in the draw – that is the kind of mentality that I need to have if I hope to be World No.1 some day.

“I wasn’t at my best last night (against Gaultier) but I was optimistic that I would play at a higher level tonight because sometimes you need matches like that to help get you into the rhythm.

“Tonight against Mohamed I had to be on my mettle throughout. He’s a great champion and such a determined fighter – which he showed even when I was ahead in the fourth game, so I’m very glad I managed to get this last few points.”

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