In the latest part of a series taking a look at back at the 2019-20 season to date, MATT COLES spoke to Tarek Momen about his form over the last 12 months.
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After reaching the World Championship final in Chicago last season, Egypt’s Tarek Momen went one better in Qatar in 2019-2020 to claim the first major title of his career, as it is a week that ‘The Viper’ “will always remember”.
Raphael Kandra and Mazen Hesham were dispatched in the early rounds of the tournament at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex in Doha, before a tricky task against the home favourite.
Momen eventually got past Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi in five games, winning 11-5, 10-12, 9-11, 11-9, 11-4 after coming from 2-1 down against the Qatari No.1, and a partizan home crowd behind their superstar.
The Egyptian then downed World No.7 Diego Elias and World No.6 Simon Rösner en route to the final, where New Zealand’s World No.5 Paul Coll stood in his way. It would be Momen’s title, though, as he overcame the Kiwi in 39 minutes to claim a first World Championship title, one that he will never forget.
“I will always remember that week in Doha. I’ve never been so stressed in a tournament, I wanted to win so badly and I knew I was going through a rough patch,” Momen admitted.
“I’m extremely proud of the way I fought for that title and I’m thankful for the support I got from my team and also the crowd.”
To win the World Championships is every player’s goal, and Momen used it as his main target to train for in the off-season.
However, ‘the Viper’ admits that he was not at his best mentally when the time came, making it even more special.
“I want to say I did believe I could do it, I based my training over the summer focusing on this target,” he explained.
“But I must say, believing you can do it then actually doing it feels unreal. Especially since it happened during a time when I was feeling really down. It was truly a special moment for me.”
“By the time we reached the final I was barely getting any sleep, so the moment I won that Championship point I cried like a baby knowing that I could finally let go and enjoy a lifelong goal achieved.
Momen showed all his emotion after winning in Qatar
Even with the World Championships victory, Momen would not say his season was a perfect 10 out of 10.
Instead, he believes that he actually played his best stuff the season before, when he reached the World Championship final in Chicago, along with winning the Channel VAS Championships and CCI International.
“I would say somewhere between 8-9. Winning the World Championship title is definitely the highlight of my season and probably one of the main reasons why I would call it the best season of my career,” the Egyptian explained.
“But if I’m being completely honest, I think I played the best squash of my career in the 2018-2019 season. I did start my 2019-2020 campaign in an excellent form, but I had to go through a lot of unexpected challenges (physically) which kind of affected my form.
“Nevertheless, I think I put in some solid performances, remained consistent with my results and had the best week of my life in Doha winning the World Championships as my first major.”
Momen admits he had two main goals coming into the 2019-2020 season, and he has been able to tick one of those of the list.
“I had 2 goals going into this season, winning the World Championship in Qatar and ending the season as the World No.1. I’m glad I managed to achieve one of those goals and I’ll keep working hard until I achieve the other,” he said.
Talking of that World No.1 spot, and Momen has consistently been the man to beat outside the top two in the World Rankings over the last year.
He has sat in the top three in the World Rankings for the best part of twelve months, but he knows how difficult it will be to push on to break Ali Farag and Mohamed ElShorbagy apart at the top.
Momen (right) in action against ElShorbagy at the Canary Wharf Classic in March
“I think I’ve done pretty well holding this position for that long. The top two spots however, proved to be slightly tricky, Ali and Mohamed have been very consistent and in order to replace one or both of them, I need to beat them more often,” the Egyptian explained.
Momen knows that to be at the top, consistency is required. However, since the 2018 Channel VAS Championships, he has only failed to reach the semi-finals of a tournament on one occasion.
He was defeated by Welsh No.1 Joel Makin in the second round of the CIB Egyptian Open in front of the Pyramids in October, but apart from that, ‘the Viper’ has been in imperious form, and he admits that experience has played a factor.
“With age comes experience I guess, I had to work hard for many years and learn from so many mistakes to finally get to where I am today,” he explained.
“[In the] last couple of years I managed to close out some matches that were going my opponent’s way, having to recover from huge deficits. I guess determination and experience tipped the scales in my favour every time.”
Along with his victory at the World Championships in November, Momen also lifted the Troilus Gold Canada Cup trophy in February.
Momen (centre) with the Canada Cup trophy
For the second time in four months, he overcame New Zealand’s Paul Coll in a final to take the crown, and he was extremely pleased with the way he won the title in Toronto.
“I was very happy to win that title in Toronto, specially since we were playing on traditional courts,” Momen explained.
“I knew I had to dig deep, the rallies will be longer and my attacking style will definitely be challenged. I had a 98 minute battle in the semis with Diego who had just won in Detroit on traditional courts.
“Then I had to back it up the next day against Paul Coll who came into this final a lot fresher than he was in Doha. I had to push really hard to close that one out and grab the title.”