By RJ Mitchell
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Mohamed ElShorbagy has described the confirmation of the PSA World Tour’s resumption at the Manchester Open on September 16 as “great news.”
The World No.1 will be top seed when battle recommences and says he believes he is in shape to emerge triumphant at the National Squash Centre, at the PSA World Tour Silver event.
The reigning British Open champion has also backed the PSA’s decision to make the tournament a closed-door event, even if he admits he may have to find an alternative way to psyche himself up rather than feed off the fans.
“It is great news that we have the first three tournaments on the provisional schedule now confirmed. Obviously when you are seeing all the other sports like football and tennis being played then it is time for squash to be back too.
“It will be sad that we don’t have the fans with us at Manchester because they are such a massive part of our game, but we can’t take any chances. So, for me it is the right thing to have Manchester behind closed doors.
“In any case I am sure that SquashTV will do a great job covering Manchester.”
ElShorbagy has been honing his preparations with his ‘squash bubble’ practice partner Joel Makin under the watchful eye of coach Hadrian Stiff, while the Egyptian ace has also enjoyed the input of his coach Rodney Martin via video link.
All of which has left ‘The Beast of Alexandria’ ready to go when the Tour resumes later this month: “I feel ready for Manchester. I have trained well, and I am lucky that I have Joel Makin in my squash bubble, and we have done some great work on the training court and played some practise matches.
“I am happy with where I am at and also the work, I have done with my coach Hadrian Stiff, with whom I’ve had some excellent sessions.
“I have also had a few video calls with Rodney Martin which have been extremely helpful. So, I hope I will be ready, and I am really looking forward to Manchester.
“But I will be going to Manchester with the same approach I take for every tournament and that is I am going there to win it.”
Mohamed ElShorbagy at the 2017 World Championship held at the National Squash Centre
A keen sports fan, ElShorbagy has wholeheartedly backed the PSA’s safety first approach, following problems in other sports such as World No.1 men’s tennis player Novak Djokovic’s Adria Tour which came in under fire after being played in front of a crowd, lack of social distancing and resulted in several players testing positive for COVID-19.
“You look at what happened with [Novak] Djokovic and his Adria Tour and clearly that was not the way to do things and as a result a few of the players got Covid. So, I think it is totally the right thing to have Manchester behind closed doors.
“The problem is that all it takes is one fan asking for an autograph and then you can have a player getting infected and then, much like with Djokovic and these guys in tennis, several of the players go down with it and then things start to fall apart.
“I know we are not sure as yet about the tournaments in Egypt being behind closed doors but you look at the World Tour Finals and if one player gets Covid and infects another, well you only have eight players competing, and the impact of that would be hard to manage.
“So, of course we want the fans back as soon as possible but it must be when it is safe for them and the players and hopefully that will sooner rather than later.”
Famed for his ability to draw on the fans’ support for fresh energy and a extra shot of adrenaline ElShorbagy has admitted that his viewing of the US Open in tennis, he can draw inspiration on others ways to fire himself up.
“I have been watching the US Open Tennis and it has been interesting to see how the likes of Djokovic and Andy Murray have psyched themselves up. For sure not having fans present will affect some players more than others but you can’t use that as an excuse.
“As a professional you need to find what works for you, find a way and there is no way you can be using the absence of fans as an excuse that the atmosphere is flat and you can’t get up for it.
“So, for me the attitude has to be to get on with it and in any case I think everyone playing at Manchester will just be so glad to be back competing again that I don’t see it as an issue.”