World No.2 Ali Farag picked up where he left off before the suspension of the PSA World Tour as he claimed a comfortable 3-1 victory over Englishman Nathan Lake to begin his Manchester Open title hunt.
Farag reached the final of both the Windy City Open and Canary Wharf Classic – winning the former – in March shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic brought a premature end to the 2019-20 season.
Lake, meanwhile, was named as the men’s PSA Challenger Tour Player of the Month in April after capturing the Manitoba Open title in what was the final Challenger event to take place before the suspension.
The Englishman recaptured that form instantly as he attacked with vigour to go 9-5 up in the opening game, but that only served to kick Farag into action as the Egyptian ramped up the pace and rattled off six points in a row to take a crucial opening game.
From there, it was all about Farag as the No.2 seed used his incredible reach and speed to repel all of Lake’s attacks and he wasted no time in completing the win in straight games to set up a round two clash with Frenchman Gregoire Marche.
“It’s exciting, I don’t want to keep saying what everyone else has been saying but squash is obviously a huge thing for us, so to be able to do what we love is a great feeling,” said Farag.
“They’re difficult conditions but equally as enjoyable. There is always room for improvement, but for a first match back after six months it’s very positive. He started off better and I was lacking a little bit of intensity, but I think I gained that as the match went on and I hope I can carry on with this momentum going forward.
Addressing the fans who currently can’t spectate due to social distancing protocols put in place by the UK government, Farag said: “We miss the fans, I said it was enjoyable but it’s never going to be as enjoyable without the fans here. We feed off the crowd and their energy and I remember the World Champs back here in Manchester [in 2017] the vibe was amazing and hopefully very soon we can have them back.”
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt Nathan Lake (ENG) 3-0: 11-9, 11-6, 11-5 (31m)