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Manchester Open: ElShorbagy Downs Gawad To Win Championship

192 days after winning the St. James’s Place Canary Wharf Classic, the final men’s tournament prior to the enforced suspension of the tour, Mohamed ElShorbagy has won the first tournament on the sport’s return. He wins the Manchester Open after getting the better of compatriot Karim Abdel Gawad at the National Squash Centre.

It was ElShorbagy who came into this clash with the better record against the ‘Baby-Faced Assassin’, having won 11 of their previous 16 meetings, but a couple of early errors gave Gawad the advantage he needed in the first. Not normally known as a quick starter, he had enough to take the first game.

He also started to run away with the second game, but a crucial error at 4-1 gave ElShorbagy his chance, and he pounced on it. ‘The Beast’ fought back and played at a higher intensity for the rest of the game, levelling the match. He carried that momentum through into the third game and he showed his class to take a big lead. Despite Gawad saving two game balls, the World No.1 moved in front for the first time in the final.

It looked the title would be his quite comfortably in the fourth game, but a spirited fight-back from the World No.3 saw him have the chance to push the match into a decider. ElShorbagy, though, saved two game balls, before turning it round to win it on a tie-break, claiming the title by three games to one.

In the process, ElShorbagy becomes the first men’s Manchester Open winner, being victorious in the same city as he lifted his World Championship title back in 2017. He also moved into the top five on the all-time of tournaments won on the PSA World Tour, with only Jansher Khan, Jahangir Khan, Mike Corren and Peter Nicol.

“It has been an interesting week. The players have had to adapt but I am just really glad that the end result was the same for me. I wanted to win the title, I wanted to challenge myself, even with all the things we had to deal with differently. However, I think that squash was the winner, not just one player. We gave so many quality matches for the fans watching back at home. I hope everyone enjoyed watching the matches and I cannot wait to have squash back on TV again,” he explained.

“I work on my game a lot, I work on myself a lot, as a person and as a squash player. Without my team, I wouldn’t be here today. The player I was in Canary Wharf is very different to who I am today. To be able to do that, I need to thank Rod Martin, back in the States. Even though I couldn’t visit him, we were talking and sorting my technique. With Hadrian Stiff, I was doing something different every day. We were trying to work on the new things that I needed to, my movement and so on. I have had a lot of pressure sessions with Mike Harris in Bristol. Llewellyn Holmes has helped me with my physicality and my diet. He is one of the main reasons that allowed me to change. I needed to change my physicality to change the way I play.”

“I watched him [Gawad] getting better every day. I saw him in the first round and he was much fitter. You know he is a slow starter and knowing him, I knew he would be a danger this week. I was outplayed for the first game and a half. Luckily enough, I have been on tour a long time and I always think our matches are similar to games between Nick Matthew and Amr Shabana. Watching their matches a lot, I always thought that Nick just hung on and hung on. Sometimes it worked and sometimes Shabana was too good.

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“With Gawad today, I was 4-1 down in the second game. I just told myself to stay with him. Once he gave me that error, I looked at him and I let him know that I was going to get him. He gave me that error at 4-1 after a long rally, and I knew I was going to make it tough. Talent is not enough to beat me, you have to have a lot of things to beat me. I probably didn’t beat him with my squash today, I probably beat him mentally.

“Whenever I was asked, when I was ten years old, what my goal was. My goal wasn’t to get to World No.1, because I didn’t think that was a high enough goal. My goals were always to put my name in the history books of the sport. To be spoken about with these greats, it is an honour and it is what I have worked for all my life. I am only 29, and hopefully I still have more to get higher up the ladder.”

Gawad said: “I started pretty well. However, at the start of the second game, I went too short at the beginning of the rally and he took advantage of it.

“I tried to come back in the middle of the match and in the fourth. The third game, I was really bad and I didn’t do what I was supposed to do so I lost that really quickly. I tried to come back in the fourth. I had two game balls but I didn’t use them. He played much better in the end.

“Our matches are always good. There is always a lot of good rallies and we play tough matches. I like playing Mohamed and of course, he is World No.1. We battled a lot back in 2016 and 2017. I didn’t make it a lot in the final to play him so I am looking forward to reach the finals this year to play him more.

“I always like playing in Egypt, and I think there will be more pressure because people keep saying that I don’t lose in Egypt. I just like to enjoy it. When you put pressure on yourself you don’t play your best squash. That is something my parents taught me when I was young. I will just go and try to play my best squash.”

Result
[1] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt [3] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) 3-1: 9-11, 11-8, 11-7, 13-11 (72m)

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