World No.5 Karim Abdel Gawad kicked off his title defence at the men’s CIB Black Ball Squash Open, PSA World Tour Gold tournament with a comfortable 3-0 victory over fellow Egyptian Mohamed ElSherbini inside Cairo’s Black Ball Sporting Club earlier today.
Gawad is the only man to ever get his hands on the Black Ball Open trophy when he beat World No.1 Ali Farag to lift the title two years ago, and he booked his place in round two today courtesy of a 12-10, 11-2, 11-5 victory in just 28 minutes.
World No.33 ElSherbini showed plenty of promise in the opening game as he went toe-to-toe with the former World No.1 but appeared to struggle with a leg injury from the second game onwards as Gawad closed out the win in straight games.
“I know Mohamed very well,” said Gawad.
“We train together and we used to play with each other when we were young. I know how good he is and I wasn’t expecting the match to go that easy. Of course, after the first game he had some issues and I wish him good luck with the recovery.
“It’s very important to win the tournament, these days with the change of the system for the rankings and the points, each tournament counts. I was unlucky with an injury to miss a couple of tournaments, but I’m pleased to be back and back on court playing. I want to play my best squash, I don’t think too much about rankings now, I just enjoy the moment of being on court.”
Gawad will play World No.11 Fares Dessouky in a tricky second round encounter after he defeated Frenchman Baptiste Masotti in straight games. The winner of that match will go on to face either Peru’s Diego Elias or French veteran Gregory Gaultier in the quarter-finals.
Elias, the World No.7, required five games to see off England’s Declan James, winning 11-8, 9-11, 11-4, 9-11, 11-3 in 65 minutes. He will line up against training partner Gaultier after he eased to a straightforward 3-0 win against Scotland’s Greg Lobban.
“You learn so much from Greg [Gaultier],” Elias said.
“He’s one of the best players ever, so I feel really lucky to spend time with him. I’m trying to learn as much as I can, he’s been helping me a lot of with my discipline, staying healthy, training hard and being ready for every tournament. We have been playing for the last three months, so it’s unlucky we have to play in the next round.”
England’s former World No.1 James Willstrop has also booked his place in the last 16 after a masterclass performance against the in-form Youssef Ibrahim.
Ibrahim claimed a huge upset win over World No.2 Mohamed ElShorbagy at the Qatar Classic last month, but he had no answer to Willstrop’s accuracy as the 37-year-old closed out the win by an 11-7, 11-9, 11-3 scoreline.
“It felt absolutely great,” said Willstrop.
“I’m just thrilled to be able to perform like that. I’ve been feeling alright the last few weeks, training has gone alright and I had a good match last week and in practice, so things came together. It’s great to be out there playing and I feel excited about that.”
Willstrop will play Welshman Joel Makin in the next round following the World No.9’s 3-1 victory over Spain’s Borja Golan. Willstrop won their last encounter at the CIB Egyptian Open in October.
Meanwhile, World Champion Tarek Momen came back from a game down against USA’s Todd Harrity in the final match of the day and he will play compatriot Mazen Hesham for a place in the quarter-finals.
“It’s always tough to play a first match after a while,” Momen said.
“With Todd, it’s extra difficult because we have been training together for the last three or fourth months now. He’s spent most of his time in Cairo, he was training with my coach and we used to do a lot of drills and play practice matches together, so it was difficult to play a real match.”
The second round begins tomorrow (December 15) and play begins at 11:00 (GMT+2). All of the action will be shown live on SQUASHTV and the official Facebook page of the PSA World Tour (excluding Europe & Japan).
Results – First Round (Bottom Half): Men’s 2020 CIB Black Ball Squash Open
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt Mohamed ElSherbini (EGY) 3-0: 12-10, 11-2, 11-5 (28m)
 Fares Dessouky (EGY) bt Baptiste Masotti (FRA) 3-0: 12-10, 12-10, 13-11 (49m)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt Greg Lobban (SCO) 3-0: 11-7, 11-6, 11-2 (37m)
 Diego Elias (PER) bt Declan James (ENG) 3-2: 11-8, 9-11, 11-4, 9-11, 11-3 (65m)
 Joel Makin (WAL) bt Borja Golan (ESP) 3-1: 10-12, 11-6, 11-9, 11-2 (67m)
 James Willstrop (ENG) bt Youssef Ibrahim (EGY) 3-0: 11-7, 11-9, 11-3 (33m)
 Mazen Hesham (EGY) bt Alan Clyne (SCO) 3-0: 11-8, 11-6, 11-7 (40m)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) bt Todd Harrity (USA) 3-1: 9-11, 11-5, 11-5, 11-2 (36m)
Draw – Second Round: To Be Played December 15th
 Ali Farag (EGY) v  Omar Mosaad (EGY)
 Gregoire Marche (FRA) v  Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY)
 Miguel Rodriguez (COL) v  Zahed Salem (EGY)
 Mostafa Asal (EGY) v  Paul Coll (NZL)
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v  Fares Dessouky (EGY)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v  Diego Elias (PER)
 Joel Makin (WAL) v  James Willstrop (ENG)
 Mazen Hesham (EGY) v  Tarek Momen (EGY)