Colombia’s World No.10 Miguel Rodriguez was forced to save three match balls as he came from two games down against Egypt’s Zahed Salem to win 5-11, 9-11, 11-7, 13-11, 11-6 in the second round of the CIB Black Ball Open.
The Colombian Cannonball found himself staring down the barrel of defeat as Salem got off to an explosive start, going on a run of eight points after finding himself 5-3 down in the first to take the lead.
And that momentum continued for Salem in the second as he doubled his advantage and looked as though he was going to claim the first upset of the tournament against his higher-seeded opponent, until Rodriguez produced a monumental comeback.
The match went in similar pattern to the one they played out at the 2019 Grasshopper Cup where Rodriguez was forced to turn things around to get the win and the 2018 British Open winner did the same again today, using his fitness to make the match more physical and push ahead to get a foothold back in the game in the third.
It looked as though it could have been an early exit for Rodriguez in the fourth though when he found himself three match balls down, but Salem’s play began to get edgy as he neared the finish line and Rodriguez showed his mental resilience to draw level.
It was one-way traffic at the start of the fifth with the No.6 seed powering into a 6-2 lead before Salem showed off his expert racket skills to get back to within a point. But Rodriguez found another gear to push himself over the finish line and take the win in 83 minutes.
"Salem had to hit four winners to win that rally!"— PSA World Tour (@PSAWorldTour) December 15, 2020
Breathtaking speed on show from
MiguelSquash</a> but that is top drawer from <a href="https://twitter.com/ZahedSalem_?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">ZahedSalem_ #BlackBallOpen pic.twitter.com/i6p26hwVDt
Rodriguez will face the winner of Egypt’s Mostafa Asal v New Zealand’s Paul Coll in the next round.
“I never gave up,” said Rodriguez afterwards.
“I think I was three match balls down and it happened the same time when I played him in Switzerland. With him, it’s always tough matches – it was a mental game, my short game wasn’t there today and I was a bit edgy on the shots. I was trying to go too short to finish the rallies and I had to keep the same strategy as the day before – they like to play short rallies, so I was focusing on playing a lengthy game with a little bit of pace and it worked.
“The good thing is that I’m in shape, I’m injury free and I’m enjoying this last tournament – sometimes it’s tough to enjoy when you are losing in the match with that pressure and you want to give more. It’s difficult to adapt to the game and you have to play your ‘A’ game plan, I managed to dig in and finally did it.
“I think it’s going to be a great match for the audience [Mostafa Asal v Paul Coll], they played at the Pyramids and had a fantastic match – I’m going to sit back at the hotel and enjoy the match.”
 Miguel Rodriguez (COL) bt  Zahed Salem (EGY) 3-2: 5-11, 9-11, 11-7, 13-11, 11-6 (83m)