By RJ Mitchell
Simon Rösner believes that Marwan ElShorbagy’s recent CIB Black Ball Open triumph means he must be viewed as a dangerous contender for squash’s two major titles which will be held later this summer, the British Open and the World Championships.
In a recent exclusive interview with the PSA, ‘The Jackal’ made it clear that he has those two pre-eminent championships in his sights and is determined to ascend to World No.1 status.
After watching ElShorbagy’s recent triumph in downtown Cairo, Rösner believes his former foe, one with whom he came up against on nine occasions on the PSA World Tour, is a real threat when it comes to finally landing his maiden major.
The German, who announced his retirement on December 21, 2020, when still well inside the top ten in the World Rankings, was also keen to provide an interesting insight into why he always regarded ‘The Jackal’ as a “nightmare”.
The great German also believes that the World No.5’s defeat of Fares Dessouky in last month’s Black Ball final will be giving his rivals sleepless nights.
“Marwan is in great form and he has the momentum as winning Black Ball the way he did was very impressive. From what I could see, he is super keen right now and really hungry, he has always been crazy hungry but that has gone to a new level,” Rösner said.
“I also think that after winning Black Ball, he has taken a lot of self-belief from that, he always backed himself but adding the Black Ball to the World Tour Finals he won last summer, well it will be a nightmare to beat him now, for sure.
“Maybe to call him the favourite for the big titles to come like El Gouna, the British and of course, the Worlds, is a big call because there is a group of guys who all have a shout, but Marwan is right in there.”
When it came to his dissection of ElShorbagy’s weaponry, Rösner was pinpoint in his analysis:
“I haven’t played Marwan in the last 12 months but from what I have seen watching him, then obviously he is super smart and you can’t imagine how difficult it is to beat this guy, it’s just crazy difficult, believe me!” the German said.
“Watching Marwan on SquashTV, it doesn’t come across how difficult it is to win points against him when you are on court with him. He is so smart, and he chooses the right ball at the right time and he puts you into the corners where he has to put you and that makes it super difficult for you as a player to actually win rallies.
“So, Marwan just really makes you work, and he was always one of the guys I never liked to play against as he is just very smart.
“In the last game he had with Paul Coll, (Black Ball Quarter-final) he was very impressive as he was cramping in the fifth and he was struggling quite a lot. But he had a decent lead at maybe 9-6 and although he was fatigued, he still managed to pull it out. So, it really was very impressive and from both guys, it was a great match.
“But Marwan is very street-wise, and he is also very good in these crucial moments. For example, if you are playing in a tie-break and it’s in the fifth game then you mostly see Marwan come through in these crucial moments as he is mentally top-notch.
“So, even although he won the Black Ball and had momentum, I don’t see the two-month break to El Gouna hurting him and maybe it’s even better for Marwan!”
Yet when the PSA World Tour resumes at elite level with the El Gouna International Open next month, the former World No.3 reckons Fares Dessouky will be among the strongest challengers in a cast that will include the usual suspects.
“You also have to look at Fares Dessouky. After winning last year’s Black Ball he has come right back and made the final again this time around and beating Ali Farag from match ball down was very impressive in December,” the ‘Tree-Chopper’ said.
“Then you still have those guys like Ali [Farag], Mohamed [ElShorbagy], Paul [Coll], Tarek [Momen], Diego Elias and for sure Joel Makin is knocking on the door very strongly.
“So, anything can happen, and it is just so open and that is without putting in Karim [Abdel Gawad] in there as he has been struggling with injury. But based on his past record if he is fit then he is one of the favourites to win any tournament, especially if they are in Egypt. All of this is very exciting for the tour.”
Yet with the postponement of the Manchester Open, which was scheduled for play this week, Rosner admits the two-month lag between tournaments will test the mental mettle of his former rivals as they prepare to go again.
“I think the delay favours the Egyptians a bit as they have so many guys they can play and train with over there. For example, Paul Coll had already text me to arrange a couple of hits before the Manchester Open and now that Manchester has been postponed, we have pushed that back for a few weeks,” the German explained.
“I know that Paul is trying to get good matches in before El Gouna and I would do exactly the same and I guess it will be the same for Mohamed [ElShorbagy] but those very high standard games in training are going to be tough for guys based in Europe to get. That is where the Egypt based guys have the advantage.
“They may just have a 30-minute drive to get that type of top quality but at the same time it is up to the individual who copes with all of that best. At the end of the day even that type of top-quality practise match is not the same as tournament play.
“So even if Paul has the chance to practice with Ali in Egypt it is a different story to tournament and competition matches. Basically, it is up to each guy to keep his mind free and do everything he can to prepare as best as possible in his circumstances.
“You have a scenario where you are playing a tournament and then having three months before the next one and then it is another two months before you go again. So, for me the most important thing is keeping yourself mentally in your best place.”
The World Championship semi-finalist may have retired from the PSA World Tour but as he explained, he has never been so busy and is determined to maintain a high standard in order to keep representing Germany in international action.
“I keep myself busy, still training, still trying to be on court as much as I can and staying fit so I can stay at a good level. But at the same time, I am working part-time at Würzburg, which is the city in Bavaria where I grew up and my parents and sister and brother still live there,” he said.
“I am coaching some kids there who have great potential and I hope to get them to a really good standard and to push them up the German rankings and maybe get them to the level I played at.
“At the same time, I am working myself into the management of the club, TSC-Heuchelhof, which is a tennis and squash club, with a view to taking that role on in the future.
“I also did my fitness coach licence and I’m working Thursday and Friday in a gym which has just been built by a good friend of mine who was also a sponsor of mine and this is in Paderborn where I live with my family.
“Then at the weekends I will play Bundesliga for my team in Paderborn and that is a big priority as Paderborner Squash – club where I started my professional career, is very important for me and I also want to continue representing Germany.
“So, it is busy but very enjoyable.”