By RJ Mitchell
Rod Martin has revealed that Mohamed ElShorbagy’s primary target for the remainder of the season is to claim a second World Championship.
The 30-year-old claimed the El Gouna International Open last time out with an emphatic victory over Paul Coll and will head into next week’s CIB PSA World Tour Finals as the PSA World Tour’s man in form.
The Alexandrian will now bid to back that impressive success up and continue to close the ranking points gap on World No.1 Ali Farag, who did not play at the El Gouna Conference and Culture Center, as he bids to reclaim the top spot for a fifth time in his garlanded career.
But with ElShorbagy’s sole World title coming some four years back, when he defeated his brother Marwan in five games, Martin admits that while ElShorbagy is hungry for what would be his third World Tour Finals title, July’s World Championships remains The Beast’s ultimate target.
With ElShorbagy scheduled to join up with Martin for an extended pre-World Championship training camp at Martin’s US base after next week’s CIB PSA World Tour Finals, the former World Champion admits that he will be looking for a strong showing from his man at the Mall of Arabia and one which can act as a springboard to World title glory.
“Mentally and physically, if Mohamed wins the World Tour Finals that is great, and it would certainly provide a positive platform for the World Championships. But it is the latter we are targeting, that is the major goal for the last part of the tour,” Martin said.
“To get another World Championships would mean everything to Mohamed. He wants to be the best player he wants to win these major tournaments and he will be giving everything to do so. He has done a lot of good work leading into the majors and now we have the CIB PSA World Tour Finals looming and that is another great opportunity to get some good hard matches in.
“Then Mohamed will be in America for a few weeks before the World Championships and we will be doing plenty of work to sharpen him up further, make sure he is hitting the ball really well, reinforcing the mental aspect of his game and I am really looking forward to that.”
Despite ElShorbagy’s impressive triumph at El Gouna, Martin admitted it has not been easy to do the coaching base work with his star pupil:
“I haven’t been on court with Mohamed for well over a year, but we talk on the phone all the time. He also sends me videos through, and we review his matches like the ones he played with Joel [Makin] and a few other guys at St George’s [in a recent exhibition series] so there has been the opportunity to watch how Mohamed has been progressing.
“Also, his work with Hadrian Stiff has been hugely beneficial and again Mohamed has sent me videos of that, so there has been a combination of all sorts of work that he has been busy working on and that all came good at El Gouna.“
With quarter-final and third round defeats in ElShorbagy’s previous two outings at the Black Ball Open and Qatar Classic respectively, Martin admitted he had heard chatter that ‘The Beast’ was starting to lose his bite.
But with the Egyptian taking down Coll in a three-game 47-minute battle in the El Gouna final and proving that was somewhat premature, Martin was in bullish mood as he assessed ElShorbagy’s aims and ambitions for the season’s final furlong which includes a defence of the World No.2’s British Open crown.
Mohamed ElShorbagy after winning the El Gouna International
“I was hugely happy with what Mohamed achieved at El Gouna because there was talk about him sliding and getting older, but Mohamed is a very driven guy and one who is very determined to keep improving,” the coach said.
“He takes information and listens, absorbs it and takes it on aboard the right way and the last three or four months there have been things that he has been working on to become a better player and some of that came out at El Gouna.
“I could really see the changes brought about by that and there was some of that based on the mental side of things. Particularly in the final he got himself in the right mental shape to play his best squash and to be a bit more mistake free.
“That was something that we needed to improve on as he has not been that way for maybe the last year and a half. Bottom line, in a lot of his matches he has made more unforced errors than he used to. So, we really wanted to make him miserly in this regard and not give away free points to his opponents and that impacted in the way he played the final.
“He got on top of Paul [Coll] pretty quickly and frustrated him and Paul didn’t know what to do and that was very pleasing from a Mohamed perspective.”
Martin also reckons that the absence of Ali Farag at the El Gouna only increased the burden of expectancy on his charge: “Without Ali playing it was Mohamed’s to win and he was seeded to win and for him to handle that in the emphatic way he did was very satisfying from our point of view.
“On top of that he had difficult circumstances like changing courts in his match with Joel Makin in the quarter-final, with stopping the match and going to a normal court probably suiting Joel more and Mohamed dealt with all of that sort of stuff really well.
“I also thought he was very impressive in the way he dealt with [Fares] Dessouky, who has been one of the tour’s form players recently, in the semis. So, to make the final and show that he is fit enough and strong enough to beat these sort of players it was great to see.”