By RJ Mitchell
Jonah Barrington believes that Mostafa Asal may be on “the pathway to greatness” after his epic triumph at the 2021 U.S. Open presented by Truist.
The 20-year-old prevailed in a 103-minute quarter final against British Open champion Paul Coll before surviving match ball in a 96-minute semi-final against Diego Elias to reach his first U.S. open final.
But once there ‘The Raging Bull’ soon found himself two games down and again forced to save a match point against former World Champion Tarek Momen, before he claimed the sixth and biggest title of his career, after 91-minutes of mesmerising squash.
Barrington, the father of the modern professional game, watched Asal’s progress on SQUASHTV, with the action live from the new multi-million-dollar Arlen Specter US Squash Center in Philadelphia.
Now the former six-time British Open champion has pronounced Asal as the game’s coming force and believes that one day he may well be acknowledged as a great when the dust settles on what is still a fledgling career.
“Mostafa has proved he was the missing piece in the recent World Championship jigsaw and now he really has announced his arrival, and with continual hunger and hard work, might well be on the pathway that will lead to greatness.
“The young man had a monumental tournament and his larger frame had to be suffering after the intensity of both the quarter and semi-finals. Yet we are now well aware of his supreme will to win.
“He was forced to claw his way back to parity at 8-8 in the third and somehow, I don’t really know how, finally turned the tide to nick the third 11-9 and make it game on!
“The fourth game defied belief. 23 minutes of the highest-class action and with no quarter given, a championship point for Tarek at 10-9, victory so near for him, but foiled by two errors and a stroke, 12-10 to Asal and there was now no stopping him in the fifth.
“The way Mostafa maintained continuity as he repeatedly spun round in the forecourt, such wonderful powerful mobility, unstoppable and now the new US Open champion in a mind-boggling 91 minutes. All of that leads me to believe this may well be the first major step on a career that leads him to greatness.”
Yet Barrington was also impressed by the efforts of beaten finalist Momen, who may have lost the final but, at 33-years-old, produced some of his best squash in recent times with the subtlety of his work, particularly on the backhand volley, unrivalled by any at the elite level.
“It must also be remembered that Tarek had only overcome Joel Makin after a titanic struggle to make the final and he was flawless in the first two games, tight, immaculate and almost error free. Wonderfully, as always, light-footed and with an artist’s touch on the backhand wing especially.,” said Barrington.
“Tarek has an incredible touch on the volley and ability to bring the ball out of the air and just above the tin and he balanced out that incredible short game with greater quality to the back court and it was a fine effort from Tarek. It was also his best form for some time and due credit to him.”
Taking an overview of the tournament, Barrington has no doubt that it was a supreme demonstration of the game’s rude health in which a number of the next generation of stars announced themselves as major threats.
Peru's Diego Elias
“When last did the numbers one and two in the world and the two top seeds in the US Open get taken out in the quarter finals?
“It so rarely happens, Ali Farag and Mohamed El Shorbagy sent on their way by Joel Makin and Diego Elias respectively.
“Joel had his most remarkable tournament to date as he partially destroyed the Egyptian national team to reach the semis, finally failing by a whisker in another extended battle with Tarek.
“Diego lost the first game against Mohamed but then took control to level and the ailing ‘Beast’ found it increasingly tough to stay in the match.
“Diego seemed well on course as he took the first two games in his semi with Mostafa after Asal had overcome a rather flat Paul Coll in his quarter, but the young Egyptian continued to throw down the gauntlet comprehensively winning the third and fourth games before the Peruvian got to within striking distance of the finishing line.
“Yet again, Asal, the pretender to the ultimate thrown, dug even deeper to finally seal the matter in a nerve shredding tie-break and so the die was cast for that epic final. But there is no doubt that the 2021 US Open was a championship that will linger long in the memory.
“But the last US Open was I believe over 10 days and the 2021 edition over just six days and of course it followed on from a series of events across different time zones and obviously this drained some players. Amanda Sobhy was clearly exhausted, so I hope more care can be taken in the future with scheduling.”
Jonah was also keen to highlight the age-defying performance of former World No.1 James Willstrop who belittled his 38 years to dispatch World No.15 Mohamed Abouelghar and World No.5 Marwan ElShorbagy before eventually succumbing to Momen in the quarters.
“A mention must be made of the peerless James Willstrop, who continued his love affair with our game and undoubtedly made his late father Malcolm, looking down from above, proud.
“The Marksman defied the aging process to take down Abouelghar and Marwan and only bowed out after a considerable stab at the in-form Momen and he should be proud of his efforts.”
For more information on the rerelease of Jonah’s fascinating three books: “Murder in the Squash Court,’ ‘The Life of Jonah’ and ‘Jonah: The Official Autobiography’ please visit wwwjonahbarrington.com.