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QATAR CLASSIC DAY TWO: GLASS COURT - PLAYER REACTION

It's day two of the Qatar QTerminals Classic taking place at the Khalifa International Tennis & Squash Complex in Doha, as the seeded players enter the draw

Stay tuned here as we bring you all the reaction from the players in action on the glass court, including the likes of the top seeds, Egypt's Mohamed ElShorbagy and New Zealand's Paul Coll.

You can watch all of the action from the glass court live on SQUASHTV (worldwide), while courts one and two will be streamed live and for free on both our YouTube Channel.

In addition, top seed Mohamed ElShorbagy's match against Egyptian compatriot Youssef Ibrahim will be streamed FREE on the PSA World Tour Facebook page!

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Hot form on cold court sees Rooney progress

Patrick Rooney

England’s Patrick Rooney progressed to the third round with a rapid-fire win over India’s Ramit Tandon.

On an unforgiving court, Rooney took first game 11-9, only for Tandon to strike back to take the second 11-5 in seven minutes.

While Tandon had looked confident in the second, mistakes crept into his game in the third. Despite Rooney also struggling, the Englishman took the third game 11-6, again in seven minutes.

Rooney kept momentum to seal the match with another 11-6 win to progress to the third round in just 37 minutes.

After the match, Rooney said: “I’m very proud, it’s unexpected to reach the third round. I was looking at reaching the top-16 level in the world, so if I look at it like that, I can’t not be proud of myself. I’m gaining a lot of experience playing these tournaments and it’s showing in these matches I’m having where it’s getting close like this and yesterday, the one in the U.S. Open and I’m able to come through it even though things aren’t always going my way. I’m getting a lot of experience and learning from these events.

“I was fairly familiar [with Ramit before today]. He comes to Pontefract where I train and we’ve practiced together a few times. I know a lot about him and I know how he plays. We’re both pretty similar, we like to hit the ball quite nicely, use different shots, hold and send people the wrong way. So, I kind of knew what to expect, but on this court, you don’t know what could happen. If he plays well, he could beat me, if I play well, it could go either way, so I had to be on form really.

“I was trying to hit accurate shots and they weren’t quite coming off, so I just had to have a word with myself and come back on, keep it simple and be accurate to the back, try and get him behind you and play the simple shots if I can, still go for the attacking option if it’s on, but play a bit more safe and be a bit more solid. I had to have a really good word with myself so I don’t self-destruct!


“I hope [Joel Makin and Iker Pajares Bernabeu] tire each other out and I’ll go watch them now, see what their weaknesses are and exploit it when I play them. But it’s going to take a lot to get past either of them, as long as I come in fresh and with a good game plan and am mentally all there then I can give it my best.” 

Result:
Patrick Rooney (ENG) bt Ramit Tandon (IND) 3-1: 11-9, 5-11, 11-6, 11-6 (37m)

Elias comes back twice to beat James

Diego Elias

Peruvian No.6 seed Diego Elias is through to a third-round match against Gregoire Marche, despite an uneven performance against England’s Declan James.

James takes first game 12-10, with both players making a number of errors.

Elias recovered well in the second, taking the first five points on his way to a match-levelling 11-6 win, only for James to move ahead again with an 11-9 win.

Elias finally awoke in the fourth, looking back to his devastating best as he bagled James in five minutes to take the match into a fifth game.

Elias continued to bulldoze his way through James early in the fifth game, and despite a briefly-threatened James comeback, closed out the victory with an 11-8 win.

After the match, Elias said: “I’m happy with the win. It wasn’t the match I wanted. He started playing well and I couldn’t find the [way] to hit the ball. Everything was staying short and he was hitting good shots. I’m happy with how I played at the end until 5-0 in the fifth. Those last two games are how I want to play. All credit to him, he knew how to come back in the match. I’m happy with the win and it’s time to get ready for tomorrow.

“I think I’ve been around the top eight for a while now. It’s time for me to get some good wins and start winning tournaments. I’m training well and feeling good, so I just want to try and forget about this match and how it started, and focus on the rest of the tournament and try to do better.”

On his next opponent, Gregoire Marche, he said: “It’s always a tough match. He’s very quick and has good shots. I have to prepare and be at 100 percent tomorrow. Hopefully it’s a good match as always.”

Result:
[6] Diego Elias (PER) bt Declan James (ENG) 3-2: 10-12, 11-6, 9-11, 11-0, 11-8 (67m)

Asal survives Ghosal scare

Mostafa Asal

Egypt’s Mostafa Asal recorded his sixth consecutive victory to earn a third-round tie against fellow Egyptian Youssef Soliman, after coming from behind to beat India’s Saurav Ghosal.

Ghosal shocked the U.S. Open champion in the first game, coming out aggressively to take a 1-0 lead with an 11-7 win.

Asal continued to give Ghosal too much time in the second, and the Indian frequently was allowed to hit precise winners as he moved into a healthy-looking 8-6 lead. Asal, however, showed the incredible powers of recovery that have already become a hallmark of his fledgling career, saving game ball to claim the second game 13-11.

The third game was an even one, with Asal eventually pushing his nose in front with an 11-9 win.

Asal continued to improve in the fourth game, and he secured the match with a convincing 11-6 win.

Afterwards, Asal said: “I’m definitely [excited]. I want to thank everyone. To be here again in Doha is something special for me. It’s one of the best tournaments I’ve played and me and my father, before last year, we were enjoying our sets here in Doha, so I’m glad I’m back with all eyes on the tournament here.

“This was a completely different match [to their last encounter]. Saurav played very well. I think [with] a little bit of a push he could have won the match. I’m glad I covered and read the game well at the end. The court here is a little tricky and I need to adapt, match by match. I’m glad to make it today. Saurav is so experienced and to play against him is such a pleasure for me.

“I think we are not like in football, there aren’t 11 or 22 players. But squash players have lots of trainers, coaches, mental coaches. [We have] a very strong team, with your father and mother. 11 people surround you, so mentally I don’t focus on anything, I only focus on my squash. I’m playing as a 20-year-old but I don’t think about my age, because I think if you think about your age you will not achieve anything, because you will say to yourself ‘I’m young’ or when you’re playing a Platinum tournament ‘Oh wow, I’m here to participate only.’ But I’m not participating in any tournament, I’m here to win. Every match I’ll fight for the win.”

On his next opponent Youssef Soliman, he said: “I don’t know what the result was but it was a very good and tough match. I hope we can put on a great show and thanks to the people who came to support me today, I was hearing lots of ‘Mostafa’ today, thank you all and I’m ready for the next round.”

Result:
[7] Mostafa Asal (EGY) bt Saurav Ghosal (IND) 3-1: 7-11, 13-11, 11-9, 11-6 (69m)

Abouelghar downs No.5 seed Gawad

Mohamed Abouelghar

In a stop-start match, Mohamed Abouelghar beat Egyptian compatriot and No.5 seed Karim Abdel Gawad to proceed to a third-round tie against Adrian Waller.

Gawad started much the stronger of the two and took the first game 11-4.

Abouelghar came back hard in the second, requiring just seven minutes to dispatch Gawad 11-3.

Play became increasingly physical as the match wore on, with the two frequently colliding. In a 16-minute third game, Abouelghar eked out a hard-fought 11-8 win.

That third game victory proved to be decisive and Gawad struggled in the remainder of the match, with Abouelghar taking a comfortable 11-3 win to see out the contest.

Speaking after the match, Abouelghar said: “I cannot put into words how much I needed this win. I’ve been losing a lot of 3-2s recently and it just got into my head too much. I managed to stay focused, put my head down and just keep working. I’m very happy with the performance tonight, I just kept it together until the end and without going for too much flashy stuff. I’m very, very happy.


“The draw has been brutal to me everywhere, not just in Qatar. I’ve been playing these [top] guys in first rounds a lot of times in the last two seasons. It’s good to do it the hard way. I always say to myself ‘If you want to reach the finals and semi finals, you have to beat one of these guys,' so playing them early doesn’t change how I approach the tournament. Hopefully I can carry on from the performance I had tonight and keep going forward.”

On his next opponent, Adrian Waller, who went through with a walkover due to an injury to Mohamed ElSherbini, he said: “Me and Adrian, we’ve played a lot of times, we broke through together and played the small tournaments going up to the big tournaments, so we both know what to expect. He’s a great player and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a good match for the crowd.”

Result:
Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) bt [5] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) 3-1: 4-11, 11-3, 11-8, 11-3 (45m)

ElShorbagy Comes Through Five-Game Tussle with Golan

Marwan ElShorbagy in action

No.4 seed Marwan ElShorbagy came back from 2-1 down to avoid a surprise defeat against Spanish veteran Borja Golan.

ElShorbagy and Golan had won two matches apiece in their four previous PSA meetings, but it was their first meeting since 2016 when ElShorbagy won in five games at the Allam British Open.

In fact, both of ElShorbagy’s victories had gone the distance, and today was no different as the Egyptian secured an 11-9, 10-12, 11-13, 11-7, 11-6 victory in 65 minutes.

Golan’s game plan was to move ElShorbagy around the court, but ‘The Jackal’ was up to to the task as he held his opponent at bay to take the opening game.

38-year-old Golan is one of the most experienced players on the PSA World Tour though as well as one of the most tenacious, and the Spaniard won the second game to draw level before overturning four game balls in the third to take a surprise lead.

ElShorbagy thought he’d won it after a no let was given against Golan at 11-10, but a video review decision soon overturned that to a let, and the Egyptian wasn’t able to keep his focus as Golan rattled off three successive points.

However, ElShorbagy stepped up the court and began to take control of the ’T’ with some intelligent play from the World No.5 sapping the energy from Golan’s legs. He was duly rewarded with a victory in game four to tie the scores, and he kept his opponent at arm’s length to wrap up the win in the decider.

“Before this match I knew how tough it was going to be,” said ElShorbagy afterwards.

“Borja is a great player, he’s done so much in his career and he’s had a great career. It’s probably easier to come from Egypt and be good, but he’s come from Spain and gotten to World No.5 and reaches major finals. I grew up watching him, he was a role model to me and he inspired me a lot.

“It’s a pleasure to share a court with him once again.

“I tried to stay in the match and he had a few chances, he was leading in the fourth but I stuck to my game plan and I know it worked. It’s tough to play Borja, on his day he’s very hard to beat, so I’m very glad to be able to win today.”

ElShorbagy also gave his thoughts on the recent retirement of French legend Gregory Gaultier, saying: “Greg has done so much for the sport and he’s had a career that everyone would dream of having. People probably just see him on court, but off court he is one of the nicest people you could ever meet.

“If you ask for advice he will give it to you. I was very lucky last year to train in Prague with him for a week where I learned a lot from him and his experience. It’s a sad day for him but I want to congratulate him for his career and for everything he has achieved.

“He means a lot to all of the players and we will definitely miss him on tour.”

ElShorbagy will play Germany’s Raphael Kandra in the last 16 and is expecting a difficult test, saying: “I played Rapha last season in August at the British Open. We always have tough matches and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Result
[4] Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) bt Borja Golan (ESP) 3-2: 11-9, 10-12, 11-13, 11-7, 11-6 (65m)

Momen Takes Out Willstrop

Tarek Momen in action

No.3 seed Tarek Momen booked his place in the last 16 after getting the better of 2005 champion James Willstrop in straight games.

Momen and Willstrop met two weeks ago in the quarter-finals of the U.S. Open, with the former getting the better of the Englishman in four games.

Momen has often found his best squash in Doha – which was the scene of his 2019 PSA World Championship triumph as well his first major final in 2017 – and he nullified Willstrop’s incredible shot-making skills and sent the 38-year-old into the front of the court regularly.

The World No.4 completed an 11-5, 11-9, 11-9 victory to claim his seventh win in a row over the former World No.1, while it’s also the third time in a row he has sent him out of the Qatar Classic.

“I think we’ve played here in Qatar three out of the last four years and we’ve just played in Philly, so I was thinking ‘not again’,” said Momen.

“On the other side of the coin, it’s such a pleasure to play him always. He’s fair and the way he plays is incredible, you can never play a match against him and not enjoy it whether you win or lose. Of course, it feels a lot better when you come out the winner, but I enjoy what he does with the racket and you always try to outmanoeuvre him.

“I always feel at home coming here. The best memory I’ll ever have in my whole career was here in 2019, these guys [the fans] made it happen for me and they will always be part of my legacy in this sport. If I write a story about my journey, this is going to be the highlight and they were a part of it.”

Result
[3] Tarek Momen (EGY) bt James Willstrop (ENG) 3-0: 11-5, 11-9, 11-9 (38m)

Ibrahim Sends ElShorbagy Out Once Again

Youssef Ibrahim celebrates his win over Mohamed ElShorbagy

Egypt’s World No.17 Youssef Ibrahim has sent World No.2 Mohamed ElShorbagy to an early exit at the Qatar Classic for the second year in succession after he toppled ‘The Beast’ in four games.

It marks the first time since the 2018 Channel VAS Championships that ElShorbagy has bowed out at the second round of a PSA World Tour event, while it is the first time since the 2009 Qatar Classic that ElShorbagy has failed to win a match at a major PSA tournament.

Ibrahim stunned the three-time Qatar Classic champion last November when he took ElShorbagy out with a 3-2 victory on their first ever PSA meeting and the win went his way once again as he completed an 11-3, 11-5, 7-11, 11-9 triumph in 47 minutes.

It was a slow start from ElShorbagy, who lacked the usual fire and physicality which have helped propel him into the discussion as one of the finest players ever to pick up a squash racket.

Ibrahim quickly found himself two games up despite a short break for a blood injury in the opening game, but he couldn’t keep the ball out of the tin in the third game. Those errors, coupled with an increase in intensity from ElShorbagy, saw the No.1 seed come back to halve the deficit.

But the uncharacteristic errors that had dogged ElShorbagy throughout the first two games soon returned and Ibrahim was able to hold off his opponent to claim a place in the third round of this year’s Qatar Classic.

“I expected myself to play really well,” Ibrahim said.

“Mohamed is known as ‘The Beast’ and his mentality is so strong, he probably has the strongest mentality of any squash player. I knew my win against him last year would rile him up and he would come at me today and I didn’t want to be a victim. I’m also the kind of player who plays better when I’m angry, so I tried to give myself a reason to be angry today.

“I knew he would come at me strongly, so I was very prepared from the start. He tried to push the pace so hard at the beginning and I equalled him. I didn’t want anyone to say it was a lucky win and I’m happy to be competing with the top 10 guys and beating them consistently. I think my tactics worked out well and I held my nerves well throughout the match.

“I’m still a student athlete at Princeton University in the US, so I’m not a full-time pro yet. Luckily, the pandemic worked in my favour, I used that whole year to train in Egypt with the best players in the world and I was able to play some tournaments. Shout out to the Princeton squash team, they’re actually watching back home and they’re cheering me, so go Tigers.

“I’m lucky that this year I got to travel and play professionally, but I trained super hard. I wouldn’t say I don’t deserve it, I’m a little bit lucky but I was mentally tough and my results have been consistent throughout the whole season. I’m happy I’m getting a step further at every tournament.”

Ibrahim will take on compatriot Mazen Hesham next for a place in the quarter finals.

Result
Youssef Ibrahim (EGY) bt [1] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) 3-1: 11-3, 11-5, 7-11, 11-9 (47m)

Coll Marks 400th PSA Appearance with a Win

Paul Coll in action

New Zealand’s Paul Coll has marked his 400th PSA Tour appearance with a straightforward 3-0 win over Portugal’s Rui Soares.

Soares yesterday became the first Portuguese player to win a match at a PSA World Tour Platinum event with his first round victory over Mexico’s Cesar Salazar, and the World No.68 showed some nice touches throughout.

It was Coll’s match to lose though and the No.2 seed made no mistake with a thoroughly professional performance, winning 11-4, 11-3, 11-5 in 25 minutes to set up a third round fixture with Frenchman Baptiste Masotti.

“The final last year came at a really good time for me,” said Coll, who lost out to World No.1 Ali Farag in the 2020 title decider.

“It gave me a lot of confidence in my career to reach a big final. I was stagnating and then I came to Qatar, made the final, and it was a really big boost for me mentally. I’ve got really memories of this court and Qatar, I love coming here and hopefully it’s third time lucky this year.

“I always used to watch the legends like Gaultier racking up those big numbers. It means that I’ve had consistency throughout tournaments which I pride myself on. 400 is a small milestone, but you’ve got to enjoy these things when they come along throughout your career and it’s a nice little feeling.”

Result
[2] Paul Coll (NZL) bt Rui Soares (POR) 3-0: 11-4, 11-3, 11-5 (26m)

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