Day ONE, Round ONE

It was a typically busy opening day in El Gouna, with 32 Round One matches played out on four courts at El Gouna Squash Centre.

With today’s winners mostly going through to play a top sixteen seed in Round Two, the men’s upsets saw Portugal’s Rui Soares, Hong Kong’s Henry Leung and Hungary’s Balasz Farkas get the better of 17/32 seeds to progress.

In the women’s draw Malaysia’s Aira Azman was the only unseeded winner as she joined big sister Aifa in Round Two.

Read on for reports and reaction …


Evening Matches Reaction

18.15 Matches
Eain Yow Ng (Mas) 3-1 Cesar Salazar (Mex) 11-13, 11-5, 11-7, 11-2 (52m)
Youssef Ibrahim (Egy) 3-1 Andrew Douglas (Usa) 11-5, 11-7, 4-11, 13-11 (42m)
Leandro Romiglio (Arg) 3-1 [wc] Moustafa Elsirty (Egy) 8-11, 11-7, 11-9, 11-6 (68m)
Henry Leung (Hkg) 3-2 Auguste Dussourd (Fra) 11-6, 5-11, 9-11, 11-4, 11-6 (61m)

Leung v Dussourd : Auguste was not as his best physically, his ankle was heavily strapped but not sure how much incidence it had on the match overall. Like the match between Aifa and Nour, the ref Roy Gingell was kept very busy bless him and adopted the same attitude than for that match: no let and stroke were given galore…

Henry managed to take a very good start in the 5th, maybe the ankle started to hurt a bit for the French from the 4th game on. He looked not at his best in his movement from that point on, although he never stopped trying.

Henry : I’m feeling so great. With Auguste, we played a few times, quite a lot actually, and we always have close battles, 5 games. This time, I came on court with more confident.

Before the match, I heard that he twisted his ankle a little bit, but I didn’t think too much about it and focused on my game.

Luckily, I took the first game, and then found myself 2/1 down. I was able to come back in the 4th because of my fitness.

In the second and third game, I volley-cross to him, so he didn’t have to run that much. But when I realised what I was doing, I played more straight drives and that was the key. Even if the ref started to penalise me a lot!!

The fact I straightened my game is the reason why I managed to win the 4th and 5th. I’d like to thank my opponent today. We are very good friends. I’m lucky to win the match today.

Tomorrow, I’m playing Dimitri for the first time on PSA. We practice a lot but never actually played a real match. But for now, I need to do a good recovery, then good food, good sleep, maybe I’ll watch a bit of his matches tomorrow morning. And I will see with my coach what game plan to prepare.

Youssef : Yes, we had a pretty tough match a few weeks ago, in Pittsburgh, went to 5. It’s not so much what he does, it’s more what I do!

We played a lot in the juniors, and we played in College Squash as well, so there is that added pressure that comes with it. We played a lot of 5 setters.

Today, I made a lot of errors. I played really well in the first two games and then when the ball got soft a little bit, he used it very well. And then I was 5/1 down in the third, overcomplicated things, and I made a lot of tins, but I’m happy eventually won.

I was a bit nervous today, I managed to with that fourth, that’s good for me into tomorrow’s match, I’m playing Paul. So that match today was very important for me today, to get me in the mood a little bit, it was not too physical, more mental, so tomorrow, I’ve got to be at my best from the first point.

Leandro : It’s not easy to play Moustafa in Egypt! I knew it was going to be tough, he is a big guy, he takes a lot of space, he is very skilful with the volley, he can finish a rally very quickly.

I had to be very prepared from the start, very focused and alert. I think I executed the plan well.

In the first game, the ball was very fast and I couldn’t really get deep into the court. But then, the ball got a little bit softer, I managed to slower the pace a little bit, and that worked for me.

I got a few errors out of him because I was more patient, he was going for his shots, and he was making mistakes, so I took advantage of it.

Tomorrow, playing Marwan for the first time. So it’s going to interesting, but again, not an easy match! I’m going to enjoy it for sure, it’s going to be a good match. We all know Marwan, a very tough and talented player, so I’m going to give it all, and we’ll see…

17.30 Matches
Lucy Turmel (Eng) 3-1 Kenzy Ayman (Egy) 8-11, 11-5, 11-9, 12-10 (48m)
Sana Ibrahim (Egy) 3-1 Marie Stephan (Fra) 11-4, 11-5, 8-11, 11-4 (36m)
Georgia Adderley (Sco) 3-2 Enora Villard (Fra) “11-9, 11-5, 8-11, 9-11, 11-4 (57m)
Malak Khafagy (Egy) 3-0 Salma Eltayeb (Egy) 11-9, 11-6, 11-4 (26m)

Sana : Not too happy with my game today, because I lost focus in the third game.

The first two game were comfortable for me, I was following my game plan, making sure I was play in the four corners. But in the third, I stopped attacking and fell into her back of the court style of squash. She had some really good shots, making some kills that I couldn’t reach.

When I came out that third, my coach told me to get back to my game plan and my own game, to attack and not just play at the back. Also, I let the rallies go quite long, where I managed to make them shorter in the last game.

My draw changed, I was supposed to play Nouran Gohar, but I’m “only” playing Gina Kennedy now, hahaha. I keep having to play the top 4 in round two, but I never played Gina yet, so I’m looking forward to it.

Georgia v Enora : A superb match from both players, Enora made Georgia’s life pretty tough today I thought. A few too many errors for the French girl at the end, trying to close too quickly… But great match that.

Georgia : I think Enora played very well in the third and the fourth. Made my life very difficult.

It’s quite a tricky court to play on, it’s quite dead, so to get a ball through the court is pretty difficult. I didn’t think I did that very well in the first, it got better in the second and third, a lot better.

Couldn’t find my short game really, and I don’t think there is really a big gap, like my length became very short. But in that 5th, she made a lot of mistakes, and ultimately, that meant the scoreline helped me a lot.

I’m happy to get through, that’s for sure. Fair play to Enora, she played very well.

I’m playing Aira Azman, I lost 3/2 to her in Chicago, so I’ll be looking into avenging that. She is a very talented young player, she’s got enormous racquet skills, she digs in deep, so it will be a tough one.  It’s a good opportunity, going to try to see it as that and NOT to put any pressure on myself. Just go in and try to see if I can get that one.

16.45 Matches
Gregoire Marche (Fra) 3-0 Shahjahan Khan (Usa) 11-4, 11-3, 11-4 (30m)
Greg Lobban (Sco) 3-0 Rory Stewart (Sco) 15-13, 11-5, 12-10 (50m)
Ramit Tandon (Ind) 3-0 Aly Hussein (Egy) 11-6, 11-9, 11-5 (31m)
Dimitri Steinmann (Sui) 3-1 Juan Camilo Vargas (Col) 11-5, 8-11, 11-9, 11-4 (64m)

Greg Lobban : I was really important I’d focused on myself, playing someone who is your team mate, and a very good friend, you’ve got to put all that aside a little bit and focus on my strengths like I would do with anyone else.

I don’t think I ever liked playing Alan Clyne and now it’s Rory. It’s not the best of matches when two best friends play each other, there is not that much space on the court because you know what they are going to do before they do it!

I’m happy to win, obviously, but sad that I had to play Rory in the first round.

I’m playing Miguel. Not sure if he got his bag back yet or not! It seems to work for him last week, so, maybe he’ll keep playing with the same outfit; maybe that’s the secret for him!

I’ve played him a few times before and I know his strengths as well but again, I’ll treat it like any other match, trying to think about my strengths as well, trying to impose my game on him. I’ve been playing well recently, I think I can cause him some problems, so, I’ll go in tomorrow with the same plan and see what I can do.

Grégoire:  Shahjahan hasn’t been getting great results lately, but I know he can be a dangerous player. Since a first-round match is never easy, I took it very seriously.

Initially, I struggled to find my range, but as the match progressed, I felt I was getting quicker, got to the ball faster, and I tried to introduce more uncertainty, avoiding playing two similar shots in a row, creating more varied trajectories.

This approach worked well today, and I managed to stay focused from start to finish, which is not always the case for me! So, a good first round with positives to take forward.

Tomorrow, it’s either Yow or Cesar. It’s not a bad second round; Yow is playing well at the moment, having just won the German Open. As for Cesar, he’s getting back into form; I played him in January. Either way, there’s a good match ahead.

16.00 Matches
Hana Moataz (Egy) 3-1 [wc] Nadien Elhammamy (Egy) 11-7, 13-11, 9-11, 14-12 (61m)
Melissa Alves (Fra) 3-0 Cindy Merlo (Sui) 11-5, 11-4, 11-3 (18m)
Aira Azman (Mas) 3-1 Hana Ramadan (Egy) 11-5, 11-5, 9-11, 12-10 (58m)
Aifa Azman (Mas) 3-1 Nour Aboulmakarim (Egy) 13-11, 11-6, 10-12, 11-8 (41m)

Aifa v Nour 

Well, I hadn’t seen Roy Gingell in action for a while, Boy did I get a chance in the match between Aira and Hana !!

Thank GOD for Roy, who was able today to contain two players who seemed to have problems getting around each other. The no lets/strokes were distributed in the second, settling a bit the mayhem that seemed to want to show its ugly head.

The third game was also very active for Roy, both players getting penalised successively. I feel experience at that level paid off for the Malaysian but it was not a match to remember, for either of them.

Aifa :  “A first win of the year for me! I’m very happy with the progress because I’ve not been playing my best while I was recovering from my knee injury. I’m very glad to win here; I made it into the third round last year so hopefully I can get there or more!

“I’m very happy to win with my sister today. This is her first time in El Gouna and we’ve been having fun here – a lot of fun! I’ve been supporting her, not really giving her advice but just supporting her all the way!”

Aira : “My knee is a bit swollen according to my physio. My physio is here so it should be fine, I’m in good hands. I think she played really well last week against Rowan so I was a bit nervous coming in today, but I had nothing to lose. I’m lower seeded and there was no pressure on me. I just tried to play some good squash and I’m very happy with my performance today.

“Aifa came over right after her win, so I felt much better; I felt the support, and that support meant a lot to me.”

Hana Moataz : Today was not about last week’s event in BlackBall but just about playing a young up and coming player. In the previous tournament, I just wanted to prove to myself, that I can compete with the top players, and that I belong up there as well.

Today, completely different thingy, a young player, very hungry, she has nothing to lose, she’ll play her best and she’ll give it all. I was a bit nervous at times, but I was glad I was able to win at the end.

Tomorrow, back with playing Amina again. I’m excited, as it’s not usual to have the chance to play the same person twice in the space of a week. And it was a pretty big win for me, although she is WAY YOUNGER than I am.

I don’t think there is any pressure on me, the pressure is on her, different court conditions as well. So, excited to give it all again, play my best and see what happens.

Afternoon Matches reaction

14.15 Matches
Rui Soares (Por) 3-2 Yahya Elnawasany (Egy) 11-9, 4-11, 6-11, 11-9, 13-11 (48m)
Leonel Cardenas (Mex) 3-0 [wc] Seif Tamer (Egy) 11-7, 11-1, 11-9 (35m)
Balasz Farkas (Hun) 3-0 Omar Mosaad (Egy) 11-7, 11-8, 12-10 (39m)
Raphael Kandra (Ger) 3-0 Faraz Khan (Usa) 11-2, 11-3, 11-4 (13m)

Raphael : Matches like these on a big stage, a Platinum event, it’s the highest stage we can play on. I don’t think this is a right attitude for a player to come in and perform like that.
I don’t know the background at all, I’ve no idea what’s wrong with him. If he is feeling sick, if he is injured.

Some rallies, he was really trying, splitting to the balls, so he didn’t even give a sh.. sorry for my language.

I don’t think it’s ok.

We should be giving junior players the opportunity of trying to get through, who REALLY wants to, like Elkabbani, who just played three really close games against Nicki. He tried the best he could. And every one, at that stage, should do it that way.

This is not a 3K or a 5K. This is a Platinum.

Farkas : It’s not easy to play against any Egyptian players in Egypt!  I had played Mosaad a few years ago and he beat me 3/0. So I learned from that match. Mosaad is really a hard up on end, you need to raise your accuracy to make him move around, he is go big and so strong on the T area.

I think I’m played good squash today, I had to defend a lot but then I was able to get to the front and start attacking, and I’m happy with my game.

Tomorrow, I’m playing Tarek, not sure at what time but I’ll be ready for it! I have my dad travelling with me this time and that doesn’t happen often. So I’m happy that hopefully we will be able to work out a tactical plan for the match…

13.30 Matches
Jasmine Hutton (Eng) 3-0 Lee Ka Yi (Hkg) 11-6, 11-7, 11-6 (26m)
Tesni Murphy (Wal) 3-2 Nicole Bunyan (Can) 9-11, 11-7, 11-3, 8-11, 11-6 (54m)
Katie Malliff (Eng) 3-2 Tong Tsz-Wing (Hkg) “11-7, 12-10, 9-11, 6-11, 11-4 (55m)
Zeina Mickawy (Egy) 3-0 Grace Gear (Eng) 11-5, 12-10, 11-6 (28m)

Tesni : “It was good. Nicole and I have played a few practice matches this year, and I’ve hit a bit with her and I know what she’s capable of. It was tough. I didn’t feel like I found my targets around the court, especially in the back which means I didn’t get as many opportunities as I would like in the front.

“All credit to Nicole as well. She was volleying really well and around the middle was really good so I think she put me under some pressure that stopped me playing the way I wanted to.

“I was losing matches like that last season. Sometimes you just have to grind it, find a way to win on the day and I think I did that today and I don’t think I was last season.”

Katie : I’ve been trying to hit the ball a bit harder, to volley more and to bring more intensity to it, especially when you are tired. That’s when you need it most, which is what I think I started to do now.

I felt in the third game, she started to read me better toward the end, she didn’t know where to go in the first two games. But as I said, she really was reading me much quicker!

She started volleying more, getting in front, pinning me on the backhand side wall more; so I had to change my tactic and lifting crosscourt a bit more just to switch it.

I’m very pleased to get that 5th game, and it’s all thanks to Mohamed ElShorbagy. My body language, he told me to pick up my body language, put the shoulders back, to do what Mohamed would do! And it really helped me. He was advising me, volley more, get into those back corners, get in front of her, get a better length especially on those courts, which are very dead, and hit higher, which I started to do

Yes, very pleased with the win today.

12.45 Matches
Sebastien Bonmalais (Fra) 3-0 Alex Lau (Hkg) 11-8, 11-5, 11-8 (44m)
Curtis Malik (Eng) 3-2 Bernat Jaume (Esp) 9-11, 11-9, 9-11, 11-4, 11-4 (63m)
Iker Pajares (Esp) 3-0 Simon Herbert (Eng) 11-4, 11-9, 11-2 (31m)
Nicolas Mueller (Sui) 3-0 Ibrahim Elkabbani (Egy) 11-9, 13-11, 11-6 (38m)

Seb v Alex : A first game that made the whole difference, 18m of hard work in the Hong Kong player, with the French collecting the dividends in the 2nd and start of the 3rd. A good push from Lau Tsz Kwan at the end of the third though. Seb will be happy not to get into a 4th with a revenge match tomorrow against Youssef Soliman….

Sébastien : I didn’t realise that the first game was so long!

The tactic was to make him work hard and not to give him any angles because we know he’s very talented with the racket and can hit a nick at any moment!

Then again, it paid off in the second game, I really felt a significant energy drop from him, and the same in the third. At the end of the game, he let loose, trying a bit of everything, and I’m quite pleased with how I responded against a player like him, who kept slowing down the game, which is very frustrating. I knew that was his tactic for playing against me…

A good match, 3/0. I’m keen to play well and keep up my momentum in the PSA currently. Tomorrow, I have a score to settle with Youssef, and it’s good that I didn’t use too much energy in this match.

Curtis : “It was very up and down today actually. A really weird start to the match three or four points in when I got hit in the eye. That put a stop to things, and I was a little bit slow to get going again, and he capitalised on it.

“I did feel like in the last three games I was playing the better squash, but unfortunately I lost the third game, but managed to cut out the errors in the third and fourth games and play the way I wanted to. I’m pleased to get over the line.

“I played him six days ago. It’s weird to play the World No.1 twice in one week so I’m just going to try and learn everything I can from last week and apply it to tomorrow. It’s completely different court conditions so I need to get my tactics spot on and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

12.00 Matches
Tomato Ho
(Hkg) 3-1 Emilia Soini (Fin) 11-6, 7-11, 11-8, 11-5 (42m)
Rachel Arnold (Mas) 3-1 Alicia Mead (Eng) 8-11, 11-7, 11-9, 11-8 (35m)
Mariam Metwally (Egy) 3-0 [wc] Salma Elalfy (Egy) 11-4, 11-3, 11-4 (23m)
Nadine Shahin (Egy) 3-1 Haya Ali (Egy) 11-5, 12-10, 2-11, 8-11, 11-6 (37m)

Nadine : I haven’t done so well for the past two years, so I have no pressure on me all, my ranking has gone  down, and I don’t have much confidence in myself. I started the match very well, trying not to focus on anything, trying not to feel down mentally.

She is a junior, very talented, and in the third, she just went ‘I have nothing to lose, I’m going to nick everything!’ So she started doing drop shots from everywhere, and everything went her way, the ball probably going dead as well.
I tried coming back in the fourth, but it wasn’t enough.

In the fifth I just let go of everything, and I thought “my fitness is better than hers” so I had to win that match, if only by fitness!

Mariam : I’m very happy with the way I control my mental focus. She is a very talented young player and maybe a bit inexperienced. I was hoping the ref would step in but he kept on saying everything was fine. But that’s not important in the scale of things.

Quite glad with the way I quickly finished the match. Since my knee surgery, I still have some little ‘warnings’ in the knee, but nothing like before. I tape it so I feel safer in the movement.

I pulled out of Chicago because of the knee, I had 4 tournaments in a row and I felt it was a bit too much for my body. And I think I was not ready for the London Open, but I had to do it as I pulled out of Chicago.

I just played BlackBall, I guess I’m just getting back into the match fitness, match by match. Not putting any pressure on myself, I’m trying to do my best, not thinking about the results, just want to be good and fit for the Worlds.

Rachel :  It feels good. Alicia has been playing well recently. She’s had a few good results so I was a bit nervous going in and this was my first time playing her so I thought it was a good start today.

“I think the change of opposition didn’t really affect me [Alicia was a last-minute entry]. I was maybe a bit more nervous in term’s of the last minute change, but I think we just adapt to it, see how Alicia plays and go from there.

“I was just making a few errors in the first game, going short to early so I thought I’d just rally a little bit longer and I think that changed it.”