Day TWO, Round TWO

It’s another busy day in El Gouna, with 32 Round Two matches played out on four courts at El Gouna Squash Centre.

For the most part yesterday’s winners meet one of the top 16 seeds, but there are some seed v seed and some non-seed v non-seed clashes too.

Reports and Reaction

18.15 Matches :
[9/16] Marwan Elshorbagy (Eng) 3-1 Leandro Romiglio (Arg) 11-7, 9-11, 11-3, 11-7 (47m)
[2] Paul Coll (Nzl) 3-1 Youssef Ibrahim (Egy) 11-8, 10-12, 11-6, 11-9 (73m)
[9/16] Aly Abou Eleinen (Egy) 3-1 [7] Mazen Hesham (Egy) 13-11, 11-13, 11-8, 13-11 (85m)
Dimitri Steinmann (Sui) 3-0 Henry Leung (Hkg) 11-4, 11-5, 11-3 (32m)

Aly v Mazen : I was working on my computer, following the scoreboard, when I saw 13/11, 11/13, 22m, 22m. And I thought to myself, if Aly takes the third, Mazen is going to feel the burn in the legs.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Mazen would have a few years ago folded the match in that 4th, but the hard work he has been doing off court allows him to dig in and still be patient. And patience he needed, as Aly was playing a perfect tactic to frustrate him: taking him to the left wall, with tight drives and crossed court lobs, keeping the pace very low, to frustrate the Black Falcon.

And it seemed to work, as Aly found himself up 4/1, 5/2. And against my prediction, he was the one that actually had a big energy drop at that point, making a few errors, and conceding two strokes. Back level at 5/5, 6/6, 7/7.

Splendid two rallies and it’s 9/7 for the Falcon. Aly, finding his legs and second wind at exactly the right time, levels at 9/9.

Mazen will have two opportunities to close the game, 10/9, 11/10, but Aly will need only one match ball, and it’s 13/11 on a clear stroke. Another 22m game, believe it or not.

And breathe.

Aly : Twelve years ago [fourteen actually], when this tournament started, I was a little kid watching these top guys play, and all I wanted was to be one of those guys…

My dream is to win El Gouna. Obviously, winning the World Champs is the goal of every player, and it is for me as well but after that, just comes El Gouna, just because it’s so special for me, because the first rounds were played in Alexandria.

I have been battling all season, I had a tough one against Ali at the US Open, 3/1, it was the first time I got a game out of the top guys, and then in Houston, I was to 5 with Karim, and lost 11/9 in the 5th, I went straight to Chicago, I lost 11/9 in the 5th to Dessouky, and then, went to BlackBall and lost to Karim 11/8 in the 5th!

And as happy as I am to get close matches, I want to win, and believe it or not, the losses, they teach you a lot.

Today, I cramped at the end of the 5th, and if I was tired, he must have been tired as well. I just wanted to keep fighting until the last point. My coach Hesham El Attar, my parents, everybody kept telling me that it would come, and when it does, it’s going to feel special.

And they were right.

Another day tomorrow to recover, and back to it again…

17.30 Matches :
[9/16] Sarah-Jane Perry (Eng) 3-2 Lucy Turmel (Eng)   11-13, 11-6, 9-11, 11-8, 13-11 (81m)
[4] Gina Kennedy (Eng) 3-0 Sana Ibrahim (Egy)   11-4, 11-6, 11-6 (29m)
Aira Azman (Mas) 3-2 Georgia Adderley (Sco)   11-7, 8-11, 6-11, 14-12, 11-9 (67m)
Malak Khafagy (Egy) 3-1 Aifa Azman (Mas)   11-9, 11-9, 9-11, 11-5 (49m)

Aira (first time R3 in Platinum) : “I was just thinking about my body today, we had a really tough battle. I’m very happy with my performance and how I pushed through but I’m very worried about my body.

“I’ve had this injury a couple of times now. I recover then get it again, it happens whenever I’m on tour and I’ve been really upset about it because I’ve put so much effort to get my body healthy but it keeps coming back every time. I was very upset but I knew I could push through, it was more of a mental game and I’m very happy with that.

“I’m very happy to get to the glass court next. I’ll have a good rest and see the physio and I hope to play well against Gina and I’m looking forward to that great venue.”

Malak : Coming here today, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. She is a tough opponent, and not easy to play at all. I played her in Chicago and won in 5, and with a lot of calls from the ref during the match.

So I was expecting the same style of match here today. She is a very talented player, as well as being tough to play, great racquet skills like all the Malaysians.

Today, I was expecting a lot of physicality in the game. I tried to do my best, focused on my game plan.

To be honest, I was not very calm today, because of the pressure of the match. I tried to stay calm but it didn’t work really well. But I tried.

I was playing a normal drop shot but her knee came and hit the back of my knee, and I felt a clic. And because I had a knee injury, I was a bit worried it could be bad. The physio said he didn’t know where the pain was coming from, so I decided to get back on court and try and win the 4th.

Wel, I won the 4th and the match but the knee is painful, ha!

I’ll get the recovery that’s needed, I have no idea if I have a day off or not, I haven’t checked, you know, we are just going with the flow, relaxed, this is a great vacation in Gouna, haha!

16.45 Matches :
Gregoire Marche (Fra) 3-2 Eain Yow Ng (Mas)   8-11, 9-11, 11-8, 11-8, 12-10 (84m)
Greg Lobban (Sco) 3-0 [9/16] Miguel Rodriguez (Col)   11-7, 11-9, 11-9 (57m)
[5] Karim Abdel Gawad (Egy) 3-1 [9/16] Fares Dessouky (Egy)   11-9, 7-11, 11-2, 11-7 (45m)
[3] Diego Elias (Per) 3-0 [9/16] Baptiste Masotti (Fra)   11-3, 11-7, 11-3 (33m)

Greg : The human body is sometimes incredible.

At 2/0 down, I was already feeling quite spent, and honestly, I felt he was still working hard, and I thought, he might just fold a bit. He wasn’t making many mistakes at the beginning. It came down to the end of each game, where I was the one who bended a bit, and on this court, I couldn’t use  my speed to overtake him at the back. I needed to be accurate, and I was much less so at the beginning. But then, he started to lose a bit of accuracy.

I felt, when I took the 3rd, that there might be an opening, I felt that at the end of the game, he wasn’t moving the same. I told myself, ‘come on, give a big boost in the 4th,’ which I managed to do well.

In the 5th, I saw he started to get cramps, but in my mind, I saw he was still moving well, it plays a role, obviously. I dared not try too much, I tried to prolong the rallies, but he took his chances, he played very tactically well in the 5th, and me, on the other hand, my arm was floating a bit. Fortunately, on the last one, I let my arm go, and it gets in.

It’s a pleasure to win a match of this intensity and quality.

I think I have a day off, it turns out well, I think it’s not bad, I play Paul or Youssef, but on the glass court. I’m happy, I’m back in the top 16, it feels good.

Oh also, you know I read the interview you did with Karim Abdel Gawad after his defeat against Asal at BlackBall, when he says that wining or losing is out of our hands, and that you have to enjoy each match as if it were your last.

I have nothing more to prove anymore, and I’m going to try and apply what he advises. I’m just trying to enjoy myself. I wouldn’t have been too heartbroken to lose this time, and I’ve retained and learned from what he said…

At 34, you’re still learning…

Karim : Yes, easy first round, like I had easy first round in Houston, Blackball, here, British Open… When I was outside the top 10 I was getting punished. Now I am inside the top 10, I am still being punished…

You never know how Fares is thinking, he can come up with three four shots in a row that no one can ever expected. So what I had in mind was always to have a good lead in each game just to try to prevent those good shots.

He’s done it a lot in the first game and the last game too, when he started to come back. I didn’t want to put myself in a close point situation.

In the second for example, I didn’t start well, suddenly, he had 5, 6 points lead, it’s very very hard to come back with a talented player like him.

Greg L : Yes, very happy. I feel I’ve been very close in the second rounds from those top 16 guys, and I got on the wrong side of a few of them, so the scream at the end was a kind of relief of all those frustrations of the other ones.

I think I produced a very solid performance today, I was pretty close to my best all the three games. I know that Miguel made a big push at the end of the third but I didn’t want to give it to him too easily in that game.

I don’t know how I won it in the end. I played really well, I’m very happy with it.

At the moment, not thinking about my next round, I’m just enjoying the moment. I have my wife with me this week, and it’s been really nice to spend time in such a nice place. I feel really relaxed at the moment.

I know that playing Karim is a great experience. He is one of the top players, one of the best who ever played the game. For me, being able to compete with these guys is what I train for, I just hope that I can play like I did today and really give him a run for his money…

16.00 Matches
[9/16] Amina Orfi (Egy) 3-2 Hana Moataz (Egy)   11-8, 12-14, 11-8, 6-11, 16-14 (87m)
[2] Nouran Gohar (Egy) 3-0 [9/16] Siva Subramaniam (Mas)   11-6, 11-8, 11-4 (29m)
[6] Nour El Tayeb (Egy) 3-0 Melissa Alves (Fra)   11-9, 11-4, 11-8 (33m)
[9/16] Nada Abbas (Egy) 3-2 [9/16] Hollie Naughton (Can)   13-11, 11-6, 3-11, 2-11, 11-7(54m)

Amina: I felt I didn’t play my best today. Coming into the match I was a bit nervous because I lost to her last week at Black Ball, I was thinking about revenge and my ranking and all that.

I just tried to keep pushing because I felt my squash wasn’t the best and that wasn’t what was going to make me win the match so I tried just to keep going and in the end she’s the one who made the errors and I’m the one who won the match.

I think today the biggest difference was that I had more of a fighting spirit. At Black Ball I wasn’t thinking as much but today I kept going and never gave up.

Nour : A good match to get into the tournament I would say.

I’m not used to play two tournaments in a row anymore. When I did well last event, I guess it’s the pressure to do well out there you know. All season, I did a good event, and the next one, not that good. It’s boring, exhausting, I just don’t know what I am…

So today, I’m very happy with the win. Farida had a fever last night, so I didn’t really sleep between 2 and 7. So I was just saying to Engy coach how happy I was to get through.

I found a way, I was not enjoying it because of the lack of sleep.

I’m so used to start the tournament on the glass court. I feel a lot of pressure on the traditional court. I know I’m not a top three, but my level is different when I play on the glass! The ball doesn’t die as softly, so it’s more pressure on the traditional. So again, very happy with the win today on the traditional.

Nada : “I’m really happy to be through. I just played Hollie in Detroit a few months ago and she won so I’m really pleased to be through.

“I lost focus in the third and fourth games and in the fifth I just tried to totally forget about what had happened and try to focus point by point. I’m happy it went my way!

“It’s always nice having a home crowd supporting you. It gives confidence and makes you fired up to win. I’m really glad I had people here supporting me and my coaches too.”

14.15 Matches :
[4] Mostafa Asal (Egy) 3-0 Rui Soares (Por)   11-8, 11-4, 11-5 (24m)
Leonel Cardenas (Mex) 3-1 [9/16] Joel Makin (Wal)   7-11, 1-11, 11-8, 11-6, 11-8 (78m)
[8] Tarek Momen (Egy) 3-0 Balazs Farkas (Hun)   11-8, 11-8, 11-8 (33m)
Ramit Tandon (Ind) 3-1 [9/16] Victor Crouin (Fra)   11-9, 12-10, 8-11, 11-5 (52m)

Two significant upsets as Leonel Cardenas comes from two-nil down to beat Joel Makin and Ramit Tandon gets the better of Victor Crouin in four games.

Ramit :  Victor is a very fair player, it’s always been fun playing him. We’re good friends so it’s always a good clean match. I’m happy with the way I played. That second game was really close and could have gone either way which was really crucial. Fortunately, it went my way.

In the third, he was too sharp and I took a bit of a breather as well when I found myself down. Then I came back firing in the fourth and I feel I got a little lucky towards the end but that’s how the sport goes!”

I knew the fourth game was going to be tough and I needed to start strong and I believed in the physical work I’d put in and believed I could stay with him. I wasn’t forcing it I could play with him physically for a bit.

If he plays better squash, it’s ok if he wins the game but if not I should hang in there and fight for it.

Victor : I feel like I’ve lost my game, like I’m searching for myself.
There are periods of play that are good, and others that are not so good, but it’s all the little game, after building the big opportunities, where I either make a mistake, or I keep the ball in play.
I don’t think it’s pressure, no, it was at the end of last year, that’s for sure, I was fighting against myself. But now, I keep a positive discourse on the court, I continue to fight… But I can’t score the points.

So I will continue to train, hoping that it comes back quickly.

Leonel : I’m feeling great and am happy with the win. I think it’s my best win on the PSA World Tour so I’m really happy.

It was tough, we’re both fighters and he’s an amazing player. I think I started playing better in the third game because I had to find a way to play against him.

After losing the second 11-1 I was trying to get into the match to feel the rhythm, but I never stopped playing, I always kept fighting and fighting.

13.30 Matches :
[9/16] Salma Hany (Egy) 3-1 Jasmine Hutton (Eng)   9-11, 11-8, 11-4, 11-3 (45m)
[3] Nele Gilis (Bel) 3-0 Tesni Murphy (Wal)   12-10, 11-7, 11-2 (41m)
[5] Olivia Weaver (Usa) 3-0 Katie Malliff (Eng)   11-9, 11-5, 11-4 (32m)
[7] Tinne Gilis (Bel) 3-1 Fayrouz Aboelkheir (Egy)   11-9, 8-11, 11-7, 11-8 (48m)

Olivia : I really enjoyed our match. It took me the first game to find my length and my targets, adjust to the court, it’s much colder than Black Ball.

I really enjoyed playing Katie today. I had never played her before. I love the way she plays, she’s got a great hold, she is also so young. I feel it used to be me. She is a really talented player and I’m sure she’s got a long successful career in front of her.

Fortunately, I have in January and February I had a very long stretch of events, like 7 events in like 10 weeks. So going from Black Ball to here is not as overwhelming as it was in the past, jumping from one event ot the next with such a little time in between. My body has handled it well. I’m feeling good and I think I recovered well.

During my summer training with Rod, I was doing 3 sessions a day, lots of track sessions and pressure session, all that made my fitness level the best it’s ever been! I’ve been working very hard at it, allowing me to express myself better on court because I back myself in my ability to cover all the four corners. And I can stay out there as long as I need to.

It’s essential if you want to challenge those top three girls. And everyone on court is getting fitter and fitter.

So, feeling good and really excited to still be in and take on the next battle.

Tinne v Fayrouz : A feisty match. So many calls, both girls getting penalised, warned, it was all happening. The Belgium was able to stay on track with her game plan, focused, even if Fayrouz really threatened to take the match to a decider. Tinne will be very happy with that result I feel.

Tinne : “I’m very happy to win this one. I know Fayrouz can be very hard and feisty on court so I was expecting a big battle. It wasn’t the most enjoyable squash and I wasn’t too accurate so there was a lot of contact every now and then. It was hard to focus, especially in that fourth game where I had a big lead but let her back into the game and it got a bit edgy, so I’m very happy to close it out in four.

“Playing in Egypt brings out the fire in every Egyptian, so I knew it would be harder to play her today. I’m just relieved and I want to focus on the next one.

“I always have good battles with Satomi [Watanabe, Gilis’ next opponent]. It’s always very clean. She’s very nice on and off court and very talented. I’m expecting a very clean and hard battle.”

12.45 Matches :
[9/16] Youssef Soliman (Egy) 3-1 Sebastien Bonmalais (Fra)   11-6, 11-9, 2-11, 11-1 (54m)
[1] Ali Farag (Egy) 3-0 Curtis Malik (Eng)   11-9, 11-5, 11-8 (34m)
[6] Mohamed Elshorbagy (Eng) 3-1 Iker Pajares (Esp)   11-8, 11-7, 9-11, 11-9 (62m)
Nicolas Mueller (Sui) 3-1 Raphael Kandra (GER)   7-11, 11-8, 11-5, 11-4 (46m)

Ali : I love the fact that Curtis comes in, he wants to win, I was 7/1 up in the 2nd, and I thought he was going to throw this one away, and get going in the 3rd again, but he kept on fighting, he kept on getting the ball back, changing his tactics. I admire that.

Because of that attitude, I know he is going to go far, but for me I’m very happy I was able to win 3/0. What makes me want to win?? The fact I lost that week! It doesn’t make me happy. At all!

As sour and as bad as a loss makes me feel, it fires me up for the next one. I don’t think I necessarily played badly last week, my opponent was on fire, but I just have to find a better way to play him and the other opponents. And that puts a fire in my belly.

You know, I have my mum with me, my cousin, my wife and Farida, of course, and if things go well and I can progress in the tournament further, other members of the family will join us later on. And that always helps, having a family environment. You have to do your job, obviously, but like on my morning off, on a day off, you have things to take your mind off the matches, and that definitely helps and keeps your hunger.

Nicolas : I think it was a very good match. I was a bit asleep in the first game and he played very well, but then I started to wake up and find my targets. I’m over the moon to be in the third round.

He beat me the last time when we played in the Czech Republic and I beat him the time before. We know each other’s game well.

Ali is number one in the World and I’m looking forward to playing him on the glass. I think I’m one of the last guys to beat him even if wasn’t at 100 percent!

Mohamed : I just pulled off from London Open because I just needed a little break. I was playing tournament after tournament, after tournament, and I lost a lot of 3/2 matches this season, something I don’t normally do. I’m normally good in 5ths games.

So far this season, I’ve played 15 events, and I lost 8 of them 3/2. I felt I had to stop and refresh a bit mentally. I would like to take a longer break if I could, but during the season, it’s the longest I’ll have and I’m happy to be back playing.

Very different situation to be playing on traditional courts. I’m use to play on the glass. But in a way, it’s good not to be the centre of attention for a little while, I’ve been the centre of attention for the past 15 years, and it’s very tiring, I tell you.

I’m playing early today, and again tomorrow, and I’m happy.

I still want to compete, because I want to play the Commonwealth Games in 2 years, and the Olympics in 4 years. Everything else I have achieved, everything I wanted to achieve, I have done, and I am very blessed to feel this way.

It’s very difficult to stay hungry when you have achieved everything you wanted to achieve. Some days now I’m very up, some days I’m very down. I don’t have the mental consistency I normally have. That’s why I have my team around me, to try and keep me motivated.

At times, I feel burnt out, but I’m happy to be here at the end of the day. I accept to be burnt out because I’ve been blessed to win a lot. But sometimes, this season, I’ve gone out of a loss when I would win a tie break in the third, and then lose a very easy fourth and fifth. I’ll go out of the match, I’ll accept it, but I know it’s time beating me, more than my opponent. I know I’m not going to feel good every tournament, but there are days I’m going to be very dangerous, like the World Teams, the Olympics, hopefully, and that’s what I’m trying to target for now.

I’m happy to be playing, I’m happy to be on court, but I still want to win all the time, and when I lose, I just accept it as far as I can find a way to win the following match….

Another El Gouna: I haven’t missed one edition, and that’s a win in itself, that I’ve never been injured for any of the events, and that makes me feel blessed.

12.00 Matches :
[9/16] Satomi Watanabe (Jpn) 3-0 Tomato Ho (Hkg)   11-7, 11-9, 11-3 (29m)
[1] Nour ElSherbini (Egy) 3-0 Rachel Arnold (Mas)   11-7, 12-10, 11-3 (25m)
[8] Rowan Elaraby (Egy) 3-0 Mariam Metwally (Egy)   11-4, 11-0, 11-8 (22m)
Zeina Mickawy (Egy) 3-0 Nadine Shahin (Egy)   13-11, 11-4, 12-10 (30m)

Sherbini :  “I’m feeling really good, Rachel’s a really good player and we played recently in Chicago. It’s a bit awkward to play your first match on a traditional court as I usually start on glass, so it took me a bit to get used to the court. I managed to play my game and am definitely happy to win in three.

“She’s a very good player, very attacking and this court was sometimes a little dead. She was playing amazing shots and I was just trying to stick to her in every rally, so she couldn’t build a big lead – which she still did in the second. I’m just glad I won that second as it makes a huge difference.

“I’m going to try to enjoy the sun now, the weather is amazing and Gouna is my favourite tournament. I love coming here and will definitely try to enjoy the rest of the day and catch up with all the people and I’m looking forward to being on the glass!”

Rowan : Incredibly hard to play against Mariam, as she can play sublime winners with exquisite racquet skills, but as her fitness is not at the top yet after her knee surgery, she needs some resting moments during the match.

Some excellent rallies today, Rowan looked a bit more relaxed that she was in BlackBall, she explained why in her aftermatch chat.

Mickawy v Shahin : A very high quality/fair game match to start the day on court 4 today. Those two players had ups and downs with confidence issues and injuries. And it was great to see them battling away, being able to perform at their best.

A very tense Zeina – wanting to impress the numerous friends/family that came to support her – and a Nadine that had nothing to lose. The result: Zeina getting ahead in the score, would then go for a little too much, and Nadine clawing back to put the maximum pressure on her opponent.

And if Nadine didn’t get a game ball in the first an third, she saved a few of those. She will be happy with her performance, whatever she is doing, she is on the right tracks back.

Zeina : Happy and relieved. I was very nervous, I know Nadine is very very dangerous. If you lose focus for a second, she can beat you in a flash! She is very tricky.

I’m very happy to take that match in 3, although I was never able to relax for a second during that match, and although I was leading the whole way, I wasn’t sure to finish the winner at all.

Nadine love a fast pace, opening up the court, but I know if I would get tired quickly if I played that game. So I tried to calm matters down, slow down the pace, attack when I had the opportunity.

Tomorrow I’m playing Rowan. We have been playing since the juniors, we know each other’s game very well, we know what to expect of each other, although our rankings are not close. But I know it’s going to be a good match, tricky, of course, but I am looking forward to it, maybe I can push through and win!