Day Five Evening Matches:
 Sarah-Jane Perry (Eng) 3-0 [9/16] Alison Waters (Eng) 11-6, 11-4 rtd (24m)
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (Egy) 3-1 Baptiste Masotti (Fra) 10-12, 11-7, 11-8, 11-4 (59m)
 Camille Serme (Fra) 3-0 Hollie Naughton (Can) 11-5, 11-7, 11-2 (27m)
[9/16] Mostafa Asal (Egy) 3-2 [9/16] Mohamed Abouelghar (Egy) 12-10, 4-11, 14-12, 1-11, 12-10 (102m)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (Eng) 3-0 [9/16] Alison Waters (Eng)
First game, SJ was in control, stuck in front of her opponent for most of the rallies, and didn’t have much too problems up 10/3, closing it 11/6 in 11m.
Second game, Ali change her tactic and was the one calling the shot, and was sending the Gladiator on runs! But earlier on in that game, 3/2, going to a backhand drive, Ali slipped and ended in a split and that didn’t go well with her left glutes that didn’t enjoy the stunt.
It reminded me of Lee Beachill a few years ago, who had to be carried out court after the same injury, just on the other side.
The 37-year-old former English Number One tried courageously to go on but just had to throw the towel…
“Firstly, me and Alison are really good friends and pre-COVID, we were usually roommates so we have spent a lot of time together. I hope its nothing too bad that she has done and that she is back as soon as possible.
There is definitely an English style of squash and I don’t play that for a start. I pretty much play the opposite style of squash, I rebelled from it when I was young! Actually, and ironically, it is bringing that English structure into my game which has given me the consistency that has helped me round after round and not just getting the odd good win.
“I have managed to get the flair in my game and then bring in the structure in the last few years and I am really happy with how that is going.
“A lot of areas have improved and there are a lot that I can still improve and I see that is a fantastic opportunity to improve and to try and get better at all those areas so I am really excited about the future. There has always been questions about my fitness to get through tournaments, but I think that’s why I was pleased with the Black Ball win in December, to not just show I could play five matches in five days but to still come out the other end and to come out with the win.”
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) 3-1 Baptiste Masotti (FRA)
“Match de folie” I wrote on the French social media. Because that’s what it was. A mad, mad game. First, a 45m delay as today, the court was so humid it was unplayable – the other days, it was absolutely fine – then a pace that I cannot believe they both sustained for one hour.
Like Mohamed said after his match, Baptiste is as hungry as himself was when he was younger – the French is 25 – and wants it now. He threw everything he had to try and take the Egyptian out of his comfort zone, and he managed to do that a lot, forcing a few too many errors from Mohamed…
Yes, in the first game, Mohamed made 4 errors, and gave away 3 strokes. Meaning that he offered his opponent 7 points. Nice, thanks said the French!
But it was all credit to Masotti really, because he pushed the former number one left, right and centre, absorbing his power and sending it back with dividends. A close game the whole way, but it’s 12/10 to Baptiste on his second attempt, 19 long minutes of ridiculous pace.
After being checked by the physio during the break (right abductor) and realising that he was probably ok for now, Mohamed came back all guns blazing, 4/0, 7/1, 8/2. The French clawed back but still Shorbagy takes it in 9m, 11/7.
Third sees the Frenchman heading the race, 4/0, 5/3, 7/4, but Mohamed is on the war path. Taking his space, chatting with his opponent, playing with his head – and succeeding – he claws back to 8/8 and stringing 5 points, takes the crucial third, 11/8 in 15m.
The fourth is about Mohamed to be honest, as from 3/3, Baptiste legs start to feel very heavy and in 11m, and still some great rallies, the Egyptian is in the quarters, and I feel very happy to get there in under the hour mark.
But guys, remember the name. Masotti. You might hear a lot about him soon, and just learn to pronounce it: MAZOTI…
In the first game, he was a bit tense and kept the ball at the back, not doing much with it. So I took my chances, first game was ok, good length and width, I was feeling good, shots were going in.
But in the second, he was a different player, he was taking me to the front, I had to spend much more energy to get to the shots, and I started to suffer. I had a very bad start, all credit to him, to his sudden change of tactics. I clawed back a bit but too little too late.
The third is the turning point. I was up 7/4, 8/6, and I should have pushed more at that point. But that where you see the difference between the top guys and the rest of us, he was able to win points with relative ease at 6/8 down, with his low and hard shots, and taking very well his space.
He then used his experience to play a bit with my mind, and he got under my skin, I lost my focus and switch off for a while.
Well, it’s tough but I am getting closer. 3/0 last time, 3/1 this time, hopefully I’m getting closer. I should be able to knock louder at the top dogs door, but right now, thanks to the match and the hot conditions, I am just DEAD!
“With Baptiste, I played him at Black Ball a month ago, and he is a player who goes out to win every single match and that is what I admire about him and he has the character to go all the way to the top one day. He is young but at the same time, he doesn’t want to wait, he wants it now, he wants it more than anything. I can see it in his eyes because that is how I was when I was young. I respect that about him and he gave me a huge battle. I played my best and that’s the respect that I can give him, to give him everything I had today.
“You can always get better, every single match. You are always trying to get to perfection. There were many mistakes in the match but I was playing someone at such a high pace that can force you into those errors, rush you into those errors. That is only my second match of the tournament and you get better every match and a match like this with a rest day tomorrow, is all I can ask for.
“This is the mental battle of the sport. I showed him that battle during the match today but at the same time he responded well and he is gaining a lot of experience. I remember when I was coming up and playing the top guys like Nick, Greg, that generation, they did a lot of things and I learnt so much from them. Now it is his turn to learn ant these are the kind of matches that make both of tough, definitely. It went my way today and hopefully it will keep going my way for a few more years.
 Camille Serme (Fra) 3-0 Hollie Naughton (Can)
Today I found my targets better than the other day. I felt good physically, moving pretty well, so I could get her shots and I think she struggled a bit with the court. That’s the advantage of having one more match on there which is unlucky for her.
She is an attacker, but today, maybe she overdid it a bit in that department. She was sometimes attacking from difficult positions, and at crucial times, she gave me points!
We were having good rallies for sure, and I was a bit out of breath, I was suffering a bit more from the heat than I did last time. So my heart beat was a bit higher than it should have been and she gave me points right on cue when I needed a bit of a breather…
Overall, I’m happy, good lenghth, my shots were also better than they were the previous match, and that was my objective with my coach Philippe Signoret.
Happy from the physical side as well as I’m sharper than I was two months ago. My aim to to be fit for the worlds, and at the moment, I’m feeling good, I’m moving well, I am feeling strong, so, I’m fine and happy really, and no pressure…
I didn’t feel well at all on there to be quite honest. I think I did everything opposite to what my coaches and I discussed. I was supposed to play smarter, to find my length in the back corners, and then creating the opportunities and taking it in.
I felt I couldn’t settle on there, credit to her, she didn’t let me settle either but I feel I was not quite hitting my targets, and played as I would have liked to.
[9/16] Mostafa Asal (Egy) 3-2 [9/16] Mohamed Abouelghar (Egy)
This was a long day at the office and I am finally getting to write the report of the last match – that finished at nearly midnight – at 1.23am. I am doing a strange job…
It was an all Egyptian affair. And “le spectacle était dans la salle ». Meaning the show was in the crowd. Next to me Mahmood and Mona Asal, mum and dad. Then the two respective coaches on the front row, Asal’s on the left, Abou on the right. The emotions, the anger, the despair, the support, the shouting, it was compressed in those three VIP rows behind the glass.
The Ref, bless him, who keeps inventing names for the players, Ramy Ajour, Camy Zeurmé, and today, Mostafa Ashal. Don’t ask.
And the players on court. They had played each other once, in 2020, the last ToC, similar conditions probably, very humid and warm. Suiting Ragging Bull more than the Bullet. And in that match, Mostafa had taken out Abou in the second round in 4 games. Needless to say that the young man was boiling of confidence and energy tonight.
Just look at the score. Tie break, out to lunch, tie break, tea break, tie break. Just that, you know how intense things were, with Mostafa clinging the crucial points then taking a breather, repeat.
Unforced errors now. Abou is world famous of going on tin rampage. But not today. They both made the same number of unforced errors, 11 throughout the match. Only to be noted that Abou made 5 in the first game. That’s a lot, plus a stroke conceded, that 6 points gifts…
Yes, that first game, 24m. Not a point between them throughout, with you imagine incredible rallies, Abou finding his front corners, Abou retrieving the irretrievable, both running several marathons, all that to finish with Abou unable to close the game at 10/9, and Mostafa happy to force an error on his game ball, 12/10 for Ragging Bull.
But 24m is a long time, and Mostafa went very flat all of a sudden, with the Bullet taking the game in 10m, 11/4.
In the third, Mostafa is leading the whole game, not by much, but just the nose ahead. In the middle of the game, Abou’s complaining about his opponent movement gets rejected at 4/2 with a no let, but accepted for the next three rallies, three strokes, for “protecting his shots”. Mr Asal blood pressure is starting to get in the red.
Then it’s another no let for Abou, followed by three strokes for Mostafa. The ref is working double time. At 9/9, it’s anybody’s game. Mostafa’s movement is getting more and more criticised by Abou, strokes, lets, tins, it will be all happening.
Mahmood Asal bless him points his finger at my book and orders me to write that “that last video ref decision at 12/11 (Mostafa third game ball) is a scandal, write it down”, he stresses, “and squash will never get into the Olympics. “
Still, his son finds his energy and explosivity and finally closes the game in 33m, 14/12.
Flattened by so much up and down and emotions, Mostafa again doesn’t show up for the next 5m game, 11/1 Abou.
What to write about the 5th? Abou, keeping the momentum of the 4th, is up 6/1. Mrs Asal, Mona, leaves the VIP area. “I can’t take it, it’s too much, too much”. Mr Asal keeps advancing his chair closer to the court cm by cm without realising it.
This is the moment Abou choses to help Mostafa back in the match by making three errors in four points. 6/6. 7/7. 8/8. 9/9. Mostafa finds sublime backhand drives stuck to the wall.
First decision, video ref, let. Second decision, for yet again, another deep drive that dies at the back, but is Mostafa letting his opponent through to the ball? Yes, says the video ref, goes no let.
Mostafa erupts. Mahmood erupts. Mona comes back in tears, “it’s too much, it’s too much”. Abou is dignified, but destroyed as he feels Moustafa’s movement was not penalised enough.
Watch the replay. And you decide…
Mostafa: “I am so happy that I won today. It is unbelievable for me to beat someone like Abou. He is on top form and we saw his match against Marwan, it was an unbelievable match. I was expecting to go home today but I am happy that I made it today. I am thankful for the crowd, thankful for Amr Mansi for this amazing tournament in El Gouna.
“For sure, as Mohamed [ElShorbagy] said, it is also about the mental game, you have to be tough mentally and this is what the last few years of experience have given me. I am becoming more and more mentally tough and I am happy that I recovered from 6-1 down in the fifth. It is unbelievable for me so I am really happy to move through.”