Defending champion Marwan ElShorbagy survives on Day Four
Reigning champion Marwan ElShorbagy survived a huge scare from Mohamed Abouelghar on day four of the El Gouna International Squash Open as he got his title defence underway on the spectacular glass court at Abu Tig Marina, which hosts the PSA World Tour Platinum tournament.
The Egyptian won this title last year, beating current World No.1 Ali Farag in the final, but it looked like he was on his way out after just a single match this time around. Abouelghar had never beaten his compatriot on the PSA World Tour before in three previous attempts [nor in two World Junior finals the pair contested], but he started the stronger of the two, and took the first game.
ElShorbagy came back to win the second and third with ease, but World No.8 Abouelghar fought back. He eventually had two match balls in the fifth game, but Bristol-based ElShorbagy saved both of them before winning the match thanks to some fine attacking shots at the very end.
The win sends the defending champion through to the third round of the tournament, where he will face Switzerland’s Nicolas Mueller on Monday April 22.
“I haven’t beaten a top 10 player in a long time and Abouelghar has been playing some amazing squash. I did not know what to expect because this is the best he has ever played. He is on the way up and he now is in the top eight. He is one of the most talented squash players.
“I think we both settled from the third game, I would say. It was a tough match and I expected no less. To be able to win today, I am quite happy with the result. There are a few things I need to improve for my next match, but it is just good to get into the tournament with a win like this.”
Also on the glass court, Marwan’s older brother, World No.2 Mohamed, overcame a tough challenge from Hong Kong’s Max Lee, but the former World Champion advanced after a four-game victory to get his attempts to win a second El Gouna International title under way.
Elsewhere in today’s action, Colombia’s Miguel Rodriguez had to come from two games down to overhaul Germany’s Raphael Kandra at the El Gouna Squash Complex.
Rodriguez had beaten Kandra in two of their three previous meetings – including in the semi-finals of last year’s Allam British Open – but Kandra got the win the last time they played in September’s China Open.
The German played some high-calibre squash to go two games up at the Squash Complex, saving a game ball in the second. World No.7 Rodriguez was able to impose himself more on the match though after that point as he ramped up the pace and picked up all of Kandra’s shots at the front of the court as the German lost his basic length hitting.
After levelling, the ‘Colombian Cannonball’ made the most of a great start in the fifth to go two match balls up. Kandra fought back to level but, to the disappointment of the German contingent in the crowd, Rodriguez found his winning shots to complete an 8-11, 10-12, 11-5, 11-4, 12-10 victory.
“Instead of going with a slow pace, I increased it and made the rallies longer. He seemed to give up mid-game. I realised he was probably going to be back fighting in the fifth, which he was, and I was ready for it.
“I had lost to Raphael in Shanghai, so I’m happy with the win. Today was not physical as much as it was mental and tactical, the ball was very bouncy, and you had to find the right pace to get the ball in the back corners.”
Mueller also survived a five-game battle on day four, as he overcame Scotland’s Alan Clyne in a match that lasted over an hour. Egypt’s Karim Abdel Gawad, Fares Dessouky and Omar Mosaad are also through to the last 16, along with Mexico’s Cesar Salazar.
In the women’s draw, Egypt’s World No.2 Nour el Sherbini is into the third round after beating compatriot Yathreb Adel in straight games on the glass court.
The pair had only met twice before on the PSA World Tour, despite having both turned professional in the early part of 2009 – but like Marwan and Aboulghar, had contested the 2012 World Junior Final. The first game was a scrappy one, with neither player able to find any momentum, but El Sherbini was able to pull through in the end to take an early lead.
But El Sherbini, who won her second World Championship title back in 2017 on this very court, followed that up with a win in the second game, but that came much tougher, as Adel held a lead for much of the game. However, El Sherbini was too strong for her compatriot and will now take on Egypt’s Nadine Shahin in the next round.
“Playing Yathreb in the second round is a very tricky match. We have been playing for a long, long time. I can’t describe how long we have been playing against each other,” Sherbini said after her win.
“It was a tough first round, but I am happy with the way I played and I am happy with my performance. I am trying to get back in the mood after the DPD Open. It was a very short couple of days between them but it was a good start and hopefully it will keep going for the rest of the week.
“Gouna is always special and unique and I love being here. I love the vibe and the people. Your family and friends come and watch you. It is great being here and apart from the wind, the venue here is really amazing. Everything is perfect for me and hopefully this year is going to be another good memory for me as well.”
France’s Camille Serme won the first match of the evening on the glass court, as she defeated United States No.2 Olivia Blatchford Clyne in straight games.
At the Squash Complex, World No.30 Shahin shocked World No.10 Alison Waters to earn her place against El Sherbini on the glass court.
It was a momentous day for the Egyptian, as she claimed her first victory over top 10 opposition, and her first berth in the third round of a PSA World Tour Platinum event.
“It’s one of my biggest wins so far, I’ve never beaten a top 10 player. I was feeling really excited, and I played her once in Chicago two months ago,” Waters said.
“I lost 3-0 really quickly, so I was determined to do better in this one. I had to not lose focus, not even for a second. To beat someone like Alison, you have to be determined, and you have to be 100 per cent focused.
“I switched coaches, so for the last couple of months I’ve been working really hard with my new coach, Omar Abdel Meguid, and I think mentally I’m tougher and stronger. Even two months ago, I was not like this.”
Two other Egyptians are into the last 16 of the women’s draw, as Zeina Mickawy and Nouran Gohar defeated Hania El Hammamy and England’s Millie Tomlinson, respectively.
England’s Sarah-Jane Perry, Wales’ Tesni Evans and Hong Kong’s Annie Au are also through to the third round after claiming respective wins over Egypt’s Rowan Elaraby, Canada’s Hollie Naughton and England’s Julianne Courtice.