QF: Ali from a game down beats Victor 3-1

[4] Ali Farag (Egy) 3-0 [8] Victor Crouin (Fra)   6-11, 11-2, 11-3, 11-2 (42m)

That moment when the cameraman come and picks up his racquet from the quarter-finalist… You think I’m kidding? As I approached Victor at the end of the match, Rob from SquashTV came to pick up the racquet Victor was using, as he only lent it to the Frenchman who you may remember didn’t have a single racquet left at the end of his 3rd round match against Aly Abou Eleinen….

Knowing how both of them were exhausted when I spoke with them last, I was amazed of the speed and energy Victor was displaying in the first game. Despite making a few errors, the Frenchman was comfortable in the opener, 7/3, 8/5 and 11/6 in 13m.

I knew Ali wasn’t completely in the match in that first game as he kept “commenting” his bad shots/shot selection raising the left hand at every “bad” shot/decision! Bless him.

The second is quite revealing of the conditions/Ali’s brain: Victor gets caught into long and intense rallies, 3/0 Ali (3 errors from  Victor), one error from Ali, 1/3, and two enormous rallies at that point, absolutely ridiculous length and intensity/court coverage.

Victor “hits the wall” as he says it himself at 4/1, and that’s about it really. The Frenchman never will be able to come back physically in the match, 11/2, 11/3, 11/2 (9m, 9m, 5m).

Note: not a single winner in the second game’s first 8 points (7 errors from Victor, 1 from Ali). Tough conditions you said?….

Victor : From the word go I wanted to give everything I had on the court, and I think that’s the thing I did well. After that, in the second, he made me visit the four corners, and I didn’t manage my resources well enough.

Well, I had the momentum from the opener, I was feeling good, told myself it was going to be fine, and guess what, it wasn’t! I hit the wall.

After that, I tried and came back to fight in the third and fourth, but I just couldn’t. The hardest part was to try and focus on the game and not on the exhaustion. Legs weren’t moving. I was trying to give it a push and put pace on, but it was ending up even worse..

To be fair, I can’t remember him giving any kind of openings, and with his boasts I visited the court a few times.

Not easy to be positive about the match right now, although yes, I take the first game but I don’t go on court to win one game. I guess it’s a good start, it was my first time ever playing Ali, but still, he never beat me in training!!!

Ali had the perfect answer to the first game, he was impeccable, it’s all credit to his quality of shots, speed and consistency all along the game.

To be honest, I enjoyed the game despite the conditions, it sort of reminded me of the Summer South of France trainings.. I kept on telling myself that but it was still pretty tough.

Now, focus on the off season, so much work to do to be able to move forward and defend my points and get higher in the rankings. The hardest is still to come, so I have to be very invested in my training, because everybody is going to have pretty hard during the summer, so, back to the drawing board.

Ali : I’m feeling very good and I think today was the best performance of the tournament so far. It does make a difference, I keep saying coaching doesn’t make a difference but having Karim Darwish in my corner really does make a difference.

He flew today from Cairo, he’s driving back because he has another commitment at 8:30 in the morning, so he is driving overnight, and then he is coming back again for my semi-final. It does make a difference, it is huge.

I was very passive in the first, I was trying to hunt the volley but I didn’t give myself the opportunity because of how many cross-courts I was hitting. He was closing down the court a lot better than I was, he was dictating the play and I was making a lot of unforced errors.

When I straightened it up, I got a lot more joy. Then, in the third, I started to attack a little bit more after the ball softened up, that made an even bigger difference, so I’m very very pleased with how I played today.

It’s not only about the unforced errors, it is also about forcing your opponent to make errors. It might not show from the outside, but on such a court you have to be subtle with your tactics, you have to be making your opponent work harder than you are, even if the shot itself doesn’t look like it’s a forced error. Whoever executes that better on this court will do well this week!