R3: Aly 3-1 Marwan

Aly Abou Eleinen (EGY) 3-1 Marwan Elshorbagy (ENG)  13-11, 13-11, 4-11, 11-6 (59m)

Everyone who is anyone in squash was behind the glass this afternoon to watch the Alexandria Connection battling it on the court. Both originally from Alex, Aly has been watching Marwan as he grew up, and knew how hard this was going to be for him, but also was prepared for it: years of US College Squash do that for young players.

And for me, the key of the match was the lobs Aly played throughout the match, frustrating Marwan while making sure he had plenty of time to recover from the fantastic attacks Marwan was throwing at him.

Marwan needed one of the two first games, 17m and 21m long. Huge battles doesn’t start to describe how hard those two work. But incredibly – it’s just not his style of squash – Marwan gave away 8 points in the opener: 4 errors. 4 conceded strokes. Against only 1 point given away for Aly.

Close between them in the middle of the game, 2/2, 3/3, 4/4, 6/6, but Aly taking full advantage of Marwan’s error, 9/6. Lots of long rallies, lots of stoppage for calls – Marwan is very unhappy about them, being the one penalised most of the calls.

At 9/9, the court hold its breath, and so do I. A gruelling rally at fast pace, no let against Marwan, 10/9 game ball. Another gruelling rally, no let against Aly, 10/10. Marwan will have a chance at 11/10, but can’t retrieve a trickle boast from Aly, and it’s finally the young contender that closes the opener, 13/11 on his second attempt.

10 winners for Marwan, Aly only 6 – remember the 8 points given away by Marwan.

In the second, Aly keeps up with the momentum, 5/0, 6/1. But this time, it’s Marwan who forces errors out of his opponent’s racquet and gradually claws back level: 7/7, 8/8, 9/9.

Like previously, at 10/9 for Aly, the game ball was saved. 11/11. But this time an unforced error from Marwan and a stroke awarded to Aly, and it’s 13/11 again for Aly.

At the end of that game, Marwan expresses his opinion quite clearly to the ref, who penalises him with a conduct stroke and stipulates he’ll start the third 0/1.

That seemed to help Marwan getting back in the match, as he took the third quickly, completely in control and dictating the shots, we were at 7/3 in 3m, I kid you not, and 11/4 in 7m.


Incredibly, neither player made a single error in the last game, and I counted only two calls—I could be wrong, though. A stroke for Aly in the first rally and a let in the middle of the game. Marwan had a bit of a drop of energy, while Aly had his second wind and was dictating play, really, even if Marwan pushed as hard as he could throughout.

3/0, 5/2, 8/3, 10/5, one match ball saved, 11/6 in 8m. La Relève de la Garde Alexandrine?


I enjoyed it all. I enjoyed the pressure, I enjoyed the match, the tactics, the reffing, the decisions, the arguing, the easy parts, the tough parts, I enjoyed the whole package.

Coming in against Marwan, I knew it was going to be a tough match. He is so experienced, so clever, he takes advantage of every opportunity in a very streetsmart way, he was a champion here, I watched him play all my life.

And I knew exactly what he was going to bring but I have been playing well, I took a lot of confidence with my match against Mazen, and previous matches from tournaments before, I’m playing good squash.

Match by match, I’ve been gaining some experience and having a coach like Captain Hesham Attar by my side is invaluable, he is teaching me about all these things, and how to stay calm in these situations. I’m a student of his, and having him here and my parents is invaluable.

I have a lot of faith in my physicality, the longer the match went, it was probably be in my favour. So there was no rush to do anything special, and again, if I’d left the ball easy in the middle, Marwan would have absolutely taken advantage of it.

So I had to wise about overhitting the ball, and whenever under pressure, just through a nice lob and get back on the T, because I don’t want to put myself in a bad position, against him specifically. And I trust myself I can cover the next shot.

There is always something I can do better, like the start of the 3rd which was a bit slow. After closing two tough games, I would have liked to start a little bit better. It’s never easy to play against Marwan, he jumped on a good lead, I was playing a bit from behind, and then I lost a little bit of concentration.

I’m so proud of myself I pushed again in the 4th, and regain the momentum.

I have been playing for a year and a half with Jesse Englebrecht, he is my mental coach, we don’t think about the past, we don’t think about the future, just the present moment. It takes a lot of breathing exercises to do that, and it’s a work in progress.

But I think I have done a good job staying in the present and not of the quarters or anything. Actually, I forgot I was in the quarters, and only now thought about it because you are talking about it!

First time on Gouna glass, finally, first time in a Platinum quarters, and honestly, right now, no thoughts, I’m just going to have some food, relax with my family, I’m really in the moment, in the zone today, so just going to take some time off, and think about it tomorrow..