SF: Ali eventually in control, Diego dead man still fighting…

[4] Ali Farag (Egy) 3-1 [1] Diego Elias (Per) 7-11, 12-10, 11-2, 11-7 (73m)

As Diego mentioned in his aftermatch interview: I had a perfect game plan until 10/9 in the second! The temperature was still 32° and to be honest, it was suiting Ali’s style of game more than the Peruvian…

Why change the habit of a lifetime, of course Ali lost the first game – although he stressed he played well – 2/2, 3/3, 8/4, Ali coming back to 7/8 but it’s the Puma 11/7 in 20m.

Both players started to become irritable with each other and the referee in game two. Ali showed signs of starting to take control of the game with subtle holds, putting work into the legs of his opponent.

Neck to neck 2/2, 3/3, 4/4, 6/6, 7/7, 8/8, 9/9. Crucial, crucial times. Diego gets that game ball 10/9, but with a no let confirmed, Ali will score the next three points to level at one game all, 12/10. 9 winners for Ali, 7 for Diego.

Diego doesn’t show up in the third, and as he said, the “old Diego” would have folded the match there and then. But all credit to the World number one, he came back fighting in the 4th, varying the angles and taking the pace off the ball. A huge rally at 4/4, that cost a lot to the Peruvian I feel, allowing Ali to take a little advantage score-wise, 6/4, 7/5, 8/6.

It’s minimal but it’s enough to allow Ali to play just a bit more relaxed than his opponent, 9/6, and 11/7 on a quick 3-shots rally.

Diego actually nearly fainted after the match. His physio provided him with plenty of ice on the neck and chess, and when he moved to exit the court, he had a dizzy spell, and had to lay down. And still, he accepted to speak with me after all that. What a champ. Love him to bits.

Ali :  It’s a battle for survival, to get off the court alive!

These are brutal conditions. I don’t know how Nouran & Hania hit so hard for all that time. I could feel the conditions were very warm and I thought that because they hit so hard for a marathon match, then we could too. Karim  told me to put work in his legs for the first game and even if I don’t win it, that’s okay.

The second, I thought I had him and you could tell that even though was tired he has the weapons to hurt me, he’s so skilful. Once I got the second I grew in confidence and I started to lob and up high was the only solution as he’s so good around the middle of the court.

In the fourth game, both of us were tired but thankfully I’m more used to the conditions so I’m just very very happy for fighting all the way through.

I have to dig in deep into my reserves, squash reserves, physical reserves. If that was a true individual sport, I would have stopped in Manchester. I have my wife, my coaches, my family, my physio. You think it’s easy to push but it’s all the conversations I have with my parents, they chill me out so if I was stressed out all day I would not play the way I do. Hopefully, I can push one more time tomorrow to make them even more proud.

Diego : The conditions were brutal and very bouncy, inside it’s so hot. But I think I had a good game plan, well, for the first 40m I guess, until 10/9 in the second I had a great game plan!

Because of the conditions, you start making the wrong decisions, at 10/9 in that second, I had an opportunity, and I missed it. That tie-break also killed me both physically and mentally.

In the third, I tried to push but I was really really tired but in the 4th, I wanted to keep pushing. A couple of years again, I would have given up after the second game. Ok, I still lost 3/1, but I feel like I kept fighting, and I’m very proud of that.

Very happy with the game plan I did, those two first games were good, a lot better than in the British Open, I just want to learn from this and hopefully play better the next time.