Houston M

Men’s $110k PSA Gold, 13-18 Feb, Texas, USA


[1] Ali Farag 3-0 [5] Mazen Hesham  11-4, 11-9, 11-5 (36m)

Ali Farag secured his fifth title of the season, and the 38th of his PSA Tour career, comfortably beating Mazen Hesham in an all-Egyptian final at the HSC 2024 Houston Men’s Squash Open.

Hesham had played some scintillating squash on his way to the final, upsetting both Mostafa Asal and Mohamed Elshorbagy in five games, but was no match for the World No.1. Farag himself had only dropped one game in his previous three matches this week, and set the tone for victory here on just the second point of the match, flicking a forehand winner cross-court after a Hesham boast had stayed fractionally high.

He continued to move Hesham around and dominate the T, taking game one 11-4 in just nine minutes, clinching it on inch-perfect lob to the back of the court. Hesham had been stuck behind his opponent for much of the opening game and that continued in the early rallies of game two, with his frustration showing after hitting a tin on a backhand to fall 4-1 behind.

But as he did in yesterday’s semi-final win over Elshorbagy, Hesham began to find his feet in game two, moving back to level terms at 7-7.  Farag then pulled clear again to give himself three game balls at 10-7, and while Hesham saved the first two, he could not save the
third, albeit in controversial circumstances.

The 29-year-old stopped mid-rally, thinking Farag was in his way, and immediately asked for a review after the referee gave a let, thinking it should be a stroke. The decision backfired horribly, though, as the video referee instead gave a no let, handing Farag the game. That appeared to take the wind out of Hesham’s sails, as Farag marched through game three in just seven minutes, clinching glory on a forehand drive down the line.

“It means a lot,” he said after victory. “I think I played really good squash all week. I progressed every day, better than the day before, but I would say that the draw helped me a little bit. My opponents were a little bit fatigued coming into my matches, especially Karim yesterday and Mazen today.

“But I won’t take any credit away from myself. I think I capitalised on it well, I was focused from the very first point all the way to the end, because even when they are fatigued, they can hurt you big time, so I’m very pleased.”

As with his semi-final win over Gawad, Farag’s game plan was to be patient and elongate the rallies in today’s final, something he felt he executed early on.

“I did that well for the first game and a half,” he said. “Then Mazen started getting into it and I turned a little too passive.  I didn’t go with him, I didn’t weather the storm well enough, but thankfully I had a bit of a lead, so by the time he got back we were still on par. Then I won that second and obviously it was a huge psychological boost for me to go into that third.”


[1] Ali Farag 3-0 [4] Karim Abdel Gawad 11-7, 11-3, 11-5 (27m)
[5] Mazen Hesham 3-2 [2] Mohamed Elshorbagy (ENG) 5-11, 11-9, 9-11, 11-5, 11-5 (62m)

Mazen Hesham produced another sensational five-game performance to knock out Mohamed Elshorbagy and reach the final, where he will play Ali Farag.

Hesham had spent almost 90 minutes on court in his thrilling 3-2 win over Mostafa Asal in the quarter-finals late last night, while Elshorbagy had needed just half an hour to beat Miguel Rodriguez 3-0 in a dominant display.

The opening rallies of this one suggested that Elshorbagy might put in a repeat performance, as he raced into a 6-0 lead in game one, closing it out 11-5 in just six minutes.

But if the crowd inside the Houston Squash Club were expecting another one-sided affair, they were in for a surprise, as Hesham upped the pace in game two, giving himself an 8-3 advantage. Ever relentless, Elshorbagy battled back to 9-9, putting some serious work into Hesham’s legs, but the Egyptian held his nerve, winning the game 11-9 when an improvised flick from Elshorbagy fell short.

The English No.1 then reversed the scoreline in game three, taking it 11-9 on a soft forehand volley into the nick. But backed by the vocal crowd, Hesham took control of the match from there, winning game four 11-5 in less than 10 minutes, even drawing applause from his opponent on a particularly sweet three-wall boast.

He then opened up a 5-1 lead in the decisive fifth, and continued to draw cheers from the audience when attacking the nick on the backhand side. 5-1 soon turned into five match balls at 10-5 up, but only one was needed, with another tin from Elshorbagy handing victory to the Egyptian.

“It was physically very tough, mentally very tough,” Hesham said after his win. “Playing Mohamed is always a tough match. He’s a legend of the game and he pushes you to the max, so I’m very, very pleased with how I fought back.

“He didn’t give it to me easily and I had to push for it, and luckily it really went my way this time.”

Discussing what he felt was key to turning things around in games three and four, the Egyptian said: “I was just trying to dig deep, make it harder for him to win a point and wait for my opportunities better.

“If I was going to go short, I needed to be careful because he can be deadly if the ball stays a little bit up and he’s going to go for it. So, I had to be very careful and very cautious with where I was hitting the ball, I had to hit my targets to get him deep in the court and to move him around.”

Hesham’s thrilling win followed a comfortable victory for World No.1 Ali Farag, who beat a struggling Karim Abdel Gawad 3-0 in the first semi-final.

Gawad only returned from injury at last week’s Pittsburgh Open, and came into this encounter having gone to five in each of his first two matches here. That workload appeared to have taken its toll, as he struggled to match the top seed early on, with Farag extending the rallies and pulling his compatriot around the court.

After losing game one 11-7, game two was when the No.4 seed really began to show his discomfort, but Farag was in no mood to be charitable. He continued to dominate proceedings, soon clinching victory when Gawad hit the tin on a forehand, with Farag continuing his record of having reached the final of every PSA Tour event he’s played in this season.

“I’m very pleased,” he said after victory. “I knew Karim was going to come in not at 100%. He’s had an injury, he was out for over a month and a half and barely had any practice matches under his belt. Then he came and won a Silver event playing four matches back-to-back, then having to back it up here and play two five-setters is not easy, so credit to him for reaching the semis in the first place.

“But I didn’t want to lose the first game quickly, because adrenaline can do wonders if you’re winning and you get going, so I tried to elongate the rallies from the very beginning and maintain my focus all the way through, which I’m very pleased I managed to do for the most part.”


[4] Youssef Ibrahim 3-1 [5] Greg Lobban (SCO) 9-11, 11-5, 11-7, 11-5 (45m)
[1] Ali Farag 3-1 [6] Tarek Momen  8-11, 11-8, 11-5, 11-9 (61m)
[5] Mazen Hesham 3-2 [3] Mostafa Asal  11-5, 7-11, 11-8, 1-11, 12-10 (88m)

Mazen Hesham knocked out defending champion Mostafa Asal in a dramatic finale to quarter-finals day in Houston. Hesham and Asal met in the Florida Open final a few weeks ago, with Asal winning 3-1 to claim the title, but this was a different story, as the players went toe-to-toe over close to 90 minutes of drama-filled action.

The opening game alone took close to half an hour, albeit partly due to a stoppage in play when Asal got a nosebleed at 9-5 down. The players returned to court and Hesham quickly wrapped up the game, but ‘The Raging Bull’ was soon on level terms, winning what was a somewhat scrappy second game, as both players struggled for rhythm.

Hesham regained his advantage by winning game three when an Asal drop shot clipped the top of the tin, but he was soon pegged back once more, with Asal hitting his stride in game four, winning it 11-1 in little more than five minutes.

Tensions grew in the decider, as both players used their reviews early and became frustrated with later decisions. Struggling with cramp, Hesham went on the attack, hitting a pair of audacious nicks on the return of serve, including one at 10-9 down on match ball.

He then brought up a match ball of his own after getting a stroke decision at 10-10, and finished proceedings in style, faking a backhand volley before hitting an inch-perfect drop from the back of the court, following it up with another backhand drop – this time from the front of the court – to clinch the win.

The emotion levels were clear, as Hesham raced to the back of the court in celebration and then embraced Asal – who took his defeat with grace – and speaking after the match, the World No.7 revealed that a big win like this has been on his radar for a while.

“I’ve been trying to look for these wins from the beginning of the season,” he said. “I made a promise to myself and to my coaches as well. I told them at the beginning of the season that I just want to keep moving forward, and then hopefully in 2024 we were going to have another phase where I can challenge these guys and get to the top with them, and see who’s better.

“Asal is really tough to play, you have to keep playing to the last point, like you saw today. All credit to him for pushing, whenever he was down and out, but I think I have done well today. Mentally, I’m really proud of myself, just to be able to pull this one through.

“I was kind of cramping a bit, I’m not going to lie. I told myself, if you’re cramping, even if you’re going to go for shots, aim for it and don’t back down, and I think I was lucky with the last few shots.”

Ali Farag booked his spot in the semi-finals, seeing off a stubborn Tarek Momen in four games. The No.1 seed was champion here in 2022 but did not play this event last year, and was facing Momen for the 23rd time on the PSA Tour, winning 18 of the previous 22, including each of the last 12.

Despite his lack of recent success against the World No.1, Momen made an impressive start to this encounter, winning the first four points before Farag clawed his way back to level at 6-6. Momen was undeterred, though, and closed out game one at the third opportunity, as Farag fired a forehand boast into the tin after saving the first two game balls.

The expectation within the commentary box was that Farag would quickly find his feet, and at 5-1 up in the second it looked as though he had, only for Momen to level at 6-6, with Farag frustrated by a pair of decisions going against him. But just as Momen had done in game one, Farag won the next four points to bring up four game balls, and exactly like his opponent had done one game earlier, he took his third opportunity when Momen’s backhand volley fell short.

If games one and two had been mirror images of each other, game three was a different story, with Farag finally settling down to find some rhythm and feel in his shots, taking the game 11-5.

He looked in control of game four too, opening up a sizeable gap to move within two points of victory, but Momen pegged him back to level at 9-9. As he does so often, though, Farag came up trumps at a crucial stage, bringing up match ball on a brilliant forehand drop before winning on a stroke, albeit a controversial one after Farag’s backswing made light contact with Momen.

“The first game, he was the better player,” Farag admitted after his win.

“He was finding his rhythm a lot better, and I had to change one little thing in between the first and the second, and then I thought I was hitting the ball a lot better, seeing the ball a lot better and I was in control for some of the rallies.”

Speaking about what it was like to play someone he knows so well, Farag added: “It comes with its own pros and cons.

“Obviously the pro is that you know each other’s games really well, you’re good friends, but the con is that he knows your game pretty well as well, especially if it’s someone who’s so good mentally that he never gives up.

“You have in the back of your mind the whole day… tonight is going to be a tough one, a huge mountain to climb, he’s not going to give you anything away easily… and these are the things that play on your mind all day, and if they don’t and you’re not prepared for it, you’re not going to be prepared yourself.

“I really enjoy those battles and I hope they may continue for years and years to come.”

Round Two

[1] Ali Farag 3-0 Farkas Balazs (HUN) 11-9, 11-9, 11-7 (27m)
[6] Tarek Momen 3-0 Leung Chi Hin Henry (HKG)  11-5, 11-6, 11-8 (31m)
[4] Karim Abdel Gawad 3-2 Timothy Brownell (USA)  6-11, 8-11, 11-6, 11-7, 11-8 (70m)
Aly Abou Eleinen 3-1 [8] Baptiste Masotti (FRA)  9-11, 14-12, 11-5, 11-2 (66m)
[3] Mostafa Asal 3-0 Juan Camilo Vargas (COL)   11-5, 11-3, 11-4 (31m)
[5] Mazen Hesham 3-0 Karim El Hammamy 11-6, 11-3, 11-2 (28m)

Champion Photo by Collin Poon Kong

Ruthless Hesham Dominates El Hammamy

Mazen Hesham produced a scintillating display to dismantle Karim El Hammamy and complete the quarter-final line-up. El Hammamy had taken his compatriot to five games in their last encounter at this season’s Paris Squash, but this matchup was an entirely different story.

Having won game won 11-6 on a backhand squeeze, Hesham stepped up a gear in the second, winning it 11-3 as the errors kept on coming from the racket of El Hammamy. El Hammamy knew he needed a good start to game three, but he got the exact opposite, as Hesham played an inch-perfect three-wall boast which hit the nick and rolled on the first point.

From there, he didn’t look back, closing out victory for the loss of just two more points, setting up a quarter-final clash with Mostafa Asal.

Speaking on his win over El Hammamy, Hesham said: “Last time we played it was 3-2, so I knew I had to start really well and I had to implement my game plan from the word go.

“It feels like home here. I’ve been coming to Houston since I was around 20 or 21, and I shake hands with everybody, whoever in the club knows me and I know them back. I feel like I’m their adopted son which I really like.

“I really appreciate every one of them and I really appreciate the support they have been giving me over the years, so I hope I can do well this week and make them all happy.

Looking ahead to his quarter-final opponent, he added: “Asal has been playing well since he came back. He won the first tournament of the year and I think it’s going to be a tough one and hopefully I’m up for the challenge and we give everybody a good one.”

Mostafa Asal expeditive victory in Houston

Defending champion Mostafa Asal, needed just 31 minutes to sweep aside Juan Camilo Vargas.
The ‘Joker’ displayed his trademark power throughout, crunching the ball deep into the corners on his way to a comfortable win.

“It’s just amazing to step on court here in Houston once again,” Asal said after his win.
“I have lots of good memories here. Last year I was World No.1 after this event so to come here again is just amazing.
“Vargas is an amazing player, and you don’t know what to expect with someone you didn’t play with before. He was amazing with his speed and his power on court, so I’m happy to go through and happy to be playing again on this court.”

Gawad Avoids Upset with Comeback Win

Karim Abdel Gawad avoided a major upset in round two coming from two games down to beat the USA’s Timothy Brownell.

The No.4 seed, who moved back inside the top five of the world’s rankings this week, came into this event after picking up the Pittsburgh Open title a few days ago, but was far from his best against the American lefty here.

Brownell had described the prospect of facing Gawad as a ‘dream’ after his round-one win, and he started the match with intent, displaying the free-spirited style of a player with little to lose. e was bouncing around the court with energy and took game one with a backhand drive which wrong-footed Gawad, winning game two with a deep forehand beyond the Egyptian’s reach a few minutes later.

That winner came on Brownell’s fourth game ball, with Gawad having saved the first three, and perhaps that helped to tilt the momentum back in the fourth seed’s favour.

He established an early game-three lead that he would never relinquish and controlled much of game four too, despite Brownell requesting a change of ball at its start. A misjudged boast into the tin from the Brownell racket on Gawad’s third game ball ensured a decider would be needed, and it was
the experience of the Egyptian that shone through in the end, winning a somewhat scrappy fifth on forehand drop, with Brownell’s calls for a video review falling on deaf ears, his own reviews already used up.

“I had a very slow start,” Gawad said after his win. “In the first two games, I couldn’t read him at all, I couldn’t see the ball very well, so I was moving a bit slowly.“After the second game, I had to re-focus again and I tried to push mentally as much as I could, tried to forget about the score
and play the match as if it was the first game.

“Starting from the third, I started moving better, started to read him much better than at the beginning and luckily it went my way at the end.”

His opponent in the last eight will be fellow Egyptian Aly Abou Eleinen, who came from a game down to beat Baptiste Masotti in the final match of the day. There was little to separate the two players through the first two games, which were shared one apiece, but the Egyptian ran away
with victory in the end, winning 17 of the last 19 points across games three and four.

“It was an exciting match,” he said after victory. “There was a lot of fast-paced, slow-paced, all-court squash, so I’m super happy and proud of myself that I got through today.”

World No.1 Ali Farag and sixth seed Tarek Momen also won, completing the Egyptian clean sweep on day two.

Round One

Karim El Hammamy 3-2 Simon Herbert (ENG)  6-11, 11-8, 6-11, 11-5, 11-7 (64m)
Aly Abou Eleinen 3-1 Andrew Douglas (USA)  11-6, 12-14, 11-6, 11-3 (51m)
Farkas Balazs (HUN) 3-1 Yahya Elnawasany  11-5, 8-11, 14-12, 11-6 (59m)