ALI FINALLY GETS A WIN ON ENGLISH SOIL!
A very careful Ali in game one, having had back problem right before starting the match, only to find his best squash as the match went along.
He didn’t even lose his head when at match ball 10/9, he saw his let overturned with a No Let that put the score at 10/10.
Well done Mr Fantastic.
“First and foremost sorry for delaying the final. It was an unfortunate incident at the very last minute before I got on court, in the last lunges I felt a spasm in my back. I really didn’t want it to happen, but I can’t thank Gerry the PSA physio enough, they’ve worked magic and as long as they told me it couldn’t get any worse, I just kept pushing and adapting my game plan accordingly and I’m very happy with the way I got through it.
“My wife is playing a tournament at Black Ball in Egypt, so I have to be doing the parenting duties next week, while she focuses on her tournament and then I’ll be back training for the British Open at the end of the month.
“I fancy my chances at every tournament that I play. I play every tournament to win it, but obviously there are a lot of big names in the draw and I’m not the only one aiming for that tournament as well. Finally, I get a hand on a trophy on British soil, I’ve reached six finals here, two of which were the Optasia and couldn’t convert any. I’m extremely happy to win finally here.”
 Ali Farag3-0 Nicolas Mueller (Sui) 17-15, 11-5, 11-4 (41m)
 Diego Elias (PER) 3-0  Mohamed ElShorbagy 15-13, 11-1, 11-7 (45m)
It doesn’t take a genius to see that the first game was crucial. A long, exhausting, explosive game, 22m, with the Swiss Rocket living up to his nickname zooming to 5/0 within seconds!
Followed much longer rallies, with Ali using the height of the court a lot – very cold conditions, so using lobs really – and forcing a lot of steps into the Swiss.
Both dominated at times, scoring runs of points, but it’s Ali that gets first blood, 10/8. But full of confidence and moving very well, Nici just went on defying Mr Fantastic, setting himself 3 game balls before the Egyptian finally closed the game on his third game ball, 17/15.
The last two games saw some lovely rallies but the sting was out of the Swiss Racquet, and Farag was able to take a nice 3/0, 11/5, 11/4, in 6 and 7m.
“He threw more than just the kitchen sink at me, he was throwing everything at me. You can never match Nicci at such open squash, I tried to contain him in the first, I wasn’t aggressive enough in the back corners and he was finding his targets pretty well and was playing better than me but I thought to put some work into his legs even if you lose this one it’s an investment, and it would pay off in the second and third games and winning it as well made the physical difference and also the mental difference because I was 1-0 up and I capitalised on it in the second and contained him in the third and I’m just very happy to win.
“Nicci is a very experienced campaigner, he’s beaten Shabana in his peak and a lot of good players, he’s pushed every player throughout his career, he’s been unlucky with injuries but when he’s in good shape he’s very dangerous as you’ve seen today and all week. I’m happy for him to be back injury-free but not for myself as it gets tougher but it’s great and I’m looking forward to more matches together in the future.
“I do a lot of gym work with my fitness team back in Egypt and help from Derek Ryan in Ireland, he’s been my S&C consultant and my everything consultant in a lot of things so he’s been a big help. Obviously, right before tournaments, we taper down but in a regular week, it’s two or three times in the gym and two-three times of other fitness work, whether it’s on the bike, treadmill, court sprints or ghosting.
“As they say, squash has all different elements you need to be good at not only in endurance but speed, strength, everything, which is great for the spectators but not for our bodies, my joints are looking pretty distorted at only 29 but hopefully with the help of my team I can keep playing for many more years.”
Well, if we thought the first game was paramount in the first semi, what to say about this 26m opener, that took so much out of Mohamed’s game that the Egyptian stayed only 4m on court in the second game, scoring only one point.
It felt like that final in the CIBPSAFinals against Mostafa Asal, with Mohamed signalling to his mum and dad that he was completely dead. And if Mohamed dug in deep in the third game, trying to force a few errors from Diego’s racquet, and looking like refreshed, 4/4, 5/5, 7/7, the South American just strung the last four points in seconds, and a huge relief/pride shout from Diego sealed the match, 11/7 in 10m.
 Ali Farag 3-0  Joel Makin (WAL) 11-9, 11-7, 11-3 (43m)
Nicolas Mueller (SUI) 3-1  Marwan ElShorbagy 8-11, 11-9, 11-5, 11-6 (44m)
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) 3-0  Karim Abdel Gawad 11-6, 11-4, 11-4 (29m)
 Diego Elias (PER) 3-2  Mazen Hesham 9-11, 11-7, 11-6, 4-11, 12-10 (63m)
“In two months, I will have been inside the top three for nine straight years, so to do this, I have done it over generations!”
“I came up playing against [Thierry] Lincou, playing [Amr] Shabana, against Greg [Gaultier] and James [Willstrop]. Then I had to take some time out a few years later because [Karim Abdel] Gawad came up to me, and Ali [Farag] and my brother [Marwan ElShorbagy].
“Now I had to take some time out because Paul [Coll] stepped up and then [Mostafa] Asal. Different generations, different times, different speeds, and in order to keep up with these generations, you have to go back and tell yourself that you’re not good enough and you can’t keep up.
“You then go out and train and you can do better, you know. I wanted to do better, to do myself justice, and I am just really happy to get off in three.
“The two players that stand out right now, in the coming generation, and that is Asal and Youssef Ibrahim. Ibrahim reminds us a lot of Shabana, he is so talented, and then Asal is so strong and brutal. He is a beast to be honest. At the end of the day, they are young stars, and they deserve the support of all squash fans, whether you like their style or not. We need to support them as squash fans because they are two superstars who will rule the sport at some point you know. There will be others that will come up with them from different countries.
“I just lost to one of then [Ibrahim] in the last tournament and the head-to-head with him is 3-0, but there is no shame in that. It is great for the sport to see a new generation stepping up, that is what I did when I was 20, 21-years-old, and I am so happy. I am a squash fan before I am a competitor, so I am glad to see that, definitely.”
“The crowd is amazing. It is not often that we go to tournaments where there is a full crowd from the very first day. Thanks to everyone who is involved.
“I used to think about it a lot more when I hadn’t achieved the World No.1 spot. I was very eager on getting it. I heard Laura Massaro once say that when you stop needing something and you start wanting it, you become less desperate and you play more freely. I am very grateful for the career I have had already, but as long I am here, this time I am breathing down Paul Coll’s neck. So are so many great players, like Mohamed ElShorbagy who is the best player of our generation, you’ve got Diego Elias, Marwan ElShorbagy, Tarek Momen, everyone is chasing that No.1 spot. I am just one of them but I will do my best to get it back hopefully.
“Thanks to everyone who keeps supporting these events. For me, it would have been hard to play all of them [the four British events] as we just came from Chicago. I am playing this and then skipping Canary Wharf, I’ve got the little one to take care of, and I had to miss my wife’s birthday yesterday so I need to get back and make that up!
 Ali Farag 3-0 Mohamed ElSherbini 11-7, 11-6, 11-7 (32m)
 Marwan ElShorbagy w/o James Willstrop
 Karim Abdel Gawad (Egy) 3-1 [9/16] Youssef Soliman (Egy) 11-6, 7-11, 11-8, 11-9 (70m)
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (Egy) 3-0 George Parker (Eng) 11-9, 11-6, 11-7 (29m)
 Mazen Hesham (Egy) w/o [9/16] Saurav Ghosal (Ind)
What Ali said
“The venue is special and different and we enjoy that. In our careers we rarely go to new places, so it’s exciting for us players.”
On studying at Harvard:
“I think it was a once in a lifetime experience, I really enjoyed it out there. It’s different, college squash is exciting, you’ve got millions of players and teammates that are cheering you on. My teammates were amazing and my coach, Mike Way, he has left a big stamp on my character and my squash. It was great and now to see more and more players doing it. To be fair the people that are doing it now are even more impressive, you just saw Youssef Ibrahim and Victor Crouin yesterday 14-12 in the fifth and they are already in the top 20 in the world. Back then, I wasn’t playing professional much in college and afterwards I decided to go down the professional route and I don’t regret it one bit.
“I play for Wadi Degla, it’s the biggest sports and squash centre in Egypt and I train under Karim Darwish, who is a former World No.1 himself. You know how good it is to live in Egypt and play squash, you train with so many of the world’s top players day in and day out and we all lift each other up. We share the same fitness trainers, same coaches and even if we don’t share I train with Tarek Momen, Omar Mosaad and it’s something I’m so grateful for and hopefully we can inspire the generations coming up.”
[9/16] Mohamed ElSherbini 3-1 Shahjahan Khan (Usa) 11-9, 9-11, 11-5, 11-4 (55m)
[9/16] Youssef Soliman 3-0 Lucas Serme (Fra) 11-8, 11-6, 11-2 (39m)
George Parker (ENG) 3-1 Karim El Hammamy 8-11, 11-6, 11-7, 11-9 (51m)
Youssef Soliman said
I had to play a solid game to make sure I got this first round win. I can take confidence from it and I’m happy with my performance. It’s definitely an exciting court and we are used to the blue court so it’s quite different but it’s nice.
“I’m still based between Cairo and Bristol but more Cairo now, 70-30 in Cairo now and we’ll see next year where I’m based, I haven’t decided yet. I play at the Ahly club and we’re trying to build a strong Egyptian League team. It’s a big thing in Egypt, when you’re a junior now your schedule is like three days in a row against top 10 guys. It’s tough but it’s interesting at the same time.”
World N#1 CIB Ali Farag will headline the draw for the Optasia Championships, which take place at the Wimbledon Club in London from Sun 6th an Fri 11th March.
Formerly known as the Channel VAS Championships, the Optasia Championships is a PSA World Tour Gold event, which offers up $109,000 in total player prize compensation. This year sees the event relocate from the St George’s Hill Lawn Tennis Club, where it had been held since 2015.
Farag, a two-time runner-up in both 2017 and 2018, has been seeded first for the event, which boasts a top-class draw featuring six of the world’s top 10 players, including three former and current World Champions, with Farag joined by Mohamed ElShorbagy and CIB Karim Abdel Gawad in the draw.
The 29-year-old has won three PSA titles already this season and receives a bye into the second round, where he will face either fellow Egyptian Mohamed ElSherbini or USA’s Shahjahan Khan.
Farag is seeded to meet No.4 seed CIB Marwan ElShorbagy in the last four, while Marwan’s older brother – World No.3 Mohamed – is seeded second for the event. Mohamed won the Channel VAS Championships in 2017 – beating Farag in the final – and the former World No.1 will look to win his first PSA event since May, 2021.
ElShorbagy has a tricky path to the final, which includes 2019 champion Gawad and Peruvian World No.6 Diego Elias.