Joel Makin (WAL) 3-2  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) 14-12, 7-11, 9-11, 11-8, 11-8 (93m)
Marwan – playing the best squash of his life, thanks to his work with Rodney Martin – shouldn’t have lost that first game. Come on. Up 7/2, 9/4? That is for me the pivot of the match. Game ball, 10/7. An error.
8/10. Marwan, who has been on his best ref behaviour, finally explodes after Joel gets a let. “Play the ball”, the Egyptian keeps repeating. And when the call is confirmed by the video ref, he goes “WHY?” “you were very close to him” explains the ref “he could have hit you with the follow up”. Joel goes “that’s a stroke then”. And Marwan tins the ball. 9/10. And another, 10/10.
Marwan gets another chance at it, 11/10, then another, 12/11. But a stroke and a winner from Joel, and the Golden Tiger steals the opener, 14/12, 22m game.
The second is much shorter, 13. Good reaction from Marwan, 5/0, taking the game 11/7.
Marwan gets firing from all cylinders. The winners – or should I say should be winners – are coming out his racquet like gifts out of Santa’s bag. But Joel is like a man with stealth protection. He keeps retrieving all the winners, and finding some himself. Marwan is relentless but so is Joel.
And it’s 19m of fantastic, ridiculous squash 1/1, 2/2, 3/3, 5/5, 8/6 Joel, back level 8/8, 9/9. Marwan’s winner on the right side forces a split from the Welsh, in vain, game ball 10/9, and a kill forehand drive, 11/9.
19m game, 10 winners for Marwan, only 4 for Joel.
Fourteen minutes in the 4th, the Egyptian with the momentum, 4/1, only to be caught up 4/4. And overtaken, 8/5, 10/6. Marwan gives it a big push but Joel is possessed, retrieving the irretrievable. 11/8.
And it’s about the same scenario in the last game: Marwan good start, 3/1, 3/3, 5/3, 5/5, 6/6. Overtaken by the Welsh 9/6. Joel is running on fumes and has to anticipate a lot. He gets very close to Marwan who plays a backhand drive that hits just about the eye…
A huge rally at 9/8 – Joel had to go and use his towel to sponge the blood out of his eyebrow – and it’s match ball, 10/8. A short rally, 11/8. 19m last game.
Throughout the match, Marwan made 16 errors. Joel 4. It was an incredible battle. Both gave it all. No holds barred. But all in the spirit of our sport. Respect. So proud of my players. So forking proud.
I was leading all the way in the first game, I should have won that first, but all credit to him, he kept coming back, he kept fighting, digging in in that first game, and once it got tense, I couldn’t get my length and my game.
After that, I’m happy of course with the way I came back in the 2nd and third, I think I had a bit of chance in that 4th game, but again, he came back well, he kept fighting, so did I.
I think he’s improved, he is taking the ball in a bit shorter now, on that court, not easy but all credit to him, he played a fantastic match.
It was close. Maybe I could have done some court stuff a bit better, I’m sure he would say the same thing. No time to feel down, another event next week and another one after that.
One thing for sure, I’m not going to say ‘I could have fought more’, I gave sure did give it everything I had till the last point.
“I had to run in the straight drops better but he was really squeezing me at times. It was a really good, high-quality battle. There wasn’t much interference for a 90-minute match, it was good.
“I’m in a good place. When I’m like that physically I can push and I can get through these top guys. If I can get those straight drops in and work it in well then I can cause problems for them no matter how well they’re playing.”