QF:  Marwan ElShorbagy (Egy) 3-2  Paul Coll (Nzl) 10-12, 11-7, 11-9, 3-11, 11-9 (96m)
It had been a long time since I hadn’t enjoyed a match featuring Mr Shorbagy Junior. Today, Elhamdoulillah I did. Apart from two ramblings at the end “John Massarella is ruining my matches, he should retire”, Marwan let the squash do the talking. Finally. And guess what? He won.
Poor John, he must be doing terribly right, as Paul also commented after his match that “he got it terribly wrong at the end”. That’s a ref’s lot. And believe me, the day John does retire, you are all going to cry. You are going to weep. BELIEVE ME. Back to squash.
Very high quality match. Truly and utterly accurate, clever, varied, moving all around the court, attacking defending, and played in the spirit intended.
Paul set up the pace in the first game, 25m. Marwan knows he’s going to have to dig in to win. There is no other way. Up 7/3, not enough. Paul levels from no fault from Marwan, 7/7, 8/8, 9/9. Paul makes his first error of the match on his first game ball, 10/10. But the Egyptian gives him two lovely unforced errors on the last two points, 12/10.
Paul, 6 winners, Marwan, 8.
If the Egyptian looked pretty cooked at the end of the previous game, he is back on fire, and leads the way from 2/2, 4/2, 7/4. Paul get back very close, but the energy and the power are coming from the Egyptian’s racquet, 10/6, 11/7, in 16m, with uncharacteristically 4 errors from Paul, only 1 from Marwan.
Superman is leading clearly at the start of the third, 2/0, 4/1, 5/2. Marwan finding some superb counterdropping and counterattacking 5/5, 6/6, 6/6, 7/7, 8/8. But this time, despite a stroke at 8/10, it’s the Egyptian that takes the lead on his second attempt, 11/9 in 19 long minutes.
The 5th is a classic really. It will last 23m, with Marwan ahead the whole time, looking very very tired, but so many stoppage for decisions, video decisions, reviews… Shorter rallies, that suits the Egyptian fine and he looks good at 6/3.
There, he starts cramping. We are holding our breaths. But as often, the cramp goes away a few rallies later, and he is now up 9/5. He thinks it’s a stroke, and it’s a no let, confirmed by the video ref. Funny as a kid all the way up in the seatings goes YES as the ‘no let’ is confirmed, Marwan’s face, so funny.
As he thought he was match ball up 10/5, and finds himself 6/9, he concedes 1 stroke, but still gets 3 match balls, 10/7.
A stroke cancels the first one. A ridiculous rally, ending on a check on the ball, called good and a no let, that’s the second match ball gone. 10/9, Marwan needs that one, believe me. And he gets it. A deep kill on the right side, Paul seems to going ever so slightly to the front, then goes to the side, and it’s a no let, confirmed by the video ref.
Paul, gracious in defeat as so often, Marwan, like I said, only rambled at the end a few comments, it’s a pretty good day for squash.
“I thought I had him in the 5th, he was cramping, but there were more stop starts in that game, which suit his game more than mine, both of us a bit tired I think and more decisions.
“I got caught up in that last game, it was a bit too scrappy, not the way I wanted to play it… I had a good week, happy overall the way it turned out, not as much disappointed with the loss than I am disappointed with the 5th today.”
“I gave it more than 100% today and Paul gave it more than 100%. It’s always tough playing Paul, especially in those conditions, I think we gave it everything. I stayed calm, I learnt my lesson and that’s why I won the match.
“This is a match [against older brother Mohamed] I’ve been waiting for if he beats Joel today. It’s that one match that I’ve been waiting for since September, he’s the greatest player of our generation. Every time I step on court with him it’s something that adds to me, I want to give it everything if we get to play. I’m looking forward to tomorrow anyway and recovery is very important now.
“It was an easy match, I wasn’t cramping! No, I did cramp in the fifth game, but I was going to push either way and I’m really happy with how I dealt with the decisions and I’m glad that I won today, I could have won and he could have won. To be honest, I would have been disappointed if I lost, but I knew I gave it everything.”
🗣 "I just hope everyone really enjoyed because we both gave it more than 100% today."
— PSA World Tour (@PSAWorldTour) March 23, 2021