Ali Farag (EGY) 3-0 Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) 9-11, 11-3, 11-8, 11-3 (47m)
The way Ali was smiling at the end of the match, the cat that’s got the cream and the muffin kind of ecstatic smile, you KNEW he didn’t rely believe he could win that match. Hoping yes, believing it, no.
Both Abou and Ali have the same style of disorder, just at different degrees, and Ali didn’t get surgery. But both are in recovery, both are trying to get back to their best form. Not easy.
Ali looked sharp in the first game, playing a mid pace in his comfort zone squash, up 3/1, then 6/4, getting overtaken by his opponent, five points in a row to reach 9/6, courtesy of 4 uncharacteristic errors from Mr Fantastic.
With short rallies, Ali levelled at 9/9, but two superb shots from Abou – that Ali actually saluted – and with a pace from hell, Abou closes the opener, 11/9, 16m of hard, very hard squash.
In the third, I felt that Ali was losing his length completely, letting his opponent again and again back in the match. Instead of putting pressure at the back to Abou, he was opening the court far too much, and he was somehow a bit lucky to get that third, 2/2, 3/3, 5/3, 5/5, 6/6, 7/7, 10/7, 11/8 in 13m, still making more errors than Mohamed.
But Abou had left all that he had in that third, and it was an “easy” game for Ali, 7m, 11/3.
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I think I had a good first game and then my physicality dropped a little bit in the second. He caught me off guard and he exposed my movement a little bit to the front. And from that moment on, I couldn’t find my length, and he was lethal.
I think I probably haven’t found my full range yet, not 100% on court. I wasn’t that sharp in the front, and my short game was not good enough today. But I still want to thank Takashi for his work with me [Mohamed Ali Anwar Reda].
“I haven’t played that well since I got back, even in practice. I haven’t felt that fit in the gym and everything clicked today a lot better than I expected. It’s really thanks to the people that have worked with me over the past four years, they are all here.
“I’m super grateful to be back, regardless of the result. The result is a big bonus, but the quality of squash I played and my movement was beyond rewarding.
“Mohamed has had a similar injury with a greater extend unfortunately for him. He’s been my doctor really, I’ve been texting him every day. Now that we’ve drawn each other, I didn’t want to bother him, but the past four months he’s been my ‘non-doctor’ doctor.
“I’ve asked him if things feel alright or if they’re normal, and he tells me what to do. He’s on the comeback, I saw him playing so well in Pittsburgh and it’s great to have him back on tour because he is a great asset. He produces a brand of squash that no one else does, so I’m very happy to be through today against such an exceptional opponent.
“I very much look forward to it [playing ElShorbagy]. Mohamed has been in great form this season, especially after last season where he had a tough time. It shows his character and how much of a champion he is.
“I tell him all the time that I’ve learned so much from him.”