2024 Reports Round Two

R2: Youssef Ibrahim 3-1 [6] Joel Makin

Youssef Ibrahim (EGY) 3-1 [6] Joel Makin (WAL) 8-11, 11-7, 11-4, 11-9 (72m)

In front of an Egyptian crowd, with coach Abdel Aziz, mum and the whole family, friends, and even Karim his brother, now in charge of the US juniors, who took holidays to come and support his brother (and enjoy Eid, of course….), Youssef couldn’t feel more loved today.

But Joel had never lost against Youssef. Whether best of 5 or BO3, 3 victories. Joel has a way to force errors out of Prince Charming, forcing him to go for too much too soon, frustrating him and getting on the wrong end of very long and painful rallies.

But today, I was surprised by Joel in the third game. If I had been able to chat with him at the end as I normally do, I would have asked what happened. We are 1 game all, fair enough and good reflection of what’s happening on court, balance intensity, lots of good squash, and in that third, 2/2.

A bit of a contact to Youssef rib cage, the Egyptian takes maybe 1m to recover, not too long, but Joel just seemed to swith off completely. 8/2 Youss, losing the game 11-4 in 9m. Compared with the first game, 20m, and second, 18m. Very strange.

Having all the confidence in his game, Youssef took a good start of the 4th, 2/0, but rushed a bit, making a couple of errors, level 2/2. 4/4. 5/5. 6/6. 7/7. The Egyptian gets a stroke and a lovely volley winner, 9/7. Good response from Joel, 8/9.

A stunning glued kill drive and it’s 2 match balls. 10/8 Youssef, which tins the first one, but it’s a virtual gift from Joel for the second, an unforced error with a simple backhand crosscourt. He won’t be happy. 11/9, and first ever victory for Youssef, very emotional on this Eid last day…

“There’s so much I want to say but I’m speechless, I don’t know how to find the words. It’s been a long struggle and finally…. I’ve been waiting for a good win for so many years since coming back from injury. This season I’ve been expecting better results and I’ve been talking to my coaches. They’re all here, everyone’s here. Everyone who’s worked so hard with me.

“I just wanted to perform and give 100 percent without any regrets. I’m not expecting too much from myself anymore. It’s a long journey and everyone has a different road but a lot of doubts come into your head when you lose so many times when you’ve been expecting to do better.

“I dug really deep. I’d forgotten to win those kinds of matches, I’d lost those kind of matches so often this season so to win a match like this against a mentally tough opponent, I’m just so proud of myself.

“The crowd’s support definitely makes a difference, but when you’re in the zone you don’t see anyone. You look back to familiar faces but the support made a difference today. I focused on my game and took it point by point.”