Makin meets Rooney in third round battle of Britain
By ALAN THATCHER and MATT COLES
Egypt’s World No.17 Youssef Ibrahim got the better of World No.2 Mohamed ElShorbagy for the second year in succession to reach the third round of the 2021 Qatar QTerminals Classic.
The pair faced off in last year’s third round at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex, with Ibrahim saving match balls en route to a come-from-behind victory over the ‘Beast of Alexandria’.
This time round, it was in the last 32, and it was a much more comfortable victory for the left-hander. He took the first two games with ease, allowing top seed ElShorbagy to rack up just eight points across them, putting a small injury break for a cut on his hand right to the back of his mind.
The three-time Qatar champion fought back to take the third 11-7, but it was Ibrahim who took the victory after 47 minutes of action, condemning ElShorbagy to his first round two loss since October 2018.
More amazingly, it is the first time since this very event 12 years ago that ElShorbagy has lost his opening match of a major tournament on the PSA World Tour. Meanwhile, Ibrahim will now face compatriot Mazen Hesham in the third round on Tuesday.
“I expected myself to play really well,” the World No.17 said after his victory. “Mohamed is known as ‘The Beast’ and his mentality is so strong. He probably has the strongest mentality of any squash player.
“I knew my win against him last year would rile him up and he would come at me today and I didn’t want to be a victim. I’m also the kind of player who plays better when I’m angry, so I tried to give myself a reason to be angry today.
“I knew he would come at me strongly, so I was very prepared from the start. He tried to push the pace so hard at the beginning and I equalled him. I didn’t want anyone to say it was a lucky win and I’m happy to be competing with the top 10 guys and beating them consistently. I think my tactics worked out well and I held my nerves well throughout the match.”
Absolutely exhibition squash from @Yousseefibrahim ?
— PSA World Tour (@PSAWorldTour) October 18, 2021
Mohamed Abouelghar also took out a seeded opponent, with the Egyptian defeating compatriot and World No.6 Karim Abdel Gawad in four games.
The pair were both fresh after first round byes and Gawad held an 8-5 advantage over ‘the Bullet’ as they met on Tour for the first time in over two years.
Gawad took the first 11-4 but from then on it was World No.16 Abouelghar who took control and completed victory in 45 minutes.
Abouelghar said: “I cannot put into words how much I needed this win. I’ve been losing a lot of 3-2s recently and it just got into my head too much. I managed to stay focused, put my head down and just keep working. I’m very happy with the performance tonight, I just kept it together until the end and without going for too much flashy stuff. I’m very, very happy.
“The draw has been brutal to me everywhere, not just in Qatar. I’ve been playing these (top) guys in first rounds a lot in the last two seasons. It’s good to do it the hard way.
“I always say to myself ‘If you want to reach the finals and semi-finals, you have to beat one of these guys,’ so playing them early doesn’t change how I approach the tournament. Hopefully I can carry on from the performance I had tonight and keep going forward.”
He will now face Adrian Waller in the last 16 after the Englishman received a walkover, as his second round opponent, Mohamed ElSherbini, had to withdraw from the tournament with a fractured rib.
Fellow Englishmen Patrick Rooney and Tom Richards also won through but James Willstrop and George Parker lost to Egyptian stars Tarek Momen and Mazen Hesham.
Momen has often found his best squash in Doha – which was the scene of his 2019 PSA World Championship triumph as well his first major final in 2017 – and he nullified Willstrop’s incredible shot-making skills and sent the 38-year-old into the front of the court regularly.
The World No.4 completed an 11-5, 11-9, 11-9 victory to claim his seventh win in a row over the former World No.1, while it’s also the third time in a row he has sent him out of the Qatar Classic.
“I think we’ve played here in Qatar three out of the last four years and we’ve just played in Philly, so I was thinking ‘not again’,” said Momen.
“On the other side of the coin, it’s such a pleasure to play him, always. He’s fair and the way he plays is incredible. You can never play a match against him and not enjoy it whether you win or lose. Of course, it feels a lot better when you come out the winner, but I enjoy what he does with the racket and you always try to outmanoeuvre him.
“I always feel at home coming here. The best memory I’ll ever have in my whole career was here in 2019. These guys [the fans] made it happen for me and they will always be part of my legacy in this sport. If I write a story about my journey, this is going to be the highlight and they were a part of it.”
Rooney was delighted to master the conditions on a cool court to overcome Tandon in four games. Rooney took first game 11-9, only for Tandon to strike back to take the second 11-5 in seven minutes.
While Tandon had looked confident in the second, mistakes crept into his game in the third and the Englishman took it 11-6, again in seven minutes.
Rooney maintained the momentum to win the fourth 11-6, progressing to the third round in just 37 minutes.
After the match, Rooney said: “I’m very proud, it’s unexpected to reach the third round. I was looking at reaching the top-16 level in the world, so if I look at it like that, I can’t not be proud of myself.
“I’m gaining a lot of experience playing these tournaments and it’s showing in these matches I’m having where it’s getting close like this and yesterday, the one in the U.S. Open and I’m able to come through it even though things aren’t always going my way. I’m getting a lot of experience and learning from these events.
“I was fairly familiar [with Ramit before today]. He comes to Pontefract where I train and we’ve practiced together a few times. I know a lot about him and I know how he plays. We’re both pretty similar, we like to hit the ball quite nicely, use different shots, hold and send people the wrong way. So, I kind of knew what to expect, but on this court, you don’t know what could happen. If he plays well, he could beat me, if I play well, it could go either way, so I had to be on form really.
“I was trying to hit accurate shots and they weren’t quite coming off, so I just had to have a word with myself and come back on, keep it simple and be accurate to the back, try and get him behind you and play the simple shots if I can, still go for the attacking option if it’s on, but play a bit more safe and be a bit more solid. I had to have a really good word with myself so I don’t self-destruct!
Declan James led Diego Elias by two games to one but the effort took its toll as he lost the fourth game 11-0 to the Peruvian, who edged it 11-8 in the fifth.
Elias said: “I’m happy with the win. It wasn’t the match I wanted. He started playing well and I couldn’t find the [way] to hit the ball. Everything was staying short and he was hitting good shots. I’m happy with how I played at the end until 5-0 in the fifth. Those last two games are how I want to play. All credit to him, he knew how to come back in the match. I’m happy with the win and it’s time to get ready for tomorrow.
“I think I’ve been around the top eight for a while now. It’s time for me to get some good wins and start winning tournaments.
Joel Makin, the highest-ranked British male player, faces Rooney in the third round.
Qatar QTerminals Classic 2021, Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex, Doha.
Youssef Ibrahim (EGY) bt  Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) 3-1: 11-3, 11-5, 7-11, 11-9 (47m)
Mazen Hesham (EGY) bt George Parker (ENG) 3-0: 11-4, 11-6, 11-7 (25m)
Patrick Rooney (ENG) bt Ramit Tandon (IND) 3-1: 11-9, 5-11, 11-6, 11-6 (37m)
 Joel Makin (WAL) bt Iker Pajares Bernabeu (ESP) 3-0: 12-10, 11-9, 11-8 (55m)
 Diego Elias (PER) bt Declan James (ENG) 3-2: 10-12, 11-6, 9-11, 11-0, 11-8 (67m)
Gregoire Marche (FRA) bt Sebastien Bonmalais (FRA) 3-0: 11-7, 11-9, 11-4 (47m)
Raphael Kandra (GER) bt Mahesh Mangaonkar (IND) 3-2: 11-7, 7-11, 10-12, 11-9, 11-4 (59m)
 Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) bt Borja Golan (ESP) 3-2: 11-9, 10-12, 11-13, 11-7, 11-6 (65m)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) bt James Willstrop (ENG) 3-0: 11-5, 11-9, 11-9 (38m)
Tom Richards (ENG) bt Lucas Serme (FRA) 3-1: 12-10, 11-8, 4-11, 11-9 (54m)
Youssef Soliman (EGY) bt Omar Mosaad (EGY) 3-2: 11-2, 6-11, 10-12, 11-3, 11-8 (66m)
 Mostafa Asal (EGY) bt Saurav Ghosal (IND) 3-1: 7-11, 13-11, 11-9, 11-6 (69m)
Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) bt  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) 3-1: 4-11, 11-3, 11-8, 11-3 (45m)
Adrian Waller (ENG) bt Mohamed ElSherbini (EGY): Walkover
Baptiste Masotti (FRA) bt Nicolas Mueller (SUI) 3-0: 11-2, 14-12, 11-1 (26m)
 Paul Coll (NZL) bt Rui Soares (POR) 3-0: 11-4, 11-3, 11-5 (26m)
Third Round Draw (Top Half, October 19):
Youssef Ibrahim (EGY) v Mazen Hesham (EGY)
Patrick Rooney (ENG) v  Joel Makin (WAL)
 Diego Elias (PER) v Gregoire Marche (FRA)
Raphael Kandra (GER) v  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY)
Third Round Draw (Bottom Half, October 20):
 Tarek Momen (EGY) v Tom Richards (ENG)
Youssef Soliman (EGY) v  Mostafa Asal (EGY)
Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) v Adrian Waller (ENG)
Baptiste Masotti (FRA) v  Paul Coll (NZL)
Pictures courtesy of PSA