Egypt's squash star and world number one Mohamed Elshorbagy blames pressure for his recent failure at the 2015 Men's World Championship and vows to recover quickly and defend his title at the Hong Kong Squash Open next week.
The 24-year-old lost to Englishman James Willstrop, world number 24, early in Round 16.
In an interview by email, Elshorbagy spoke to Ahram Online about the recent result, his ambitions and upcoming challenges.
How do you explain your shock exit from the 2015 World championships?
I had a lot of pressure during the tournament. Sometimes you can prepare yourself well and have a bad day. Unfortunately, that bad day came in a World Championship match.
I am going to Hong Kong (29 November to 6 December) next week and hopefully will try and play well there and defend my title.
How many titles have you won this season?
The season starts in September and ends in May. We have six World Series each season just like the four grand slams in tennis. Last season, I was able to make the final of all of them and win four out of six, so I did have a really good season last year. This season we have had three world series so far and I won one of them (in Qatar), but I also won the British Grand Prix the month before, beating the world number two and three, which was a great for me.
You've been world number one for more than a year now. How do you manage to defend your spot?
I reached the top ranking in November 2014, 13 months ago. To be number one was always my dream and I was working very hard all my life to achieve it. You can say it’s the hard work, teamwork, the belief in yourself, and for sure you have to sacrifice a lot in order to achieve your dream. Athletes don’t have a normal life. It’s a very tough life, but I really do enjoy it.
I work hard on a daily basis to be the best I can be. Before getting the world number one spot I was the hunter, but now I am being hunted, which puts more pressure on me during tournaments, and that makes it more difficult. But I do love challenges and I always try to overcome any challenges I face.
Nick Mathew is just behind you. How do you see your challenge with him?
Yes, the gap between Mathew and me is not big and also with the world number three. All of us train very hard and that pushes us to be always at our best. This tough challenge exists in all sports, like in tennis. It made Nadal and Federer matches always exciting to the crowd, and to the game itself.
What is your training programme?
I always take June off to have some rest and be fresh when I start my preparation for the new season in July. I’m always training with my younger brother Marwan El-Shorbagy. He is the world number nine, so he is always my training partner and that helps both of us.
When the season starts, there is no time between tournaments to have a tough training programme. All I need is to have a good recovery between tournaments. It is always light sessions between tournaments and some quick and sharp fitness sessions to keep my body fresh.
Do you think living and training in England helped you?
I moved to England when I was 15 years old because I had a scholarship at school and then in my university. The difference between Egypt and England is the system. We have here in Egypt lots of talented players, more than in England, and the Egyptian players are now in the top rankings. But my life there in England is much more organised between squash and the university, and that helps me to keep a balance between my training and my studies.
There is also a difference between the British game and the Egyptian one, as the British depends on fitnesses level and long rallies, so their game is much more a defensive game. But the Egyptian game depends on the short game, which is more attacking because it suits our talented players.
When I moved to the UK, my game was short. I learned to be more patient, so I could mix between the two schools.
What are your weak points or areas you need to improve?
I have to improve my game all the time if I want to maintain the top ranking, because everyone on the tour is training hard, so I should always try to improve each area of my game.
What is your next step, and your main ambitions?
My goal now is to keep the number one ranking as long as I can. In December, it will be a big event in Cairo when we’ll hold the World Teams Championship. We’re all very happy with that. This tournament moved from Kuwait to Cairo and it’s always an honour to play in front of the Egyptian crowd.
How do you evaluate Egyptian squash?
We can say that Egyptian squash now rules the world. We the number one in men and women too (Raneem El-Weleily). Additionally, we have five players among the top 10 men and women rankings. If we look to the juniors, we find that they are on top of their age categories too, which means that hopefully Egypt will stay on top for a long time.
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