Squash: El Shorbagy targets long stretch at top

AFP, Saturday 15 Nov 2014

Mohamed El-Shorbagy
Egyptian squash star Mohamed El Shorbagy

Mohamed El Shorbagy warned his rivals that he aims to top the world rankings for a long time after a straight games win over Muhamed Asyraf Asan, a Malaysian qualifier, carried him into the second round of the World Open.

“It sounds amazing to be world number one,” said the 23-year-old, who has had little more than a fortnight to get used to the idea.

“I have worked hard for it all my life. I hope I can keep this position a long time.”

To make that more likely El Shorbagy intends to follow his opening 11-5, 11-4, 11-8 success by going on to win the world title for the first time at one of his favourite venues.

“It was here that I won my first World Series title (the Qatar Classic) and here that I reached the final of the World Open too (two years ago),” he said. “I have amazing memories here and I hope I will keep them up.”

If the young Egyptian continues to play with Saturday's high-paced consistency, his ambition will begin to look very realistic indeed.

When Azan briefly led 8-6 in the third game El Shorbagy showed his alertness to the danger by producing a surge which won him five rallies in a row.

That victory contributed to two days of record-breaking by the Egyptian contingent, which increased their total of second round survivors to ten -– a record for any country -- after Amr Shabana, a four-time world champion, beat Adrian Waller, the world number 26 from England, by 11-9, 11-8, 7-11, 11-2.

Later the dismissal of the first seeded player, Daryl Selby, increased the possibility of Tarek Momen making the last eight, and the chances of fully five Egyptians reaching the quarter-finals.

The eighth-seeded Englishman was ousted 11-5, 11-4, 8-11, 3-11, 11-4 by Stephen Coppinger, the 24th-ranked South African.

El Shorbagy next plays Mahesh Mangaonkar, whose progress, following that of Saurav Ghosal, made it the first time two Indian players have reached the second round.

El Shorbagy could go on to a semi-final with titleholder Nick Matthew, who began his bid to become the oldest male ever to win the World Open with a flawed success which, he reckons, may give him a warning he needs.

The 34-year old Englishman overcame Raphael Kandra, a German qualifier, by 11-2, 11-6, 10-12, 11-1, but allowed an opponent ranked outside the top 50 into the match in a curiously ragged third game.

Matthew compared this temporary setback to that of Gregory Gaultier, the top-seeded Frenchman who went two games down on Friday before surviving against the Egyptian qualifier Andrew Wagih.

“Sometimes if you get a bad start you have some catching up to do,” said Matthew, referring to himself and to Gaultier.

“And that can be difficult to do. Greg paid for it last night and I paid for it a little bit as well. You cannot afford that.”

However Matthew soon recovered his earlier excellence, and claims he will remain on guard against the relaxed feelings which have stemmed from a year in which he became the first player to defend a Commonwealth Games singles title, got married, and saw the birth of his first child.

If Matthew achieves this state of mind he could supersede Geoff Hunt, the great Australian, who won the last of his four World Open titles at the age of 33 years and six months.

It is a record which has lasted more than 34 years. 

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