ElShorbagy & Gawad – The Possibility A Great Rivalry?

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Karim Conquers Mohamed in Qatar

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Karim Gawad just won his 3rd massive title in a row, in probably the most impressive and unexpected (by most) start to a season in squash history.

Gawad’s calm temperament seems to help him stay grounded with these amazing achievements in such a short space of time, surely it will sink in soon what he has actually achieved?! Winning in front of the pyramids, becoming World Champion and then to win in Qatar yesterday, in front of a huuuuge crowd, who mostly seemed to be cheering for ElShorbagy – wow, just wow!

He now has a month over the Christmas period to let his amazing success sink in, and it will be fascinating to see how he performs in the next World Series Event, The Tournament Of Champions in New York in January. The whole World is watching him now – expecting….

What I find exciting is that we seem to be witnessing the start of a great rivalry between two 25 year old Egyptians in Karim Gawad and Mohamed ElShorbagy. Gawad who is sure to rise to World No.2 in the December rankings, and Mohamed who has been way ahead at World No.1 for the last 2 years. The quality of squash they played yesterday was wonderful, and they appear to be taking squash quality to even greater heights.

‘The Baby Faced Assassin’, Gawad, is aesthetically pleasing. He controls the ball beautifully while still playing at a fast pace. ‘The Beast’, Mohamed has raw strength and guts, playing at a ferocious and intimidating pace. I personally believe ElShorbagy is actually under-rated as he displays more touch and subtlety than he is given credit for and that his nick-name suggests. I think we will begin to see him use this skill and deft touch more and more as he works out a way to maintain his No.1 ranking from the advancing Gawad.

I do hope I’m not getting too excited too soon. I don’t think so;

A year ago I was discussing Karim Gawad with a pupil of mine, World No.29, Nafiizwan Adnan. He noticed the quality of Gawad’s straight drives and that he was more than just a nice shot player. As I have said in a previous blog, Gawad’s straight drives are terrific as they rarely clip the side wall, enabling him to pressuring the back corners giving him opportunities to hit the more obviously impressive shots to the front corners. This basic straight drive has been a focus of our training and Adnan is now seeing some great results himself – beating World Top 5 players, Rodriguez and Mosaad in his last 3 events.

What I’m trying to say, is what Gawad does really well, his bread and butter, will mean he can win matches even when he is having an off day with his shots to the front of the court. Like all greats in any sport, he will be able to win, even when he’s not playing at his best, and this is what should make his recent success stick around for seasons to come, and not just a lucky few months. We all know ElShorbagy’s achievements are long term, as he has already been at the top for such a long time, and for such a young man.

Lastly, like ElShorbagy usually does, Gawad is seemingly doing as well – and that is saving his best squash for the latter stages of the tournament. Mohamed ElShorbagy has always played at a much higher level when he reaches the semi-final and final of an event, and Gawad appears to be doing the same. It may make these two players appear vulnerable in the early rounds, but I doubt this, as their squash and mental approach is good enough to see them through these early rounds. It’s as if they need the extreme challenge of playing one of the Top 4 to really bring out the best in them. Obviously this can have its issues, because to make hard work of early rounds can expend too much energy and then they are too tired for the latter stages of the event, but time will tell how these two players adapt in their conquest to dominate The World Of Squash – the most brutal World Tour in sport!

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