Wow – what an awesome event!
Hats off to the ElShorbagy’s and to Manchester.
Even though the winner might not be a complete surprise given Mohamed ElShorbagy’s form this season (Hong Kong Winner, Qatar Classic Winner, St. Georges Hill Winner, US Open Runner-Up and Netsuite Open Winner), the way in which the event unfolded was somewhat surprising. I don’t think anybody, apart from Marwan and Mohamed, would have pictured an all-brother final. And how fitting it was for them to compete in the final in a country which they have called home for the last 10 years.
Marwan had an incredible tournament. Reaching the quarter-final seemed comfortable enough but in-itself was a big feat as it was the first time he had reached that stage of a World Championships, and it was obvious how much it meant to him after he beat Lucas Serme in his Last 16 match. Most people expected his event to end there, but to play as well as he did to beat the existing World Champion, Karim Gawad was brilliant. People who watched this match might think Gawad did not play well and Marwan would definitely lose to Ali Farag, who along with Mohamed has been the stand-out performer this season. The level of squash Ali Farag has played this season has been superb.
Marwan showed that his result against Gawad involved no luck whatsoever. He backed it up the very next day, and against Ali he played a game which Ali hated. Marwan is tactically so astute. Ali likes rhythm so Marwan offered him no such thing. He hit quality winners, had a few chats with the ref and never allowed Ali to settle. It was obvious Ali felt uneasy. Marwan kept his cool and made his way into the final where he would meet his brother – The History Boys!
Now, if we look at Mohamed’s route to the final – people could not have hand-picked him a harder draw. To be drawn against Ramy in the Last 16 was outrageous. Let’s look at his last 4 matches, match by match.
Last 16. Mohamed vs Ramy: The history in this match is huuuge. Ramy twice beating him in World Championships finals, and there was that match in El Gouna. Between them, they have played the highest quality and entertaining 3 matches in squash history.
Even though Ramy is often absent from the tour these days, his quality is probably still the best. I believe this match was the highest quality of the whole event. The first game was epic. A 31 minute barrage of pace and quality. It was fantastic. I really suggest people watch the replay of this first game. Ramy faded away slightly after that first game but only because Mohamed was completely faultless. This really was a display of what a great squash player Mohamed is this season.
Quarter-Final. Mohamed vs Nick Matthew. Nick hasn’t lost a squash match in Manchester since the 2011 British nationals, where he unexpectedly lost to Daryl in the Final. Since then he’s won every British Nationals and a World Open Title in Manchester; so if there’s one player you want to avoid in Manchester it’s Nick.
Mohamed was simply too fast and too strong, and just generally playing too well this season for even Nick to stop him. Nick put in a fantastic effort but simply couldn’t stop The Beast.
Semi-Final. Mohamed vs Greg. As if it wasn’t hard enough to beat Ramy and Nick, then he has to play the World No.1. This was a real mental battle for ElShorbagy. Greg is a great player. Again after winning a vital long first game, Mohamed then dominated Greg like he did with Ramy. However from looking down and out in the third game, Greg kept the ball in play and nerves began to take hold of Mohamed. This was a real test of character. Greg kept on probing and tins crept in to Mohamed’s game as he neared the finish line. Memories of their unusual contest earlier this year where Greg managed to beat Mohamed on one leg must have been going through their minds. ElShorbagy just did enough to win the 3rd game and there he was, in another final.
( I must say what a great event Greg also had. It wan’t said often enough, but Greg has his second child born last week. The emotions which he must have been feeling, the happiness of a new baby, the disappointment of missing the birth, and all knowing he had a job to do in Manchester. It’s amazing he could function at all, let alone push ElShorbagy the way he did. Greg really is a superb player, and one of the all time greats. )
The Final. Then to top it off, as if his route to the final hadn’t been brutal enough, in order to win the one accolade to evade him, Mohamed would have to face off against his brother. If must be unimaginably hard for brothers to play each other in such an iconic event – one which they were both desperate to win.
The final did not disappoint. I thought the quality was high. Yes, Marwan hit a few too many mistakes, but he also hit some lovely winners, as that’s how he plays, with more risk than Mohamed. After the younger Marwan won the second game the match swayed from side to side. One minute Mohamed dominating, and the next Marwan would get a run of points. It made for an enthralling contest.
The 4th and 5th games were incredibly tense, and it honestly looked like Marwan was going to do it. He was exhausted, he could barely stand, and Mohamed looked so nervous he could hardly stop shaking. Fascinating stuff to watch, and we cannot imagine how they both felt playing each other – knowing they were desperate to win, it had become a one game shoot out at 2 games all, but also knowing if they don’t win they’d be delighted for their brother to win.
After inching marginally ahead in the fifth, Marwan was looking like the likely winner, until he just hit a wall of fatigue. The physical and emotional strain of the whole week suddenly all became too much and Mohamed ran through to take the remaining points and become World Champion – and a totally well deserved one. What a season he has had, and what an event.
So – history was made with an all-brother final. Mohamed is looking like the complete player. Marwan has won over many many fans and showing he’s a massive force on the PSA World Tour. A truely brilliant event. Well done to all.