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EGYPTIAN NATIONALS 2019

Finals Photos (building up) Mariam and Fram

Photos Quarters - Mariam & Fram         Photos Semis - Mariam & Fram

Photos Day 2 - Mariam & Fram        Photos Day 1 Mariam Madkour

DAY 1     DAY 2     QUARTERS    SEMIS

FINALS

Over 35
Hasihm Samir (Gezira) 3-0 Mohamed Hatem ( Shooting)
Over 45
Amr Abdel Moneim (Shooting) 3-2 Tarek Abdel Aziz (HSC)
                                          11-13, 13-11, 2-11, 11-3, 11-8
Women
[2] Nour El Tayeb
3-1 Nouran Gohar 10-12, 11-5, 11-3, 14-12 (45m)
Men
[1] Ali Farag
3-2 [2] Tarek Momen 7-11, 11-9, 5-11, 16-14, 11-7 (80m)

The day started with the Masters. I thought I was going to see both of them - O35 and O45, but surprise, I was given the wrong time and I arrived with the O35 finished... I had the chance to see the first game of the O45 - the girls' final was starting so I couldn't stay longer.

It was a cracking match between Amr Abdel Moneim and Tarek Abdel Aziz. Tarek clinched the first game, 13/11, lost the second one on the same score, only to impose his game in the 3rd 11/2 and looking pretty good 2/1! But Ahmed recovered, won the 4th comfortably and managed to close the 5th 11/8.

[2] Nour El Tayeb 3-1 Nouran Gohar 10-12, 11-5, 11-3, 14-12 (45m)

A cracker. Truly. If Nour El Tayeb had a sort of comfortable previous rounds, she faced a pretty serious opponent in the person of Nouran Gohar. Nouran is a fighter. So is Nour. And we had a match on from the first rally....

In the opener, Nour was dominating the rallies, attacking beautifully, and lead 4/1, 7/3, only to see Nouran slowly find a better position on the court, forcing a few errors out of Nour's racquet. Superb rallies, fast pace, gruelling pace actually. 9/9, it's all possible and it's Nouran who takes the game, against all odds, 12/10 with a tin from Nour.

Nour comes back very focused, cuts the errors and basically, blows Nouran off court, 7/1, 9/2, 11/5 within minutes, and same punishment in the 3rd really.

But the fourth, incredible suspense and level of squash. With still the momentum, Nour goes up 5/2, 7/4. Pressure from Nouran forces two errors, and with a stroke, Nouran has levelled, 7/7. 8/8. 9/9. Game ball Nouran, saved, 10/10. Nouran will have one more chance to force a decider, but it's Nour that will close it out on her second match ball, 14/12 with three strokes in a row on return of serve! When was the last time that happened???

[1] Ali Farag 3-2 [2] Tarek Momen 7-11, 11-9, 5-11, 16-14, 11-7 (80m)

If the boys were taking the matches up to today as "good preparations for next week", the final was not "pour du beurre" as we say in French. It was the real McCoy, believe me.

The first game saw Tarek fully focused, with Ali maybe still a bit in Nour's match, bless him. The fire that was burning in Tarek's raquet didn't let Ali much time on the ball, 5/2, 7/3, 10/5, with Tarek taking the opener 11/7, despite 4 unforced errors.

The second was more balanced, and nothing between them two up to 8/8, a no let that was not of the taste of Tarek, 10/8 game ball, 9/10, a point won by Tarek, but Ali questioning the not up, Tarek gives a let, and it's 11/9 for Ali, we are 1/1.

A sublime Tarek's touch game in the third, some volley drop shots out of this world, from all position on the court, absolutely superb, from 6/5, Tarek will take 6 points in a row, 11/5, Ali actually pressurised in making 6 unforced errors.

The fourth sees Tarek growing more and more frustrated with calls that he finds being not consistent. "When it's him that ask, he gets the let or the stroke, while I get no let and let" he tells the ref. "Well, the decision are final" states the ref to try and close the matter. "I know they are final, bu there are a disaster" concludes Tarek. The crowd chuckles..

The fourth is one of those games where you have to remind yourself to breathe, 2/2, 3/3, 4/4, 5/5, 7/7, 8/8/. Two game balls for Ali (first one being called  match ball, to the great pleasure of the crowd), 10/10.

Some incredible rallies, shots, combinations, saves, high pace and all. Tarek has 3 match balls that he cannot close out, Ali actually saved the last one with a return serve nick roll would you believe. Ali finally wins the game, on a no let that Tarek just doesn't digest, 16/14, and when he comes back after the break, he is still very frustrated against the ref, which is never a good sign.

And it will take a few points for Tarek to finally get grounded and fight positively, 1/4, 3/7, 5/9. Ali makes sure he keeps focused and doesn't give him any cheap shots, and the Harvard Man gets to keep his title, 11/7, but it took 80m of very, very hard work...

Obviously, there are no easy matches, but if we can compare the semis, Nouran yesterday beat the world number 1. There are nothing harder than that, it's the toughest opponent you can ever face.

But of course, winning today will give me confidence for the Worlds next week.

I am trying to work on the balance between being relaxed on court, without being passive. And I was happy with the way I managed to do that today.

Nouran is hitting very hard, and it takes a lot to neutralise her power. And the longer the rallies, the better she is, I cannot sustain her powerful shots for too long!

So I have to make sure I play at a slow pace, without being passive. I also prepared myself for a 5th, to try and relax and stay calm at all times...

Nour El Tayeb

Both of us gave it our best today, and the final was played in the spirit the Nationals should be played.

I really would like to thank the Federation for associating and dedicating this event to Dr Samiha.

Nour's dad was probably one of her closest friends, and we have been raised knowing how crucial Dr Samiha's role in the success of the Egyptian women on the world scene.

How she fought tooth and nail to impose the fact women should play and just not the men...

And I can't say she is the only factor that made the success of the Egyptian women on the tour, but she sure is a huge part of it.

For what we are forever grateful.

It's never easy to beat the world number 1, I had to do everything and even more to beat her.

I have the utmost respect for Raneem, it's so hard to be world number 1 and being consistently good, playing younger and hungry players all the time.

Last time we played, she beat me, no, she chopped me 3/0 in the ToC. So today, I tried to be more comfortable on the court, and most of all, I tried to be stronger mentally.

And now, I am truly looking forward to the Worlds, I'm looking forward to be on the court, which I didn't do before. I'm looking forward to play the big points better. And that's what's important.

I treat the Nationals like any other PSA event, and for me, winning the Nationals in the best Nation of Squash is pretty prestigious.

The turning point in my game was Channel Vas, I don't know why as I lost it, whereas I won San Francisco, and played well in the US Open. But there was a click in my head in Channel Vas. I got tired of being only the one that retreives, always on the backfoot, not really enjoying my squash, and only putting my opponent under pressure because of my movement.

I'll never be as skillful as Karim Abdel Gawad or Tarek Momen of course, but I was to sharp it up. And believe it or not, that's what I have been working on very hard for the past two years...

When we played in India, there was a lot a stake, PSA points, money. So we had more pressure, and there is no doubt in my mind he played much better then than he played today.

Today, we were both using that match as a good practice for the Worlds, so the pressure was very different. Overall I think I played well, except a few errors here and there... Quite happy with my performance.

Semis

Nouran Gohar 3-2 Raneem El Welily 4-11, 11-7, 11-5, 7-11, 11-8 (57m)
Nour El Tayeb 3-0 Zeina Mickawy 11-5, 14-12, 11-5 (26m)

If the second semi was short and sweet, 26m, with an excellent second game 14/12, and Nour El Tayeb through to the final against Zeina Mickawy, the first semi was a long and gruelling encounter between World Number 1 Raneem El Welily and Nouran Gohar.

Like I said, Nour/Zeina was a bit less close than the other semi. Zeina, who started training with Omar Abdel Aziz six months ago, has got the shots for sure. She's got the hands of gold but she is not as much at ease with her movement, in particular to come back to the T. She opened the court a bit too much, to the delight of her opponent who was then able to kill the ball the following shot.

Now, the other semi is a very interesting one. It started with a complete domination from Raneem, 11/4, and it looked like we were going for another quick win TOC like (3/0 in 20m) for the Butterfly. But Nouran soon settled back and we had a match in our hands as she took the next two games 11-7, 11-5.

Strange  you know, I rarely see Raneem play well at the Nationals. Today, she got two calls that she didn't agree with (well, me neither to be honest) and that didn't help her concentration. The fact that people were walking on the side of the court did affect her as well, although she didn't say anything but I could see it... Raneem is a race horse, elements need to be perfect and straight for her to give the best of her talent I feel. And the Nationals, well, being a bit how can I say without being negative, not as organised as they could be, are not an event where she florishes (so far).

Still, 2/1 down, didn't like that she did, and came back she did 10/5, 11/7.

But in the decider, it was Nouran all the way, playing a few backhand boast and backhand redrops that surprised Raneem a bit, and finding her powerful range nicely on the court, 4/1 good start, Raneem levelling 5/5, 6/6, and Nouran closing it down 11/8 in 57m of excellent squash.

[1] Ali Farag 3-1 [3] Karim Abdel Gawad 11-5, 6-11, 11-7, 11-5 (45m)

Strange that match was. Ok, I felt that Ali Farag was determined to win the match - he is one of the players that really takes pride in the National Title, which is maybe not the case of some of the other players, especially as the Worlds are round the corner.

And in the first game, it looked like Karim was not completely on the court yet, making 4 errros (3 in a row), allowing a very attacking Ali to take a crucial lead, 9/3, 11/5.

That's something else I noticed and I actually questioned Ali about it: "I feel there is a "before world no1 Ali, and an after no1 Ali, more free, more attacking, stepping up the court and taking much more initiative." He smiled and replied "actually, Fram, the turning point in my game was Channel Vas, I don't know why as I lost it, whereas I won San Francisco, and played well in the US Open. But there was a click in my head in Channel Vas. I got tired of being only the one that retreives, always on the backfoot, not really enjoying my squash, and only putting my opponent under pressure because of my movement.

I'll never be as skillful as Karim Abdel Gawad or Tarek Momen of course, but I was to sharp it up. And believe it or not, that's what I have been working on very hard for the past two years..."

Well, whenever it happened, I felt that it's a new Ali on court at the moment, and with a game more entertaining, daring and flamboyant than before.

Karim thought took the control back at the start of the second, 4/0, 8/1, still making a few errors allowing his opponent to come back, but too little too late, 11/6 and we were at 1/1.

The third saw Karim cut the errors but Ali was just too sharp and forcing the Baby Face Assassin to do a heck of a lot of running, take his time off the ball. Ali was ahead the whole game, 7/2, 9/6, 11/7.

The fourth was pretty close up to 5/5, but it's Ali once again that find the attacking shots and this time, Karim cannot contain them, 11/5...

[2] Tarek Momen 3-1 [Q] Fares Dessouki 11-8, 11-9, 10-12, 11-5 (53m)

Those two met in India a few weeks ago. It was the return of Fares, who ousted all his opponents, only to bow to Tarek in the final.

Today was therefore a bit of revenge time for Fares...

First two games were good squash, with Tarek going for superb winners, and Fares finding some excellent attacks on his own but the Alexandria Boy seemed to lose focus after the second game, making far too many errors in the last two games (I counted 6 in the 3rd and 4th) to put any lasting pressure on the outcome.

Tomorrow, world number 2 to be world number 1 in a few days and Title Holder, against world number 3, Tarek best ranking ever. As for the girls, Nour El Tayeb will try to keep the title she got last year, but this time, she'll play Nouran Gohar...

Stay tuned...

Quarters

Well, we started the day with one injury (Salma Hany with hamstring issues that prevented her from finishing her quarter against Zeina Mickawy, then two walk overs, Omar Abdel Meguid against Karim Abdel Gawad, and Yathreb Adel against Raneem El Welily.

We had a very solid match of Mayar Hany against Nour El Tayeb, 37m of good and intense rallies, the contender was a bit unlucky not to take a game, but it's all credit to Nour's ability to play the crucial points a bit better.

Last women's match on today was the very much waited for Nouran Gohar v Hania Hammamy. Hania, very successful in January in Edinburgh and Cincinatti, arrived the day before the competition and was a bit jetlagged but never took that as an excuse to let go of any point. And even 9/2 down in the 3rd, she kept pushing and played each rally as she was starting the match.

A really important factor about Nouran: she added a few more layers to her game, in particular on the backhand: she now uses her previously defensive boast as a lethal weapon, and started to truly put her opponent under pressure by counterdropping beautifully. Not just the Terminator anymore, but the Delicator as well.... Be afraid, be very afraid...

Then THE match we were waiting for, Marwan  Elshorbagy - who was not able to play squash for 6 months and has not been that comfortable on court since he came back in January - against Fearless Dessouki, who on the contrary, has been flying on there since he came back in India.

Today, Marwan never looked switched on, all credit to Fares of course, who really took the game to him, but still... Marwan seemed a bit slow to react, and not fully on mentally  on there. Baby steps coming back for him, more on a mental point of view, a lot, a hell of a lot happened to him in the past few months, and I feel he needs time on court and match fitness to remember how to win... But what do I know...

"Nice to speak with you again Fram, we haven't done that for more than a year now...

After my first surgery, I was training every day, trying to get back on court as soon as possible and I pushed myself too hard.

It was a big mistake, I was too impatient, and after 6 months, I had to have another surgery on the same knee, and then another two months rehabilitation.

Before I went to India, I was playing so badly, but once I got to India, it was like I found my game again, it all clicked into place and I played really well. I was very proud of the way I managed to come back on the Tour, and of the way I managed to play on that tournament.

This event is a good way for us to test ourselves before the World Champs, playing Marwan, Karim  Abdel Gawad, it's a really good preparation for us"...

When Ali Farag got on the court against Mosaad, it was on a very very cold glass court and I have to say I was impressed by his tactical plan that was to play very fast to twist and turn the Hammer of Thor.

But as I mentionned it to the new World number 1 (in March), he smiled and said "it wasn't the plan! But the court was playing so fast and so was the ball, so it was double the effect. Plus  when I was playing slow, I lost accuracy and that's something you do not want to do against Mosaad on a court like that as he will just take his space and kill you."

Today, Ali managed to force over 5 errors per game in average against the Giant, and that made the difference...

Last match of the night was Tarek Momenator, who reached his highest ranking ever of world 3 in February, against Amazing Mazen Hesham, slowly but surely taking baby steps to regain confidence in his body after months (years?) of injuries.

First game was the closest, excellent start for Mazen, 4/0, 6/2, only to see Tarek catching up 6/6, 8/8, 9/9. Two excellent winners from Tarek and it's 11/9 for the Gezira club man.

The second was pretty onesided, 5/1, 11/3 and quickly done, and the third looked about the same, 6/0, 8/3. Giving it a big push, Mazen was able to quickly string a few points with stunning shots, 7/8. But a bit too little too late, and it's 11/8 for Tarek...

I wasn't sharp enough at the start of the match, I was not in the zone you could say.

It's always a bit tricky when you play the first round of a tournament that is not a PSA to make sure you are focused enough. But it was only for a few points.

After that, I played pretty much the way I wanted to play, trying to avoid the dangerous zones you don't want to play the ball against Mazen, and he has a lot of those!

I tried to expose his movement a little bit, he can move very well, but at the moment, he can be a bit cautious and edgy, and that opened up the court for me, so I tried and took full advantage of it.

DAY TWO

First Round Main Draw, that's done

We had the whole spectrum of match for that first round of the Men's, that's for sure. Some were pretty onesided, but some weren't, that's for sure.

For the more comfortable ones, we can name Omar Mosaad against Bassel Sherin, 4, 6, 5, Tarek Momen against Ahmed Abdelfattah - and the last match of the day - 1, 5, 4.


Marwan ElShorbagy had a 3/0 too against Karim Magdy, but a bit closer, 7, 4, 9, and the same with Fearless against Karim Ali, 2, 7, 9. It was a good game, with long rallies, and Fares pushing Karim in long rallies and getting some crucial errors out of him.

Ali Farag dropped his opening game against Mostafa Elserty, 11/5, and had to work in a serious game to shake the qualifier off, 6, 6 9.

The two matches of the day were uncontestably Amazing Mazen against Mohamed Takashi, and the Karims Battle.
 

For Mazen, the match was played in the "impossible to watch" court, at the far end, and I didn't the chance to even glance at a ball.

I only know it was a long and gruelling match, with Mazen going up11/9, 11/5, only to see Takashi clawing back, 11/5, 11/7, and the Black Falcon managing to clinch the last game and decider 11/8.

I did see a good part of the Karim Abdel Gawad v Karim El Hammamy match though, and that was a cracker.

It will be interesting to see young Karim El Hammamy, former world junior champion, evolve on the PSA Tour once his studies are over, as in from January 2020 on. This amazing fighter today managed to play a 5 setters against Ahmed Hosni at 12.30, clinching the last game 11/8, then rushed to the American University round the corner from BlackBall, didn't have time to eat as he had classes then rushed back to compete with former World Champ Karim Abdel Gawad.

As one does.

It was a cracker for sure, nothing between the players in the first game, Abdel Gawad saving a game ball 9/10, setting up one of his own, 11/10. Little stoppage for bleeding after one of El Hammamy's famous dives. It's Gawad that closes the opener, 12/10.

The second is as close and honesly could have gone either way. Played on a traditional court, El Hammamy is able to use his fantatic physical qualities to contain Gawad's shots and force a few errors out of his golden racquet. 8/8, 9/9 and again a game ball for El Hammamy, 10/9, against saved by Gawad, and it's 12/10 for the BlackBall Open Champ.

The third is, you've guess, as close as it comes, but this time, Gawad seems to be in control as the end of the game, 10/6. But El Hammamy determination has not limit, and he digs in, forcing just enough errors from Gawad to get confidence in his own chances and will take the third, 12/10, 6 points in a row.

The last game saw El Hammamy finally getting a bit tired and making a few errors after a solid middle of the game, 5/5, 6/6, 7/7, 11/7 Gawad with quick rallies at the end...

We start at 3.30 tomorrow for the quarters, as they say in Cairo, "stay tuned"....

     

Women's Main Draw, Round 2

There was absolutely no surprises, upsets or suspense in the round 2 of the Women's today. Unfortunately, we had  another injury, after Zahed for the Men's, we heard today that young Nada Abba, 18, damaged her hamstring in the TOC and today just couldn't compete, allowing Salma Hany to get through to the quarters.

Nouran Gohar had a tough draw, playing Nadine Shahin for her first match, then tomorrow Hania El Hammamy, just back last night from Chicago.

For the rest, it's 3/0 all around, with tomorrow's quarters being: Raneem/Yathreb, Nouran/Hania, Salma/Zeina and Nour ET/Mayar...

Last round Men Qualifications

We had a few 'big shots' in the third and last round of the qualifications here in BlackBall, with no suprises, although it was a not that easy for some...

For Fares Dessouki, no worries, if Mohamed Abdelkhalek played a solid game, he never was able to put Fearless under real pressure. A bit more troubles for Mohamed Ali Anwar Reda, who won in 3 against Mohamed Hossameldin but only won the last two 12/10, 12/10.  Karim now plays Karim Ali Fathi, while Mohamed Ali plays Mazen Hesham.


Same for Omar Abdel Meguid, lost the first game against solid Ziad Roshdy, 10/12, to take the next three more comfortably. To be noted that Omar is already qualified for the quarters, bless him, as Zahed Salem is injured and won't be able to participate in the event.

The biggest battle of the day was - as usual bless him - for Karim El Hammamy, who battled for 5 games against newly wed Ahmed Hosny, only clinching the last game 11/8.  The reward is an encounter with former world champion and BlackBlall Champ Karim Abdel Gawad.

The other qualifiers are Mostafa Elserty, Bassel Sherin, Karim Magdy and  Ahmed Abdelfattah.

We start again with the Women at 4pm, then the men at 4.45.... It's going to a long long night of Eyptian Squash.

As they say in New Cairo: Stay Tuned...

Getting into the Nationals

This year's edition of the Nationals will be dedicated to the Mother of Egyptian Squash, Dr Samiha Aboulmagd, who passed away the 5th May 2018.

Yesterday was, as ever in all-Egyptian events, a bit of a challenge. Getting the draw translated first, then getting ALL the draws, is always tricky - my fault, I should learn Arabic, it's on my list.. As I just finished Al-Ahly Club around 11pm, I started on the Nationals draw...

Then, getting the results - again,  the score sheets are in Arabic and never with the names that I have on the draws - can be a bit of a hurdled journey. But thanks to our little photographer Mariam Madkour who speaks fluent Arabic/English/French, I eventually managed to have all them in the correct order - although that took a few "let's start from the start again and see where I f.. messed up"...

Today, two rounds for the boys (last round of qualifying plus first round main) but only one for the ladies.

For the competition, a dream draw really, with only Mohamed ElShorbagy and Abouelghar missing for the men, and Nour El Sherbini  for the women.

Top seeds ar Ali Farag and Tarek Momen, meant to meet Karim Abdel Gawad and Marwan ElShorbagy respectively in the semis. Interesting to note that Fares Dessouki is back in the competition, but via the qualifyings... If all goes to plan, he will be playing Karim Ali Fathi tonight.

 As for the Ladies, Raneem El Welily and Nour El Tayeb dominate the draw, with Nouran Gohar and Salma Hany waiting in the semis. Interesting match will be the in-form Hania El Hammamy, who just won two events in a row without dropping a single game - against Terminator Nouran Gohar.

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