2016 - THE
Egypt’s Karim Abdel Gawad completed his chrysalis from a
precocious, but inconsistent, talent, riddled with injuries, to
one of the world’s greatest players throughout 2016, lifting the
sport’s biggest title and moving into direct competition with
current World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy for a place at the top the
The 25-year-old training in Gezirah Club, started his year by
lifting a maiden PSA M70 title at the Swedish Open in
February, but it wasn’t until the start of the 2016/17
season in August that he really started to be a threat in major
PSA World Tour events.
HONG KONG TO AL-AHRAM
reaching a maiden World Series final at the Hong Kong Open
– losing out to compatriot Ramy Ashour in the process –
Gawad played some of his best squash a month later in
September’s Al Ahram Open, becoming the first Egyptian
player since the legendary Ahmed Barada in 1998 to lift a
PSA World Tour title in front of the stunning Great Pyramid of
After claiming notable wins over Tarek Momen and
2015 World Championship runner-up Omar Mosaad en route to
the final, Gawad played with poise and control to defeat
number four seed Ali Farag in the final to claim a victory
that would elevate him into the world’s top five the following
THE "HATCHING": WADI DEGLA WORLD CHAMP
Even greater things were to come for Gawad though in
November as he headed to Cairo for the 2016 instalment of the
PSA Men’s World Championship – the most illustrious tournament
on the PSA World Tour.
A inauspicious start to the tournament saw Gawad almost face an
ignominious first round exit to England’s Nathan Lake,
but he came back from two games down to win in five - he is one
of the most famous five-setter player on the PSA Tour bless him,
before moving on to see off close friend Mohamed Abouelghar
in five games to reach round three.
Hong Kong’s Max Lee was the next player to fall victim to
Gawad, with three-time winner Nick Matthew awaiting the
talented Egyptian in the last eight.
But the Englishman was
struggling with illness, and Gawad took full advantage to power
to the win in straight games – setting up a mouthwatering
encounter in the semis with Mohamed ElShorbagy who just
avenged his tempestuous defeat against Ali Farag in Al-Ahram.
A brutal, 90-minute affair, with Gawad displaying a
superb tactical squash that saw exhausted the World Number 1,
earning a rematch against Ashour in the showpiece finale.
Gawad battled back from a game down to lead 2-1 in his climactic
clash with the Artist, but Ashour fell victim to a reoccurrence
of the hamstring injury that has seen him sidelined for much of
the past two years, forcing him to retire at the beginning of
the fourth game – meaning Gawad became only the third Egyptian
of all time to hold the sport’s most prestigious title after Amr
Shabana and Ashour himself.
THE CONFIRMATION: QATAR
Less than two weeks after his World Championship triumph, Gawad
headed to Doha for the Qatar Classic – where his
brilliance continued as he claimed his first ever World Series
Everybody was expecting Karim to be mentally and physically
flat. He kept repeating after each match how deep he had to dig
to be able to compete so close after winning such a huge title.
H did start slowly, still beating Mohamed Reda, Zahed Mohamed,
Marwan ElShorbagy and Daryl Selby, improving match after
matchall the way to the final, Gawad battled for the title in
the "revenge of Wadi Degla semi" against Mohamed who was aiming
to become the first man to win the Qatar Classic on three
The match was brutal, physically and mentally, with Mohamed
pushing as hard as he could to try and overcome his opponent,
but Gawad managed to impose his change of pace and tactics
to the defending champion, taking quite incredibly his first
ever World Series, in straight games to claim the title.
The way I would define Karim's game would be to
paraphase Nick Matthew: "I make it look hard, Shabana makes it
look easy". Well, Karim makes it look casual.
"We were all very comfortable" told me Mohamed at the end of the
year. "Karim changed all that. That's the best that could happen
to all of us"....
Bring it on 2017.
2016 in Numbers
World Series Titles Won:
World Champ 2016
HE SAID IN WADI DEGLA
I still can’t believe it.
It has been a very long week, I didn’t have a good start, but I
think I had good performances this week. I’m grateful to my team
as I was able to get back on court today after my match
I feel very sorry for Ramy for having the injury again and not
being able to complete the match today. He’s a great ambassador
for our sport and we are all happy to have him around at the
He’s great for many generations and all the generations learn a
lot from him, even me. I wish him a speedy recovery.
I need to thank my parents, my father, my mother, my sister and
my fiancée, who support me always, and came this week to help me
Also, my coaches, Omar Abdel Aziz, Mohamed Abbas, and my
fitness coach, Ali Ismail.
The results I had this season are 50% my work, but 50% their
effort, and they work hard to keep me fit and allow me to
recover between tournaments when we have a very short time
HE SAID IN QATAR
Very happy with the way I performed today. From the first time,
I was under pressure. When you are a world champion, people
expect you to win and that you have a big chance to win. That is
a new element I had to integrate in my preparation.
I wanted to take a good start, but also I knew that I could
never relax against somebody like Mohamed. And I’m very happy to
win in three against him, because you know know. It’s never
finished with hm. He proved it last night, down 2/0 and 9/7 and
he won the match….
Being World Champion and Qatar Champion sounds good, really
good. I’m living the dream. But next season, I’m aware I’ll have
to make sure I’m very consistent if I want to stay in
competition with the top boys.
I’ve always enjoyed Qatar, we always feel at home here with such
an amazing crowd. When I was at home playing at the Worlds, even
the crowd wasn’t like this. I need to thank them a lot for such
great support the whole week.
I need to thanks my coaches, Omar Abdel Aziz, Mohamed Abbas and
my fitness coach, Ali Ismail, They all did a great job for me,
so I need to thank them a lot. Of course, my parents, my sister
and my fiancée who are always there for me, supporting me…
And also my sponsors, Harrow, Rowe and Hutkay.fit, they have
been supporting me a lot over the past few years.
You know, Mohamed and I have been competing in the juniors since
the age of… 8! I know there are many more battles to come. This
is only the beginning…