2016: What a year for Emperor Karim Abdel Gawad....                 

2016 - THE TURNING POINT

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 World Rankings.

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.

WARMING UP:
HONG KONG TO AL-AHRAM


After 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 Giza.

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 month.

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 crown.

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 occasions.

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
 
Matches Played:
45
Matches Won:
37
Matches Lost:
8
Win percentage:
82.2%
Titles Won:
4
World Series Titles Won:
1
Highlight:
World Champ 2016

Ranking Progression
January:
9
December:
2

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 yesterday.

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 tournaments.



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 win this.

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 between events.

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…

Based on a PSA story by Sean Reuthe

[ Karim Abdel Gawad 2016 ] Gezirah Club 2016 ] US Junior 2016 ] Heliopolis 2016 ] WWT 2016 ] Qatar 2016 ] WD Women 2016 ] World Champs WD2016 ] US Open 2016 ]

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