FINAL: Gawad triumphs in 90-minute marathon !!!

Day SIX, Sun 24th Nov, FINALS DAY

[2] Karim Abdel Gawad (Egy) 3-2 [1] Mohamed ElShorbagy (Egy)
8-11, 11-3, 11-1, 10-12, 11-6 (90m)

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The match that had EVERYTHING

The best way to describe this extraordinary match is to steal the words of the MC, Promoter, court cleaner, program printer, organiser, and much more Danny Lee: “this match had everything, it had…. EVERYTHING”.

I was very surprised by Mohamed’s intro to be fair, and I think Karim was too! We were expecting long, gruelling, mid-pace rallies, pushing Karim to the back. Instead, the 8 first points were played at 200m/h, I kid you not, very short rallies, Mohamed going for it like he was playing his first rounds about 15 years ago!!!

8/0. 9/2.

As only Karim can do, he slowly, patiently, nibbled on Mohamed lead, point by point, finding some sublime, exquisite, incredible counter drops, and kill drive glued to the wall.

8/9. A rally Pontefract style to change the pace completely, ending with a kill then a tin from Karim, 11/8 in 11m.

Stats time: 2 errors from Mohamed, 7 winners, Karim 3 winners, 4 errors and 3 strokes.

The second is all about Karim, playing the same squash quality he’s been playing all week, with Mohamed fighting hard to defend, but always on the backfoot. 5/1, 6/2, 11/3 in 12m

Stats: Mohamed 4 errors 2 winners, Karim 6 winners, 1 error, 1 stroke.

The third, Mohamed went through it, completely overplayed, 11/1 in 7m, with 4 errors in 6 points at the start of the game.

As he often does, Mohamed needed to regroup and having suffered from a twisted left ankle at the start of the week (2nd rally of the first game, true story), asked for an injury break and got treatment on both calf and ankle.

He came back with a different attitude. If it was Karim that moving him around quite nicely in the first three games, now he was in charge. But still Karim was ending the rallies better! 6/3.

A huuuuuge rally after a series of huge rallies Pontefract style, as in perfect lines on the backhand wall), where Mohamed throws his racquet to salute the work they both produced, with a nice moment between the players. The court cleaners are called on court: “Very good decision”, goes Mohamed.

8/5. Karim is still ahead, but Mohamed is getting more and more physically present, and pushes his opponent to breathe hard, very hard. Karim shows signs of emotions for the first time of the match, and nice “Yalla” comes out…

From 9/7, guys, have a look at the replay cause just to take you to 12/10, I would need a complete report!
A huge rally, described as “insane” by Hadrian Stiff, coach to Mohamed, and I concur, it was completely insane, ending with a stroke, confirmed as a stroke but annulled as one of Karim’s shots was called not up.

“Can I have my review back” goes Mohamed? Bless him.

8/9, a ridiculous backhand drive rally, surreal, Jonah and Geoff back on court, stroke to Mohamed.
9/9. Karim, doing an awful lot of work is giving signs of tiredness, tin. But he forced a decider, 10/10.
We stayed about 15m at 11/10. You think I’m exaggerating? Have a look at the replay.

After several lets at the point, and as the cleaners are on court, Mohamed just slides and sits on the floor. “what seems to be the problem” goes the ref. “Nothing, I just need to sit down”.

Yes, that much hard work.

Finally, after decisions, confirmed, overturned, video decisions, it’s a stroke for Mohamed, 12/10.
Game was 37m. 1 error from Mohamed, 3 strokes from 8/9. 3 errors from Karim, 1 stroke.

The fifth sees a full of beans Karim, going from being on the backfoot and running to being attacking, and making Mohamed run. It worked beautifully, and the BabyFace Assassin was always in the lead, 2/0, 3/1, 6/3, 10/5, 11/6 in 15m still.

Incredible scene at the end, with Mohamed smiling truthfully, saluting his opponent, both bent over for over a minute, just trying to recover, respect, so much respect between the players.….

Amazing match, amazing athletes, amazing finish. I so love squash.

Karim:

It felt great to play in that match, I think me and Mohamed haven’t played for a very long time in a final, since 2017 maybe.

I’m really glad to be back and playing in finals with him. He is an amazing athlete and I want to congratulate him on equalling Jonathon Power’s final record. He is such an idol for everyone, a great player and very professional on and off court.

From the beginning of the match, actually from 7/0 down, I tried to be aggressive from the back corners, and also I tried mixing my volleys.

In the fourth at 9/7, I maybe got a bit passive, but also, Mohamed changed his game plan, and I didn’t adapt well enough. But although I lost, I remember thinking that my game plan was good, and that I had to go back to it.

So in the 5th I just made sure I switched back to it, but we were both very tired. The difference I think is that I managed to move him around more than he did.

I’m so glad, because we hadn’t played a final for a long time. We did play the semis in the World Series finals, but a final is different altogether. And to be honest today, on court, I was just happy. Happy because I was playing good squash, because he was playing good squash, that gave us both momentum to raise our games. And that reminded me of the good period I had between 2016, 2017. One thing is sure, I’m on the right track.

I really need to thank Ali Ismail to have allowed me to move that well on the court, in such a short period. Off season we had 8 sessions of 3h30 each, so that’s very short but it paid off. Of course, my coach, Omar Abdel Aziz, my wife and my parents, thanks to all for helping me and supporting me on good and bad days.

I’m really happy to win such a prestigious title. I’ve been playing here for so long, I can remember fighting at my first World Open qualifying here, so I have very good memories here. I would like to thank Mohamed for a great match today, Danny Lee for organising this and Bassim Haidar for sponsoring the event. They are doing a great job here and I love playing here in front of a good crowd. Squash means a lot to us so I would like to thank everyone for doing this.

Mohamed:

I’m fine, I just need a break!

I’m not too disappointed. When I look back onto my career, I want to be able to say I was an athlete that fought for every single point. And that’s what I did to.

At the start of the match, I played a dangerous game plan, extremely fast, highly energetic, because I knew that my energy levels were not as good as they should be. Although he then came back, it still was a short game and didn’t take too much out of me.

The second game was brutal, but in that game and in the third, I was playing the wrong game plan, which was benefitting him more than me. I guess I could say that I could have had a bit more energy in the tank had I won the previous round a bit quicker. There again, I’m not disappointed, because there were a lot of emotions running in those rounds because of the worlds. And I’m proud I was able to keep it together.

Karim has been playing the best squash all week, but I told myself I was not going to lose and make his life easy, that if I was going to lose, it would be by giving it everything I had left, and that’s what I’ve done today, and I’m proud of it too.

This half season, I played 4 finals out of 5 events, I won two finals, and lost two. I played more finals than anyone else, I played more matches than anyone else, and I’m going to keep fighting.
I’m on the right track…