Framboise Gommendy reports on the final
A few years ago, I was told by a journalist that the secret to sport journalism was never to get involved and stay detached from the players. We can safely say I failed miserably to reach that goal. My argument is: when you are very close to both players, then it’s like you are completely detached as you actually care so much for both of them it doesn’t matter in your mind who wins or loses.
Why this intro you might ask? It will become clear at the end.
On my right, Ali, tired I felt from the beginning of the tournament due to the accumulation of latter rounds, digging in beautifully each match but making just a bit more unforced errors he would normally do. On my left, Tarek, best form of his life, hungry as hell, not having lost a game in the event.
Strangely enough today, I felt that it was Ali that was on fire at the beginning of the match, although Tarek was leading 4/0. I saw Tarek holding his shots a bit: he was more tense than for the previous matches, and the pressure somehow was on him.
Five unforced errors in that opening game for Tarek, only two for Ali. If the middle of the game is close enough, 54/4, 5/5, 7/7, Ali looks extremely comfortable to me, pushing Tarek in the four corners, and it’s 17m 11/8 for Ali.
The second sees a change of momentum. If the game is close the whole way, now it’s Tarek that is in the front, and controlling the middle, while Ali is absorbing the pace, forcing Tarek to create his own pace for each shot. Tarek takes the second 11/8, yes, but Ali made him work extremely, I mean extremely hard.
And it pays off in the 3rd: if Tarek is still controlling the attacks, Ali’s game plan – lobbing, taking the pace off, counterdropping and making Tarek run around the block again and again, works to perfection, and after a huge rally at 3/3, Tarek is gasping for air and gas. Quickly the Wadi Degla man shoots at 6/3, 8/4, 9/5, taking the game 11/7 in 12m, Tarek back to high level of errors, 5 for 2 tins and 2 strokes for Ali (that’s 7 points out of 11…)
But if Tarek gets his second wind in the 4th it’s now Ali’s turn to show signs of tiredness: from 3/3, it’s basically the mirror of the 3rd, Tarek collecting the dividend of his hard work, 6/3, 10/4, 11/5.
The fifth is true drama. Tarek looks the winner, tins creeping in for Ali, 4/1, 5/2. Extremely frustrated, Ali shouts to himself in Arabic “dig in”. And it works. From 8/4 9/5, the Harvard man is reborn, and manages to put the doubt in Tarek’s arm, who starts to make errors again.
At 9/9, Ali is going for a bit too much, short rally and it’s a tin. 10/9. Tarek goes for a low drive on the left side, and raises his arms in the air, he’s won he thinks. But Ali is absolutely sure the ball is down.
Ali asks me: I say play let as I am not sure the ball is good. Tarek, adamant his shot is a winner, also asks me, same answer from me. Are you 100% sure the ball is down he asks? That I am not, but I am not 100% sure it’s good. So Tarek plays a let.
Ali, very frustrated as he is sure the ball was down, is going to be even more frustrated as on the replayed rally he is penalised with a no let on a video ref decision. What is extremely frustrating in his eyes is that he was given a stroke by the same video ref in the same position at the start of the fourth!
Very confusing, very frustrating for Ali…
Ali shakes his friend’s hand, Tarek is over the moon, his first title in 4 years. Shame it had to finish in such controversial way, as they are both extremely fair players, and very close friends…
I can’t believe it, it’s been four years since I won a title.
Today, I was not sure of the mindset I should have. I called Raneem and I told her when I put pressure on me, it doesn’t work, if I don’t care, it doesn’t work, and if I treat it as any other match it doesn’t work: out of 19 finals I only won 5.
So I spoke with my coach Haitham Effat, and we decided that the best way would be to treat it like any other match.
With Ali, even if you have the best game plan, it still might not be good enough. He’s so fit and he’s really good with his racket, he can control the ball in the middle quite well and he can move you around a lot.
Half way through the third, I was trying really hard but he wasn’t fading away. I just had to do the best I could, but if he kept playing like that then it’s his day, he’s better. Thankfully, he started to show some signs of being human.
it reminded me of Canary Wharf. Half way through the 3rd, I thought I’m going to die. But I realised that he had been doing a lot of work too, and was just better at hiding it. So I kept pushing and eventually I won it in the 5th. So today, I was hoping that it would be the same and it was…
At the beginning of the fourth I started feeling like I could match him and start to control the ’T’ a little bit more. Putting everything aside, I’m really happy with how I’ve progressed mentally over the past year and a half.
I’m very happy with the way I hung up today when I was really tired. I used to give up when I was really tired, now I’m much better at it. I can be exhausted, but I can still push and find other plans.
He made me do a lot of work today, it was a bit back and forth. When I was under pressure, I tried and hung in there, and when I managed to control the T, I was trying to seize the moment.
In the 5th, he showed signed of being tired, played a few tins, and I took the lead. But I was a bit too eager to win, and he came back to 9/9. He hit a tin there that gave me a real boost of confidence.
Then there was that ball I was 100% sure it was good, and I asked you, you said let but I asked you are you 100% sure it is down (note from Fram: I was not 100%, but I was sure a let was fair as I was not sure it was good), so I gave back a let. I never would like to win something that is not mine. Then that no let for which they gave a stroke earlier in the match.
As for Ali, I have the utmost respect for him, he’s a really good friend of mine. We’ve been away for a month and each of us has won a title, so we should be fine going back home. Me, Mohamed and Ali, each of us has a big title, Mohamed got the U.S. Open, but this one is quite big as well. It’s the biggest of my career and I’m really proud of this moment.
I won very few titles, because I never went for the wining tournaments, I always tried to get in the biggest tournaments my ranking would allow, to expose myself to the best players. As I had college studies, I didn’t time to lose if I wanted to climb up the rankings.
I’m really happy my hard work is finally paying off. So of course, the thanks are necessary, my family, parents, my sister and my wife Raneem. My coach Haitham Effat and my fitness coach Samir El Degwy, my physios at home Mohamed Moustafa (Biko) and Mohamed Amin, not to forget Ahmed Fouad and here, Derek Ryan, the PSA Physio for his help during the event.
And at least but not last, my sponsors, Harrow Sports, and of course, CIB, and particularly Hussein Abaza for his continuous support.
I am so proud to win this title, the biggest of my career, and I am looking forward to see what the season has in store for me…
Very rarely do I get off court that frustrated because there is no doubt in my mind for a second that that ball on match ball is down. And the no let is more of a let than the stroke in the 3rd game…
But I think I played better that I did at the US Open, so it’s good to see some progress.