R1: Makin upsets Momen to end Day One

[7] Joel Makin (Wal) 2-1 [2] Tarek Momen (Egy)     11-5, 6-11, 11-9 (50m)

As James Willstrop would say, “squash is such a mental game it’s a joke”.

Tarek lost last year in the CIB Egyptian Open against Joel – who at the time was still an underdog. The Egyptian was very affected by that loss – I remember him mentioning it when we arrived in Qatar – when he got his World Title.

So here we are again, on Egyptian soil, pressure is on him, Joel, free as a yellow bird, in warm conditions he loves – although best of three not being best for his style of physicality.

Tarek cut his hair – THANK GOD – and looked young and moving very well. But maybe he fell into the lets make it attritional squash in the opener, I remember saying to Raneem sitting next to me “Joel can do that all day”.

What I noticed with Joel’s game tonight, was how his all around game has improved. He can still attack a bit more, but the quality of his length and width was the key I thought. He managed to frustrate Tarek a few times with immaculate shots that stuck to the wall beautifully.

Add to that a few traffic worries between the two players – Joel being warned twice not to take his opponent’s space, and you have a pretty worked up Egyptian, against a “I can get it back no matter what you throw at me” Welsh who truly played accurate squash today.

And the third is beautiful, 3/3, 4/4, 5/5, 7/7, 8/8, 9/9. If Joel got the ball out of court a few times, Tarek found the tin, at a crucial 9/9 in that third. 10/9, huge rally between the two warriors, Joel dives, big patch of sweat, ref stops the rally, Joel gets to clean the floor – don’t forget they have to clean their floor themselves at the moment…

But it’s another error from the Egyptian, and it’s 11/9 in 16m third game for the Welsh…

“I started losing my structure in the second game and he was shutting me out all the time on the backhand and he was getting good lines through there, so I had to hit around that, and I did much better in the third.

“It was scrappy, for sure. That’s my fault for not giving him a line through and I shouldn’t give him the chance to do that. I kept catching the side walls, the wind was affecting it but you have to adapt to those situations.

“Now I have two more attempts to get one more win and I am through. Obviously I want to get as many wins as I can here. Best-of-three is never going to be as easy for me but I am pleased to sneak it 2-1.”