Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) 2-1  Ali Farag (EGY) 11-9, 7-11, 12-10 (61m)
In my previous report about Joel Makin, I told you how impressed I was to see the transformation the Welsh’s game has undergone in the past weeks. Well, same difference with Marwan’s…
I wasn’t in Manchester of course, so I didn’t see those two battling away in the quarters, Ali losing in 89m, 11/8 in the 5th. But from yesterday’s aftermatch quote to the MC, I could feel Ali had lost a lot of confidence in his own game.
And I truly believe today, that’s where the difference lays. Cause come on, 12/10 in the 3rd… it’s anybody’s match really. But today, it was Marwan at the front, 95 percent of the time, while Ali kept on retrieving and counterattacking from the back of the court. Not the best of position if you want to be top dog…
“Ali’s confidence comes from playing a lot of squash” told me one of his team. “And because of the COVID, that was taken away from him. It will take some time before he takes confidence in his squash again,” he added.
But also, whatever Marwan made as new life choices, they were the good ones. I’m told he is now based 24/7 in Cairo, working with his coach Haitham Effat. Marwan I truly believe needed to get away from his brother’s shadow. It’s very cute to be called Shorbagy Jr. But if Marwan wanted to get to number one instead of his brother, he had to do something radical. Who said “madness is doing the same things and hoping for a different result…”
Marwan, one of the most underrated players on the Tour as his brother Mohamed would say, is coming out of age. Yes, of course, I would prefer he wouldn’t bark to the ref at every call, trying to play mind games with the officials and his opponent. But that’s his way to handle pressure, getting under his opponent’s skin. He does it with Mohamed particularly well!!!
First game was obviously crucial. Ali seemed in control of his nerves and pretty well in focus, 3/0 but quickly, both were elbow to elbow: to 3/3, 4/4, 5/5, 6/6, 7/7, 8/8, 9/9. Some uncharacteristic errors from both (4 for Ali, 3 for Marwan) showed how under pressure they were putting each other.
Best moment of the game: at 10/9 game ball, there contact, and before Massarella had the time to open his mic and give us a decision, Marwan was “REVIEW”!!!! You’ve got to love him. He takes the 26m game, 11/9.
The second, Ali has found his T, his length, and his controlling a bit more, 4/1. But again we are close, with Marwan at the front, and Ali covering a heck of a lot of ground, 5/5, 6/6, 7/7. Two strokes in a row and two winners later, we are back at 1/1, 11/7 in 14m.
The third is ridiculously close, but the errors from Ali creep in in the middle of the game, from 4/3 up, to 6/7, he’ll make 5 errors. That’s a lot for somebody who normally plays a low percentage game. Still he’ll get to match point, Marwan is making the court very, very, very big for him, and Ali will just lack of a bit of energy right at the end – mental energy I believe, mental belief: Marwan takes the cake on his first attempt, 12/10 in 19m.
And wiiiiiii goes his racquet, flying high…
“Ali is the toughest player to beat on the PSA World Tour by far. Ali is the type of player that if I had ten sets of ghosting, I’d say that’s not enough to beat Ali – it’s never enough to beat Ali. He’s always there, he’s always digging in and he’s such a tough player to play.
I’m so happy with the win today because it could have gone either way. He was 10-9 up in the third and then suddenly it was 11-10 match point and out of nowhere I found myself with match point.
“It was such a tough match and I’m so happy with the win – hopefully just one more tomorrow. Being lucky is a part of the process, it could have gone either way but I’ve trained really hard over the summer to get back to where I was so results like this don’t surprise me anymore.
“Even if I win tomorrow, being realistic I know that my brother is not here. He’s the current No.1 and the best player in the world, even if I win tomorrow, I know I still have a lot of work to do and he is the player to beat. No matter who wins tomorrow, we know we have a lot of work to do.”