joeldurston

Canary Wharf Squash Classic: quarter finals

In Sport on March 21, 2013 at 12:28 PM

All four top seeds progressed from the Canary Wharf quarter finals yesterday, setting up two mouth-watering semis today.

Egyptian rising star Mohamed El Shorbagy had to fight hardest to get there, pushed all the way to the final fifth game by a tenacious performance from qualifier Henrik Mustonen.
Any suspicions the 22-year-old would be overawed by the occasion – his only previous match against a top five player was another five game match that went El Shorbagy’s way – were soon dispelled as he won the first game 11-3 on the back of some delicate drop shots, and errors from El Shorbagy, seemingly trying to finish rallies a little too ambitiously even for him.
He shored up his game in the second, with the result many long rallies showcasing both players’ athleticism and, particularly, the Egyptian’s versatile shot-making – including an occasional kind of topspin drive betraying his fondness for tennis (which usually works to the detriment of squash’s short, snappy hitting).
But El Shorbagy’s powerful play was not enough to overcome Mustonen’s impressive court coverage in the third – the Finn taking it 11-7, and putting the world no. 5 2-1 down against a qualifier. A very sticky predicament.
As indeed Shorbagy admitted, claiming afterwards he was “nervous”, but glad he “found a way to win” against an opponent who played “such a fast game”
Fittingly, the fourth started tensely – firstly with Mustonen slipping and claiming a let for contact, which the Egyptian protested wasn’t there. “I don’t agree with you,” said the ref. “Of course you don’t,” El Shorbagy retorted, tongue-in-cheek. Then El Shorbagy had a let of his own – before going on to take the next four points in a row, and then take the game 11-6, thanks to some well-placed drives and drops.
Yet any suspicions the young Finn would pale in the fifth – content at his tournament run which has already seen him beat players about 30 and 40 places above him – proved unfounded, despite Shorbagy racing to a 5-0 lead.
Mustonen’s comeback began with some uncharacteristic errors from El Shorbagy, who mishit a drop, got out of position for a stroke against him, then had two mishits in a row – one, inexplicably, on a return. Then, from 7-4, El Shorbagy made a slight error on a drop and another on an ambitious cross-court nick attempt.
But he arrested the decline with a stunning drop volley, making it 8-7 to him. Mustonen won the next point – on the third attempt, with two contentious lets for Mustonen, one he had to review to get – with a stroke, after El Shorbagy was only able to dig a tight squeeze drop back out by his body.
Then it was El Shorbagy’s turn for a stroke, and he made it 10-8 with a great drop shot – sealing the win 11-9 on his second matchball.
El Shorbagy will now meet James Willstrop in today’s semi final, after the tall Yorkshireman beat Daryl Selby 11-7, 11-5, 11-7.
Despite very willing running, Selby struggled to find ways past Willstrop’s impressive reach – which he so often uses to control rallies from the centre of the court – and could not change his “big fat zero” in their head-to-head.
On the other side of the draw, Nick Matthew had to be at the top of his game to beat world no. 20 Stephen Coppinger.
The first two games, which Matthew took 11-6, 11-4, may look quite comfortable on paper, but were anything but on court – the Cape Town-based player forcing Matthew to play attacking squash and hit several spectacular smashed nicks to win rallies.
And causing Matthew to get frustrated over decisions – although the combative Yorkshireman as much as said that he courts this controversy to spur him on, when he told the referee off for admonishing a shouting crowd member.
“No, we [the players] enjoy the noise – come on, enjoy yourself tonight, guys,” he said. And he also mentioned how much he enjoyed the crowd “hooting and hollering” during his fiery first round encounter with Miguel Angel Rodriguez.
Coppinger played some brilliant squash to take the third 12-10, but could not quite stay at the world no. 2’s level in the fourth, which Matthew took 11-3.
Matthew now plays in the semi final Peter Barker, who beat Tom Richards, 8-11, 11-4, 11-5, 11-7.
Richards came out the blocks firing, with a vast array of clever shots, all on point – Barker himself admitted he thought he’d played quite well in the first, and that the Surrey player had just been a little better.
After that, though, Barker’s trademark line and length – allied to some smart front-court play, and retrieving that definitely put paid to any lingering injury doubts – told.
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