TODAY at the ISS Canary Wharf Squash Classic

Mon 23rd March, Round One, Top Half:

Borja Golan (Esp) bt [5] Thierry Lincou (Fra)
     9/11, 4/11, 11/4, 11/8, 11/4 (77m)
[3] James Willstrop (Eng) bt Alister Walker (Eng)
      11/6, 11/4, 13/11 (48m)
[1] Amr Shabana (Egy) bt [Q] Davide Bianchetti (Ita)
      11/7, 11/8, 12/10 (36m)
[Q] Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egy) bt[7] Nick Matthew (Eng)
       11/7, 5/11, 8/11, 12/10, 11/9 (90m)

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Golan & Shorbagy in day one upsets

Two stunning upsets on the first day's play at Canary Wharf as Borja Golan repeated his Paris win over Thierry Lincou, this time coming from two games down, and world junior champion Mohamed El Shorbagy claimed his biggest scalp yet, saving a match ball in the fourth to beat Nick Matthew in another five game thrilled.

Sandwiched in between were comfortable enough wins for top seed Amr Shabana and defending champion James Willstrop.

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Squash 2016

For the first two games, Thierry played very well, very tight, and that was nothing that I could do. But I changed my game in the third, I took more risks, I attacked more. After wining the third, I was back in the match, and I took it step by step, point by point…

I think that Thierry was probably still tired from the SSF he played last week…

I played in Malaysian two weeks ago, then I came back to play English leagues, went back home to rest a bit and stay with my family.

I would like to dedicate this match to my grandfather, who just passed away. He was one of my biggest supporters, and I just hope that next round, I can dedicate the next match to him too…

Borja Golan (Esp) bt [5] Thierry Lincou (Fra)
     9/11, 4/11, 11/4, 11/8, 11/4 (77m)

Framboise reports

I can’t say I was surprised by Thierry’s poor performance at the end of his match. Between the antibiotics he is taking for his conjunctivitis that he caught from his daughter, and his first final for a very long time only five days ago, he was bound to be a bit pancake-like poor thing.

But I was really impressed by Borja’s strength today. His game was impressive in all departments, his boasts, still one of the best shots of the circuit, extremely tight drives, great variety of shots, and his short game well in place. I only wish he would stop asking for so many lets and just play the ball a bit more, but then again, as long as the refs will keep on giving him lets, why shouldn’t he? Fair enough…

But he was working extremely hard, never let Thierry feel comfortable from the middle of the 3rd, kept applying the pressure, feeling that the Frenchman was tired. He built his rallies to perfection, playing with his opponent, and I think his boasts were even more lethal today than they ever were.

It was a great mental and physical display from the Spanish player, who gets to beat Thierry a second time in a big event – The Internationaux de France back in September. The Frenchman will be very disappointed, I’m sure….

He didn’t do anything in particular, it’s just me, I had a massive drop of energy in the middle of the third, I could stay with him at 3/3, 4/4. I knew exactly what to do, but I just couldn’t do it.

Borja is hard to play, he moves very well, if you are not strong, if you are not strong enough, you are in a lot of trouble.

I guess I just didn’t recover from last week’s, more mentally than anything I guess, and I was maybe not hungry enough, but on a few points, then it was starting to be difficult again. Even when I was getting to the front, I just didn’t have the energy to get out again…

Also, I was really struggling to see the ball, and as Borja is the King of Boasting, if you can’t see the ball when it leaves the racquet, you ain’t going to catch it! And I felt like my muscles were all gums, no strength at all…

I was still on a high from last week I think, I felt too good probably, and I just couldn’t turn the page. I guess I needed a bit more time with my family to rest and prepare for the next event. It’s too hard, two events back to back, at my age! I start to feel it, some weeks, I move very, and then the next one, I’m struggling…

[3] James Willstrop (Eng) bt Alister Walker (Eng)
      11/6, 11/4, 13/11 (48m)


Dig In James was not to be denied, especially after losing against Young Ali last week, and went on court as sharp as possible, and extremely focused, leaving his opponent nearly constantly to run around the court.

In the third, James maybe dropped a bit energywise, and Ali was quick to seize the opportunity. He found a good width, was able to twist and turn James a bit more, and quickly found himself with game ball at 10/6.

But as all true champions, James felt the danger, he didn’t want his compatriot to have a sniff at it, and point by point, saved four games balls to set up his first match ball at 11/10. Ali managed to save it in a funny rally, where he seemed to turn on himself, and surprised James. But a lovely backhand drop shot allowed James to close it down on his second match ball, 13/11…

James played really well in the first two games, and when I play top players like that, my shots are just not good enough, there is not enough quality behind my shots to put them under pressure, and I’m getting punished.

In the third, I’m maybe guilty of trying too hard, then relaxing a bit, and then doing not enough…

It’s all a question to pay attention to details. Technically, I’m getting better, and on my day, I can play the top people, get it right and do it. But on an off day, against James, I lose 3/0.

Last week, we played in National League, and he beat me. Today, I guess the conditions were better for me, it’s a big event, played on the glass court… And when you lose against somebody, you don’t want it to happen again.

Tonight, I was sharp I thought, and I managed to get it together a bit better than last time…

I haven’t found the right preparation yet against Shabana, as I keep on losing to him, and never managed to win a match yet!

I knew that Shabana was not 100%, somebody told me, and he didn’t look like he was either, so I had my chance, but maybe I put a bit too much of pressure on myself!
I tried and played as tight as I could, as deep as I could, but even not at 100%, he was still extremely accurate, and finding too many winners.

No, Fram, I was not particularly tired today, I was just very annoyed at myself, I just didn’t manage to move well, in particular for a game and a half, he was sending me to the front, and I just couldn’t move…

I’m certainly not going to go on playing forever, I’m stopping in December 2010, I think it’s not reasonable if I’m old enough to play in the over 35 master, and that I’m still on PSA… And by then, my body will need a rest…

[1] Amr Shabana (Egy) bt
[Q] Davide Bianchetti (Ita)  11/7, 11/8, 12/10 (36m)

NOT 100%...

I got very scared on the first shot of the match, as Shaabz went for his first return of serve, and froze as he tried to hit his shot. “Here we go again”, I thought. For the rest of the first game, I could see that the Egyptian was testing his movement, and that his confidence grew as his body warmed up.

Actually, what happened is that he got a bit of a pinch of his sciatica nerve, that shot right throughout the whole leg, and scared him, but in fact, it was fine in the end, although the Egyptian never fully stretch squashwise, as Davide didn’t seem at his best, neither mentally or physically.

The fiery Italian was a bit subdued tonight. I know that those two are very good friends, but I saw them in Hurghada last year in the second round, and it was such a great disputed flamboyant match. This today was about, I don’t know, like they were both holding back a bit.

One nice moment, when the central ref called the ball not up. Davide counted to in his head, then just said “Appeal”. “Are you appealing my decision, M. Bianchetti?”. “Yes I am”. “Refs, decision please? The ball is not up”.

And that’s when Shaabz, with his now world famous cheeky smile, just raised his thumb, and said, “the ball is good”. And just overturned the decision to a let.

That’s why Shabana is our new PSA President. Because he is not only talented like nobody else, but honest as a judge. And I wish more more people in the world were reminded that a victory without honour is just not worth it….

[Q] Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egy) bt [7] Nick Matthew (Eng)
       11/7, 5/11, 8/11, 12/10, 11/9 (90m)


No offence to any of the spectators, but I’m not sure that many realised the enormity of the physical and mental work Shorbagy produced today in the fourth and fifth games. All the rallies, ALL OF THEM, were like two lumberjacks, hitting that poor ball each their turn, with a power, accuracy, thinking through each shot, relentlessly, patiently, scarily at times, some “ridiculous squash”, Young Willstrop would say…

Nick is probably, since Anthony Ricketts retired, the toughest player we have on the circuit. He grinds people, pins them at the back, and as he cuts off any attempt they might have to slow down the pace, he virtually empties the energy tank of his opponent by asphyxiating them.

So, if I tell you that in the fourth, the World Junior Champion's cross courts were powerful enough to keep Nick stuck at the back for rallies on end, trust me, it meant that 1. His length and width were closed to perfection. 2. That his power and weight into the ball was quite astonishing. 3. That physically, he is as strong as it comes.

That’s one thing. But there is another element that came into action tonight, and that was the refereeing, of course. It’s too important in this instance for me not to talk about it, whereas you know that I’m normally keen on avoiding the subject as much as I can…

First, there is a weird call in my eyes in the third, at 7/6, when Shorbagy gets a very harsh no let. And there is a big difference between 7/7 and 8/6, of course. Then cut to the end of the fourth. After some astonishing, gruelling rallies from 7/7 to 9/9, Shorbagy clips a drop shot, and sets up what would end up being Nick’s only match ball.

Another enormous rally, and as Nick is standing at the service line level, slightly on the right side on the court, Shorbaby clips his right leg was he is going for the drop shot Nick has placed in the right front corner. Nick falls on the floor in pain, what I think you call a dead leg, while Shorbagy, also on the floor, puts the ball away. And the central referee came on court to check that the English is fine, and tell him he is getting a no let, as it’s Shorbagy’s shot.

The crowd doesn’t like, starts shouting “let, let”, and is delighted when the decision is overturned by the two side refs. Question is, if Shorbagy’s shot had ended in the tin, would we had played a let? Not sure about the ruling on that one…. Still, or the central ref was right, and then, shouldn’t have been overturned, or, if he was wrong, then he should have asked the opinion of his colleagues before taking his decision. A bit of a messy situation…


Back we are at 10/9, match ball for Nick. Shorbagy saves it with a stunning low drive that glues to the wall. 10/10. The Egyptian finds a stunning drop shot. 11/10, game ball. During the next rally, he is in the middle of the court, Nick is dangerously close to him. Shorbagy goes to take the ball on his back hand, makes his first attempt, then turns his body, and goes for the forehand. Nick is caught. But what should normally be a let – according to Event Officials – is actually given as a stroke. Game to Shorbagy.

Nick is not impressed, the crowd stunned… But to be fair, that's three debatable decision over a 90m's match. Not outrageous, is it. Just an awful timing to have them...

Struggling a bit with his leg, Nick still gives it everything he can in the decider, but Shorbagy hads the momentum, has the hunger, has the belief that comes from being 18 and bleeping gifted. He just keeps on playing the same way that took him there, applies a relentless physical pressure, and Nick starts to tin a few shots, loses contact with the score….

Shorbagy pocketed the best even win of his short but prodigal career. Basma, his mum, will be going to bed a happy woman, whereas Sue, Nick’s mum, won’t be that impressed with the outcome.

I’m so glad sometimes I don’t have kids…

I never say to the refs, “oh, you gave me a let, when it was a stroke, and that’s why I lost the match”, because you don’t lose a match on one rally, where there are like 130 rallies in a match.

At the end of the fourth, when I got the dead leg, people asked me why I didn’t get treatment right away. Well, I knew from experience that if I’d stopped, it would probably have seized up, so I tried to keep playing on it as long as it was warm. But I just couldn’t really push on it in the fifth…

But I have some queries about a couple of pick ups, he’ll learn that if he doesn’t make sure he announces them, he’ll get a bit of a reputation, and players will start and go for him…

He is a great young player, he had nothing to lose, he played very well, and he’s got the potential to be World Champion I believe, but tonight, I didn’t play well enough to win, as simple as that.

I’m so happy, I don’t know what to say, I’m sure my mum is looking at the match from home, and that she is crying.

Nick has done so well to come back from injury, he is playing so well, he is so hungry for victory as well, so winning tonight against him means so much to me, and it’s definitely my biggest win… I’m so impressed by the fact he came back so strongly from injury, and today for him will only be a bad day at the office…

I remember that when Nick beat me 3/0 in Qatar, I wasn’t sad at all, because I just knew what I had to do to try and beat him. And his game really suits mine, he is so good at volleying on the forehand, and I’m hitting on the crosscourt very hard, so I’m actually preventing him from volleying.

In the second, I didn’t push too hard to win, as I was a bit tired and realised I’d better a little breather to come back in the third that in my opinion was crucial. I remember getting what I thought was a very bad call at 7/6, but then again, I got a lucky call on my game ball in the fourth, and I thought that it balanced out well somehow, that they were not for one player or another…

I know that Nick is extremely strong mentally, everybody knows that he is one of the strongest on the circuit for that, so I was very careful in the fifth, although I was up 10/7. And when I saw him coming back, I thought about my match against Thierry in the Worlds, how I was up in the first game, and that he came back. So I was really focused.

I’m really really ecstatic, and I need to thank my mum, who’s been my guide. She is organising my life, balancing between such a hard training, but also with my school studies, I’m preparing my Engineering diploma and my exams are in June. I’m really happy with what I’m achieving at the moment, balancing well my life between school and squash. And that, I couldn’t have done any of it with my mum’s support…. So I really want to thank her tonight.