TODAY at the ISS Canary Wharf Squash Classic
Wed 25th March, Quarter-Finals:

[3] James Willstrop (Eng) bt Borja Golan (Esp)
       10/12, 2/11, 11/7, 11/9, 11/2 (91m)

[1] Amr Shabana (Egy) bt [Q] Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egy)
        11/5, 11/6, 11/9 (35m)

[2] Gregory Gaultier (Fra) bt [8] Peter Barker (Eng)
        11/9, 11/8, 11/3 (50m)

[4] David Palmer (Aus) bt [6] Wael El Hindi (Egy)
        12/10, 4/11, 11/7, 11/4 (63m)

Top four through to the Semis

When Borja Golan led defending champion James Willstrop by two games - and 11/2 in the second - it looked as though we were in for another night of upsets. Willstrop hung in though, hanging onto his title, and the remainder of the top seeds all duly followed.

Amr Shabana beat world junior champion Mohamed El Shorbagy to set up a meeting with Willstrop in the semis, then Super Series champion Gregory Gaultier ended the hopes of local resident Peter Barker, and David Palmer pulled away from one game all to beat Wael El Hindi - and all before the clock struck eleven ...

En Bref #2

Alan Thatcher's
Canary Wharf BLOG

[3] James Willstrop (Eng) bt Borja Golan (Esp)
       10/12, 2/11, 11/7, 11/9, 11/2 (91m)


Well, with the knowledge that James is about to undergo surgery to sort out his ankle once and for all – read our en brefs tomorrow – I must say I wished he stopped the match when I saw him in such a bad state in the second.

But that’s not how James thinks, does he. He just bites the racquet, and just gets on with it. And trust me, cleverly advised by John Milton, Borja gave him hell. Again, like he was with Thierry on Monday, his accuracy on the side wall, his variation in the height of the ball, with the pace, and his lethal boast, I saw him as the winner.

I’m not sure what happened in the 5th. Is it the hard work that Borja did during the game that finally took his toll? Is it a mental drop after leading 2/0, thinking that he is in the semis, and having to play a decider with your opponent carried by the momentum of coming back from 2/0? Or is it because, as James thinks, that the Englishman outplayed him tactically? I just don’t know.

"I didn’t take the greatest of starts, did I… I don’t know why, to be so sharp on Monday, then a rest day – that’s normally a good thing – and coming back as flat, with things just not happening, I just don’t know…

"The foot is not an issue, well it is in a way, but it’s about to be sorted, and I was moving very well on Monday, so… No, it’s more, a bit what Thierry said, I had suddenly a big drop of energy in the second, I just couldn’t move myself forward, I was a bit lethargic, and very slow indeed.

"After taking my frustration against the wall behind the court, I had a good chat with Malc, and between the two of us, we were able to steady the ship. It was a long way back, and I’m really happy to get to the next step…

"It was not pretty, it was a question of just digging in. And if in the second, he was able to dominate me by moving forward, he wasn’t able to in the. As ever when it’s not working for me with the racquet, I go back to basics, it’s nothing extraordinary, just trying to keep the ball tight. And tactically then, in that last game, I was able to control the game."

"He was too good for me today, he was controlling the match with his forehand, it’s so hard to see it, and never let me impose my game. I’m now going to speak with Jonah to try and see what I can do in Hurghada if I get to play him to prevent this situation to happen again!

"But I’m happy with my tournament, my win yesterday was a good win for me. Yesterday I learned things, today I learned things too. I’m always learning…

"I’m going to prepare mentally for Hurghada now, and I’m so happy to go back to Egypt, I haven’t been there for too many months now, and I miss it a lot…"

[1] Amr Shabana (Egy) bt [Q] Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egy)
          11/5, 11/6, 11/9 (35m)


Well, for somebody who is sharing his life between studies and training, the boy ain’t doing bad, is he???

Shabana never let the boy breathe, or settle. Like a player seating next to me noticed, “all the games went to 4/4, and that’s the switch. That’s when the Experience Man comes into play. That all about shot selection”.

Well, I’m sorry, but that’s such a good description that I have very little more to say. Ah yes, that Mohamed still saved three match balls, and offered us some stunning rallies that would have made any world champion proud. A senior one I mean…

Well played, Shorbagy, your time will come Inshallah…

"We are all so proud of Mohamed, his parents too are very proud of him, what he has achieved at such a young age is just astonishing. I wish him all the luck, he’s got a World Champion junior title to defend and Inshallah, it will become a double world Champion. Be patient, things will fall into place….

"I’m happy, my body is in place, I’m feeling really good… I’m moving better, but to compete at that level of the competition, you need to be 100%, and that doesn’t guarantee you a victory, it only means you can compete.

"James is a very technical player, one of the most talented players to come out of England, and I’ll have to play very well tactically to beat him.

"The tournament is in the right place at the moment, a stunning 3/2 for James and Borja, then a close 3/0 for Mohamed and myself, great stuff…

"It’s hard in squash, you need to get support, or from a main sponsor, or from a federation. In England, ES is helping its players a lot, and that’s fantastic. I was fortunate in Egypt, because I got the support of HSBC and Arasco Telecom, and to play top squash, you need to be 100% focused on your game. So, when the financial worries are taken away, you can concentrate on squash.

"Squash is now the second sport in Egypt, so the curse is, who do you support? We have world junior champions, world champions, the choice is difficult. But things are getting better, even if it’s not the best of times to find associated sponsors!!!

"Things are going the right way, and hopefully, we’ll be taking Squash to the masses through television and the Olympics."

[2] Gregory Gaultier (Fra) bt [8] Peter Barker (Eng)
        11/9, 11/8, 11/3 (50m)


I thought this match was never won for Greg, and I have to admit I thought that Peter was going to come back with a vengeance in the third, even from 2/0 down, because he never backs down.

But contrarily to what he told me, I don’t believe he thought he was going to win. He wanted to test himself, to see where he would hold against the player he thinks is at the top at the moment. But winning, I’m not sure he believed he could today ... too much respect maybe.

Greg did an awful lot to return Peter’s stunning attacks, but the Frenchman was returning so well, was so solid on his legs today – not like yesterday – and kept on controlling most of the rallies…

It was tough to recover from the Super Series Finals, but yesterday’s match was exactly what I needed to get the blood flowing in the body! Today, I was moving well, I felt pretty light on my feet. I’m injury free, and I really enjoy playing in those conditions of course. I’m feeling strong, I feel confident with the wins I had lately.

Also I believe that contrarily to the other years, where I used to have a drop in energy during the season, now, thanks to my new training regime, and the work I’ve been doing on the mental preparation, I’m feeling much much stronger, hence, more relaxed…I get on court with no pressure, if I win, I win, if I lose, I lose, but it’s still better if I win…!!!

Thanks to all the top players like Shabana, Ramy, Karim, Nick, James, and all the others, you have no idea before a tournament of who is going to win, what’s going to happen, and that makes the tour so interesting.

I’ve been supported by the French Federation since I was 12, and I still work with the Federation coaches, but they have a lot of other players to support and train, and I felt that, in my point in my career, I needed to get a bit more personal support, and that’s why I’m now training with a physical coach, a mental coach who is also my physio, and a squash coach.

This work makes all the difference, when you are trying to get to the top, it’s all about attention to details…

I can’t have my team with me on this one, because, at this point in time, it’s costing me a lot of money to have them round, and I can’t afford it yet, but hey, if we make it to the Olympics, we are all going to get more funds hopefully!!!

Thanks to all the team of people that are working very hard in the wings to support the Olympic Bid, and of course, to Eventis and their sponsors, because without them, I would stay home, for sure….

Yes, that was a very tough match. Maybe yesterday’s match took a bit out of me physically, no, not mentally, but physically yes. And I needed to be at my best to beat him, and I wasn’t….

Of course, I’m disappointed, but I’ve just been playing against the man who is playing the best squash at the moment, so you’ve got to give credit where credit is due….

Greg has improved I think, he has cut the errors he used to make when he was on a bit of a physical edge, and I think that, at the moment, he is slightly better than anybody.

I’ve been training with Peter Nicol a lot on and off court recently, and I think you can see it in my squash, I’m enjoying more. He is such an inspiration, when I got on the tour, he was number one, and having the chance to spend time with him is such a treat…

Yes, I did believe I could win, but for that, I needed to be at my best, and I wasn’t. I tried, but I wasn’t..

It’s very frustrating, the first game was crucial, and I was up 10/7… A lesson to learn, and David is one of the best players on the circuit to come back from 10/7, that’s how he won a world championship… Had I taken the first game, I could have relaxed a bit, and it’s a different match…

Today I was trying to mix up the pace, but still, David succeeds to win this one, all credit to him.

This is my end of the season, I’m giving Hurghada a rest, I had a bit of problem with my shoulder, and I’m going to get treatment, and a good rest…

The semis finals are two great line up tomorrow, and unfortunately, I won’t be playing them…

[4] David Palmer (Aus) bt [6] Wael El Hindi (Egy)
        12/10, 4/11, 11/7, 11/4 (63m)


A match between David and Wael used to be a bit of a painful process sometimes, with a lot of discussions, stops and starts, a bit of drama, a lot happening. But now, those two gentlemen are behaving so well their matches could be shown to IOC Members to promote the game!!!!

What is the world of squash coming to…

More seriously, I thought that Wael was not as fiery on there as he’s been recently. Already yesterday against Joey, he was a bit slow, his length was not as precise as it normally is, far too many of his shots ending mid court, his drop shots not dangerous enough, and today was more or less the same story.

Still, Wael is extremely fit, and was able to apply pressure on David by running his socks off and retrieving beautifully, offering us some great rallies in the process. But although the Australian is suffering from a “squash elbow” that is bothering him when trying to execute his backhand volley trademark, blimey, he still volleyed a bleeping hell of a lot, in particular in the third.

David is looking better than last week, having a few matches did him good, and despite a fly in fly out to Boston between Queen’s and this one, he looks sharps and hungry. Will it be enough against Hungry Greg? Let’s find out tomorrow…

We always have great matches between Wael and I, I have a lot of respect for him, he is such a great player, a great character, his game, his personality, a bit like a Jonathan Power’s, are a great asset for our sport, and he also should be used to promote our game, just as it’s so great to see our players being asked to promote it, like Peter Nicol, Thierry, James, and it’s nice to see them working towards our inclusion to the Olympics.

I needed to go home back to Boston to freshen up, a bit like Shabana, otherwise it would have been squash 100%, and I needed a break. Squash is very important in my life, but my family comes first, and I needed to spend some time with my wife and my daughter…

It was always going to be a risk, but I think I’ve got enough experience to be able to handle the travelling… And my game is getting better and better, like I said, I lacked matches…

Greg is the man in form at the moment, we played last week, he beat me a close 3/1, his strength is that he plays so well the important points, I’ve been watching him a lot recently, from 7/7, 8/8, he gets so confident, so relaxed, he is hard to beat…

As long I can keep on playing at a good level, and in front of a great crowd, I’ll keep doing it…