Top seed ElShorbagy claims Grasshopper Cup
World No.2 Mohamed ElShorbagy is the 2019 Grasshopper Cup champion after getting the better of fellow Egyptian Tarek Momen in the final of the PSA World Tour Gold tournament at Zurich’s Halle 622.
ElShorbagy was a losing finalist here 12 months ago to compatriot Ramy Ashour, but the 28-year-old played at a ferocious pace to overpower Momen en route to claiming an 11-8, 13-11, 11-8 victory in 50 minutes.
Both players had overcome Egyptian opposition in the semi-finals, with ElShorbagy seeing off World No.4 Karim Abdel Gawad, while World No.3 Momen dispatched World No.8 Abouelghar in straight games.
Momen – the 2014 Grasshopper Cup runner-up – was appearing in a third successive PSA Tour final for the first time in his career and had already beaten ElShorbagy twice this month, first in the semi-finals of the PSA World Championships and also two weeks ago at the same stage of the Canary Wharf Classic.
ElShorbagy built on a strong start to take the opener and came back from game ball down to take a crucial second game after a no let decision in Momen’s favour was overturned to a yes let by a video referee decision. Momen kept on fighting in the third, but there was no stopping ElShorbagy as he closed out the win to lift his 36th PSA Tour title and his first of 2019.
“This is the third time I’m coming back here, and a lot of great names have won this trophy like Gregory Gaultier and Ramy. To put my name besides the greats of squash is an honour, and I’m really proud to lift this trophy in front of this crowd. They’ve been amazing all week, and I’m really glad I won at the end.
“Tarek has been playing the squash of his life this season, he made three finals this month, and I know how hard it is to back it up after every tournament. He should be really proud of what he achieved this month.
“The second game was crucial, and I thought that if I could go 2-0 up it would have been a mountain to climb. I’m really glad I was able to finish that off and win the title. It’s been an up-and-down season for me, but I wanted to show what I can do and play well.
“This season is far from over for me. There is still the World No.1 spot to play for this season, I’m going to be trying to get that spot back by the end of the season, and I’m going to give it my all.”
ElShorbagy’s win sees him take home over $17,000 worth of prize money and is his third PSA tournament win of the season.
In addition to the men’s PSA tournament, the final of the women’s exhibtion event was also played today, with French World No.4 Camille Serme beating Egypt’s World No.3 Nour El Tayeb. New Zealand’s Joelle King got the better of Belgium’s World No.27 Nele Gilis in the third place play-off.
Semis: ElShorbagy and Momen to Contest Grasshopper Cup Final
World No.2 Mohamed ElShorbagy and World No.3 Tarek Momen will contest the final of the 2019 Grasshopper Cup, PSA World Tour Gold tournament after they got the better of fellow Egyptians Karim Abdel Gawad and Mohamed Abouelghar in their semi-final fixtures at Zurich’s Halle 622.
ElShorbagy will appear in his second successive Grasshopper Cup final after winning a gripping battle by an 11-7, 9-11, 12-10, 11-6 scoreline. Known on tour as ‘The Beast’, ElShorbagy put in a performance befitting that moniker as he held his opponent’s shot-making skills at bay.
Gawad came into the semi-finals after an emphatic 3-0 win over Rösner in the previous round, while he beat ElShorbagy en route to winning the Black Ball Open in December. Gawad was able to stick in the match for the most part as he recovered from a game down to level, while he came within a whisker of winning a crucial third game after weathering a storm to go game ball up.
Two strokes and a tin followed in quick succession though to hand the initiative back to ElShorbagy, and the 28-year-old blitzed to victory in the fourth against a tired-looking Gawad to book his spot in the title-decider.
“I’m very proud of this performance,” said ElShorbagy.
“I was up 9-6 in that third game, it was a very crucial game, and at that point I was thinking more about winning it, rather than how I was going to win it. That’s when the emotions take control of your brain, but luckily for me he gifted me that game with an error and a stroke.
“When you play a match which is such high quality like this, and you see the crowd cheering after every point with all their heart, it’s what we play for, we’re entertainers.”
The day’s other semi-final saw Momen make it nine successive wins over World No.8 Abouelghar as he cruised to an 11-4, 11-6, 11-8 victory.
24 hours ago, Momen could barely stand up after battling to a hard-fought quarter-final triumph over India’s Saurav Ghosal, but he backed it up superbly as he dominated proceedings today at Halle 622. In contrast, Abouelghar was coming off the back of a sensational 3-1 win over World No.1 Ali Farag in the previous round, but he looked like a different player as he never really got going against Momen.
Momen had already beaten Abouelghar four times this season, with their last two meetings going the distance to five games, but he was a class apart in Zurich. He dictated the tempo of the match and hit his targets perfectly to reach a third PSA Tour final in a row for the first time in his career.
“To get a 3-0 win is just spectacular,” Momen said.
“I know Mohamed had a tough one yesterday, I think mentally more than physically. I believe it would have been hard to back it up, I’ve been in this situation a few times, and I know taking out the World No.1 can take a lot out of your mind.
“This is my fifth time here in Zurich, in the previous four events I’ve had a different result in every single one. I’ve made the final, the semi-finals, the quarter-finals and the last 16, so hopefully this time it will be a different result as well.”
Momen will appear in his first final here since 2014. Momen will look to build on back-to-back wins over World No.2 ElShorbagy after beating him in the semi-finals of both the PSA World Championships and the Canary Wharf Classic. ElShorbagy, meanwhile, will look to improve on a final defeat to compatriot Ramy Ashour last year.
Quarters : Abouelghar beats Farag as Egyptians dominate
Egypt’s World No.8 Mohamed Abouelghar sent World No.1 and compatriot Ali Farag out of the Grasshopper Cup as Egyptians dominated quarter-finals day at Zurich’s Halle 622.
Farag became World Champion and World No.1 earlier this month and came into this tournament having reached five PSA Tour finals in a row. But his 11-match unbeaten run came to an end against compatriot Abouelghar, who won 11-9, 5-11, 11-7, 11-9 after 51 minutes of high-quality squash.
Some sublime drops and breathtaking retrievals made for a spectacular conclusion to the day’s play – with Abouelghar prevailing to book a semi-final spot against World No.3 Tarek Momen.
“I’ve been knocking on the door of the top players since the beginning of the season, and I’ve never been able to turn it around my way,” Abouelghar said afterwards.
“It’s been a long process, and I’ve learned a lot from my previous matches. Thankfully, I have a great team around me that helps me learn from my losses rather than backing down. I’m happy with the way I dealt with it until the end, I never gave up, and I’m very happy to be through to the semis.
“There are very fine margins with these guys, you rest for a second and they eat you up. I told myself to never relax, never give him anything for free, and I’m happy that’s what I did and it paid off. I’ve played Tarek every other tournament, we’ve played four times and he got the better of me every time. I’m looking forward to it, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a great match for the crowd.”
All four semi-final spots at this tournament will be taken up by Egyptians for the first time in history, after Momen, World No.2 ElShorbagy and World No.4 Karim Abdel Gawad all claimed wins to reach the last four.
Momen came from behind to record a 3-1 win over India’s Saurav Ghosal as he took one step closer to a third successive PSA Tour final. The 31-year-old has reached the title deciders at the PSA World Championships and the Canary Wharf Classic this month and beat Ghosal by a narrow 9-11, 11-6, 11-6, 14-12 margin to earn his semi-final spot.
He will go up against Abouelghar for the fifth time this season, with Momen winning every single time.
“I don’t think we’ve ever played a match that went smoothly, it’s always really tough,” Momen said.
“Today, the first game made a huge difference. You can’t afford to let Saurav go 1-0 up. I was very happy to not lose my head in the second and the third. In the fourth, he made it really difficult for me, so I had to fight. Maybe the experience that I’ve gained has finally made a difference.”
ElShorbagy and Gawad will contest the other semi-final after respective wins against Colombia’s Miguel Rodriguez and Germany’s Simon Rösner.
Rodriguez was making his 450th PSA Tour appearance and beat ElShorbagy to win the British Open last May. The Egyptian was sublime in Zurich though as he put in a powerhouse performance to win 11-4, 11-9, 11-5.
“He won the British Open for a reason, he played really well that week,” said ElShorbagy.
“We always have good matches together, he’s such a nice guy and we get on well together off court. To go on court and finish in three in big matches like this, it doesn’t happen very often, so you take it any day. I’m really happy to be in the semi-finals, like last year. I always feel welcome here when I come back, and I look forward to being back tomorrow.”
Gawad, who like ElShorbagy is a former World No.1 and former World Champion, dismantled World No.5 Rösner after putting on a brilliant display of attacking squash at Halle 622.
The 27-year-old is traditionally a slow starter, but he found his rhythm right from the off against Rösner and hit some stunning winners throughout the match as Rösner had no answers to Gawad’s brilliance.
Gawad and ElShorbagy will line up against each other for the third time this season. Gawad beat his fellow Egyptian en route to winning the Black Ball Open in December, while ElShorbagy achieved wins at the J.P. Tournament of Champions and the Oracle NetSuite Open.
“I tried to play good squash today, I’m really happy it worked, and I’m really happy to win in three against the World No.5 in this tournament,” Gawad said.
“I’m expecting a very tough match, Mohamed’s results and his record speak for itself. We’ve battled a lot since we were juniors and under 11 years old, so tomorrow I have to focus and play my best squash without any pressure. Hopefully I can play as well as I did today.”
Day Three: Abouelghar beats home hero Mueller as Farag overcomes Makin
Home hero Nicolas Mueller bowed out of the Grasshopper Cup after falling to Egypt’s Mohamed Abouelghar in straight games inside Zurich’s Halle 622.
Zurich-based Mueller was cheered on by his home crowd, with every winner he hit throughout the match greeted with a roar from the spectators, while a multitude of Swiss flags were on show in the stands. But he was unable to overcome Abouelghar as the World No.8 won the battle at the front of the court to complete an 11-8, 11-8, 11-9 victory in 37 minutes.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many Swiss flags in one day,” Abouelghar said afterwards.
“I’m really happy to be back playing in Switzerland, it’s a special place for me and I’ve always played well. Even though I was playing against Nicky and I had all the crowd cheering against me, I still enjoyed it and it was a pleasure to be part of that tonight.
“I’ve played Nicky before, and I’ve watched him a lot. We both play the same way, we like to go short and play an open game, and in the critical points I thought I had to stick to the side wall more and play less risky squash. I’m happy with the way I dealt with it at the end of each game and happy to be through in three.”
Abouelghar will line up against World No.1 and World Champion Ali Farag in the quarter-finals. Farag came back from a game to see off Welshman Joel Makin in a thrilling four-game encounter which saw the pair walk off court to a standing ovation.
Some gruelling rallies and incredible feats of athleticism from both players was on show throughout the 64-minute contest as the contrast of playing styles made for a fascinating encounter, with Farag’s deft touches and free-flowing movement clashing with Makin’s tenacity and speed.
They sent the crowd wild in the opening game after contesting a gladiatorial 100+ shot rally, which totalled over two minutes in length, with Makin prevailing en route to taking the first game. Farag, the 2017 runner-up, has won both of the PSA Tour events he has appeared at in 2019 though – including the PSA World Championships – and he managed to get the better of Makin in the next three games to book his last eight berth.
“Now that I’m here, I feel how much I missed playing this tournament last year,” said Farag.
“The Grasshopper Cup has grown from a $25k, to a $35k, $50k, $70k and now here it is at a Gold level. They do a fantastic job making us feel at home from the very first second we step on court, and the crowd always makes us motivated to play.”
World No.3 Tarek Momen and India’s Saurav Ghosal also progressed to the quarter-finals after beating Frenchman Mathieu Castagnet and England’s Declan James, respectively.
Momen, the World Championship runner-up, put on a clinical masterclass to win 11-5, 11-7, 11-4 in 34 minutes. Momen is aiming to reach his third successive PSA Tour final after runner-up finishes at the World Championships and the Canary Wharf Classic.
Ghosal recorded a hard-fought 3-1 triumph over World No.20 James, winning 11-7, 12-10, 7-11, 11-5.
A crucial second game went the way of Ghosal after he recovered from 6-0 down and then 10-8 down, and despite dropping the third, the World No.12 held firm in game four to earn his quarter-final spot.
“The second game was obviously a key moment because when you’re coming back from 6-0 down, it’s a big mental hurdle for him to cross,” said Ghosal.
“But he showed how good a player he is and how much of a fighter he is in the third. Fair play to him, sometimes you have to hold up your hand and give credit to the other guy for playing that well on those points. You have to focus on the next one and take it point by point. That’s what I was trying to do, and I tried to do that as much as I could.”
Day TWO : Rodriguez and Gawad survive
The seeds came into play on day two in Zurich, and while the four matches in the top half of the draw went to seeding, it was nip and tuck for some.
Miguel Rodriguez saved four match balls on his way to beating Zahed Salem in five, and five game expert Karim Abdel Gawad held off Max Lee.
Top seed Mohamed ElShorbagy and fourth seed Simon Rosner both eased through in straight games against Borja Golan and Daryl Selby.
Day Two Roundup:
Rodriguez and Gawad Avoid Upsets on Day Two
Colombia’s Miguel Rodriguez and Egypt’s Karim Abdel Gawad narrowly avoided surprise defeats on day two of the Grasshopper Cup as they claimed 3-2 wins over World No.14 Zahed Salem and World No.24 Max Lee, respectively, at Halle 622 in Zurich, Switzerland.
33-year-old Rodriguez overturned four match balls as he won 8-11, 11-6, 9-11, 14-12, 11-5 triumph against Egypt’s Salem to reach the quarter-finals of the PSA World Tour Gold tournament, where he will play top seed and last year’s runner-up Mohamed ElShorbagy in the last eight.
“I knew it was going to be very tough, Zahed has been playing very well and I’ve been struggling a bit,” said Rodriguez afterwards.
“It’s always difficult coming to play the first match coming from Colombia, but there are no excuses, we fought until the end and I’m pretty happy with the way I fought back in the third game when I was down by those match balls.
“I was just focusing on playing and giving everything, and fortunately I won that fourth game and had the confidence to play in the fifth.”
Rodriguez and ElShorbagy will meet in a repeat of the 2018 British Open final, where Rodriguez prevailed. ElShorbagy has won all three of their fixtures since then though and he earned his spot in the last eight courtesy of an 11-7, 11-6, 11-7 victory over Spain’s Borja Golan.
ElShorbagy claimed a narrow win over Golan two weeks ago at the Citigold Canary Wharf Classic, with that match played using a best-of-three games scoring format. The traditional best of five format is being used in Zurich though, and ElShorbagy put in a composed display to earn his spot in the next round.
“I think this is the only tournament on the calendar that I haven’t won yet,” said ElShorbagy.
“Last year, I was one match away, but Ramy [Ashour] was on his best form, and no-one can match him when he’s on that form. This year, I’m going to try to go one more match, but I have to win three more matches to win this title and each match is like a final. A lot of players are playing great squash at the moment, and I am just trying to stay alive in this tournament as much as I can.”
Gawad twice fell a game behind, which left him staring down the barrel of a second successive upset after a shock defeat to compatriot Youssef Soliman during last month’s PSA World Championships in Chicago. The 27-year-old kept his composure to draw level on both occasions and he held off Lee in the decider to advance to the next round.
“Playing Max is always very tough,” said Gawad.
“Most of the time it’s a five setter and, for me, he is one of the best movers on court. It was very tough today, especially when you’re not playing your best squash and you’re being passive with your winners.”
Rösner will aim to avenge a 3-0 defeat to Gawad in the quarter-finals of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in January.
“We’ve played a few times now and it’s always tough, even though he played a five setter yesterday [against Australia’s Cameron Pilley],” said Rösner.
“It’s very tough to beat this guy and wear him down, so I’m glad to get through in three. I’m going to try to figure out a tactic [for the next match], I lost 3-0 to him [Gawad] in New York, so I’m trying to get revenge for that match and I’ll see how it goes.”
Day One Roundup : home win for Mueller
Swiss No.1 Nicolas Mueller got off to a winning start at the 2019 Grasshopper Cup as he overcame Hong Kong’s Tsz Fung Yip by a 3-1 scoreline to reach the second round of the PSA World Tour Gold tournament.
The entirety of the first round took place at Squash Arena Uster today, and Zurich-based Mueller booked his place in the last 16 courtesy of an 11-6, 7-11, 11-6, 11-7 triumph over Yip.
The World No.28 was backed to the hilt by partizan home support, with every winner greeted by a crescendo of cheers as the spectators got behind their man, and he will play World No.8 Mohamed Abouelghar for a place in the quarter-finals.
“I’m very pumped,” said Mueller afterwards.
“I’ve been playing well over the last two or three weeks, and I was glad I peaked at the right moments. This season hasn’t been the best, but I’m very happy to be here and happy to play like this in front of my home crowd, it was amazing.
“I’m one of those people that would rather play in front of 10,000 people rather than two people. There are a couple of people who prefer it the other way round, but I thrive during moments like that, especially when you know that most of the people in the crowd are rooting for you. I’m looking forward to the match with Abouelghar because he is one of the fairest players out there, and I know it’s going to be a good spectacle for the crowd.”
Mueller’s younger compatriot, Dimitri Steinmann, was also in action against Hong Kong opposition as the tournament wildcard fell in four games to World No.24 Max Lee, who will now go on to play former World No.1 Karim Abdel Gawad in the next round.
Like Mueller, 21-year-old Steinmann had the home crowd in his corner, and he put in a tenacious performance as he played well above his current World Ranking of No.70. He drew level after conceding the opener, but Lee’s experience came to the forefront in games three and four as he closed out the win in 60 minutes.
“I know the feeling of having the crowd behind the players because at the Hong Kong Open, the crowd is behind all the Hong Kong players,“ Lee said.
“Today, it was the opposite and I tried to be focused because you have to fight and keep the spirit going. I got a bit excited towards the end, but mentally I had to stay calm and got through by playing good squash.”
The longest match of the day was contested by two veterans of the sport as England’s Daryl Selby and Australia’s Cameron Pilley, both 36, played out a gripping 85-minute battle, which went the way of the former.
Selby and Pilley are close friends – even co-hosting the squash podcast ‘Comments from the Couch’ together – and they put on an enthralling spectacle which went all the way to five. Both players held three match balls each in the decider, and it was Selby who was able to convert to record an 11-6, 9-11, 11-4, 7-11, 16-14 victory.
“I think I was a little bit lucky at the end, to be honest,” said Selby.
“You could see how well he was moving by the end of the third and fourth game, he was picking everything up at the front and putting me under a lot of pressure. Sometimes you have to just grind it out and get a win on the board. Somehow, I found a way to win.”
Selby will play No.4 seed Simon Rösner in the next round, while top seed and 2018 runner-up Mohamed ElShorbagy will line up against Spain’s Borja Golan after Golan took just 23 minutes to see off England’s World No.15 James Willstrop.
Willstrop led their head-to-head record 10-3 coming into the match, but the Englishman had suffered from illness in the build up to the tournament and looked off the pace as he never really got going. Golan, meanwhile, was clinical and accurate with his shots in all four corners of the court as he recorded his first win over Willstrop since 2013.
“It’s so difficult to win 3-0 against James, he’s such a good player,” said Golan.
“I think today, he struggled with his movement, so I tried to take advantage of that. He played to the front a lot and his movement was not the best. In any tournament, I will take the 3-0 victory in 20 minutes all day long. These matches are so difficult, it’s so equal, and you play with very good players. To go through is really good for me.”
Golan and ElShorbagy will meet for a second tournament in a row after the latter beat the Spaniard in the Citigold Canary Wharf Classic two weeks ago.
There were also wins for Welshman Joel Makin, England’s Declan James, France’s Mathieu Castagnet and Egypt’s Zahed Salem.