Egyptians rule in Madeira
It was a total domination of athletes from Egypt in the 2023 edition of the Madeira International Tournament. In the men's event, Moustafa El Sirty marked his return to competition after a nine-month absence from the professional squash circuit with a 3-1 victory over home favourite Rui Soares. In the women's category, Rana Ismail won her first game on the professional circuit after defeating Chan Yiwen by the same score, 3-
It was an emotional return to the professional squash circuit for Moustafa El Sirty. The young Egyptian player marked his return to the competition with a resounding victory in the Madeira International Tournament, his second, defeating Portuguese Rui Soares 3-1 in the final (11-4, 7-11, 11-7, 11-9). The Egyptian player started the match better, imposing his dominance in the center of the court and forcing Rui Soares to work extra.
The player Portuguese seemed to be stuck in the early stages of the game. The score of 11-4 is very revealing of the dominance exercised by El Sirty in the first game. The second set, however, was a completely different story. Rui Soares appeared looser on the court and began to ask some questions to the Egyptian's attacking squash. In the midst of miraculous points and incredible technical and physical plays, the home favorite managed to close distances and tie the game with a score of 11-7.
Everything was open in the match and the third game promised a lot. El Sirty was, for the first time, uncomfortable in the match and Rui Soares seemed to be growing. Balance was, therefore, the dominant note until roughly the middle of the third set, where a stroke decision and two unforced errors put Rui Soares in a delicate position on the scoreboard (5-8). From this moment on, Moustafa limited himself to managing the difference on the scoreboard, closing the game by 11-7. In the fourth set, El Sirty started better again and seemed to want to get away on the scoreboard and close it out quickly for 4-0. However, the player Portuguese had not yet said his last word and reacted in an incredible way, pushing to the maximum on each play and getting the equalizer at 7 points. In the end, El Sirty turned out to be stronger and happier, managing to seal the triumph by 11-9. In this way, the young Egyptian player celebrates his return to the PSA circuit in the best way.
“Incredible. It gives you a lot of confidence to be back. It gives that feeling that I can still play and I can still do what I was doing before and improve. I’m very proud," said the tournament champion. The fact that the competition was entirely dominated by Egyptian players also deserved a highlight for El Sirty: "Egypt is a great country in squash. We’ve been dominating squash for so long. Rana also won, so it shows that Egyptian squash is dominating at the moment.”
Rana Ismail (Egypt) won the final 3-1 (11-6; 11-9; 6-11; 11-3) in the final. The young Egyptian was always in control of the operations of the final in Madeira. Rana entered the game very strong and soon showed what she was coming to with very strong strokes and always at a level above her
opponent. The Egyptian player managed to show in Madeira that she is a young woman to watch out for in the future. Rana had already stated that this was a tournament that he liked very much and with conditions that favored him. It is therefore not surprising that the young Egyptian has
achieved in the region what she has never achieved before, winning a PSA tournament. The domination of the young woman from Egypt was almost total. After winning the first two sets, 11-6 and 11-9, Rana made some unforced errors that led Chan Yiwen to argue in the third game. This was
the only moment where Rana Ismail showed some fragility, with her opponent taking advantage to reduce distances and win the third set (6-11). However, Rana quickly responded in the fourth game by coming on decisively and early on putting an unreachable gap to Chan.
The 11-3 run is a good example of the superiority shown by Rana Ismail. This was the first PSA tournament won by the young Egyptian. The quality she has shown to possess will surely catapult Rana to a ranking far above what he currently possesses.
“It;’s a really good feeling. It’s more than just winning. I needed this win. It's my first title,&”; said Rana . “;I tried to believe in myself and that I could win. I tried to play my best squash and I’m happy to have won," concluded the tournament winner.
Semis : Favourites through to the finals
The semi-finals of the International Tournament Madeira Island, played today on the courts of the Galo Active Fitness Club, confirmed, in the men’s and women’s draws, the presence of the favorites in the respective finals. Rui Soares and Moustafa El Sirty in the men’s and Chan Yiwen and Rana Ismail in the women’s will discuss tomorrow, in matches scheduled to start at 2:00 pm, the titles at stake.
The Portuguese favorite Rui Soares (2nd seed) suffered to overcome the resistance of the Egyptian Mazen Gamal, by 3-2 (7-11, 11-7, 6-11, 11-4, 11-4) in a match that lasted more than an hour and that was played at a frenetic pace.
The Egyptian player startedthe match better, putting a lot of pressure on the Portuguese player and “forcing” Rui Soares to make some unforced errors at the end of the set, closing with a partial of 7-11. The Portuguese player responded in the second set in kind and winning with the same score (11-7). The third set was more lopsided in favor of Gamal, who presented a more aggressive squash and practically without errors. The score of 6-11 in favor of Gamal illustrates well the supremacy of the Egyptian player in this set.
Soares’ response was, however, decisive. With a renewed spirit, the Portuguese raised the level of his game from the 4th set and forced Gamal to work hard for every point played. The physical aspect began to come into play, and, in that chapter, Rui Soares was unbeatable fighting for every ball as if it were a “match-point”. The Portuguese player’s ability to return everything Gamal tried to execute began to prove to be a problem for the Egyptian, who began to run out of solutions. The 11-4 lead in the fourth set foreshadowed a great fifth game and that’s exactly what happened.
With both players showing clear signs of some physical weakness, it was Soares who showed more heart and with some bright points – such as the 5-4 where he dived to save a ball and still managed to recover to win the point – he created a comfortable lead, which allowed him to manage the match until the end, against a clearly worn-out Gamal. Soares would close the match by 11-4, repeating the score achieved in the previous game and guaranteeing, once again, the presence in the final of the Madeira International Tournament.
“I’m very happy to have won today. It was a very tough game. Mazen was very solid as I expected. He’s a very experienced player. The first three games were very difficult. In the last two he felt some more physical fatigue and I finally managed to get him out of the middle of the court. It was a game of patience. It was a mental game because he is a very difficult player to break and I am very happy to have won this game”, said the Portuguese champion.
The presence in finals in Madeira is nothing new for Soares. “It’s my third final in a row here in Madeira. Let’s see if it’s my turn on the third one. Tomorrow is the last game and I will give one hundred percent. Moustafa is a very difficult player to play and I can only give everything tomorrow”, assured the Portuguese player.
After eliminating the first seed from the competition in the quarterfinals, Moustafa El Sirty repeated the deed today, eliminating, this time, the third seed, Ben Smith (ENG), in the semi-finals by 3-1 (13-11, 9-11, 11-9 and 11-7). It was not an easy match for El Sirty, especially in the first three sets, with Ben Smith always responding to the Egyptian’s amazing squash. The English player proved to be very disciplined and with a well-defined game plan.
The scoreline of 13-11, 9-11 and 11-9 show well the parity between the players, with El Sirty, however, always showing to have something extra in the final moments of the games. In the fourth set the Egyptian player raised the level of his game even more, to which Ben Smith tried to respond, but to no effect. The score of 11-7 with which he sealed the victory shows the superiority of the Egyptian player.
For the English player, there is the consolation of having put in a great performance, never allowing El Sirty to be comfortable in the match.
“It feels so good being back in the final here. I have had a tough time not playing a tournament for nine months and on the first tournament back I am in the final. I´m so happy. They have a great atmosphere here and I am just glad to be in the final”, said El Sirty. “I expect to do what I do in every game and try to win. No pressure for me. Just want to enjoy the game and enjoy being back playing squash again,” the talented Egyptian player concluded.
No room for surprises on the ladies’ semis. The top two seeds underlined their superiority over today’s opponents and secured their place in tomorrow’s grand finale.
In the first semi-final Rana Ismail (second seed), faced Austria’s Jacqueline Peychär and won 3-0 (11-5, 11-8 and 11-9). A result that does not fully reflect the events on the court, because despite having comfortably won the first game (11-5) the truth is that in the next two games Peychär responded to the best game of the young Egyptian and posed many problems to her opponent, conceding only by very small margins (11-8 and 11-9).
Ismail had to dig deep to avoid losing any sets, managing to close out the match in three games. A result that turned out to be better than the performance for the young Egyptian.
“I´m feeling relieved. I feel like I started well in the first two games but in the third I went off my plan a little bit and it was closer but I´m glad that I stuck through in the end and finished in three”, stated Ismail.
Looking ahead to tomorrow´s final, Ismail assures that she will give her best in the search for victory. “Just think point by point and try to play my best from the very beginning and continue how I am playing until the very end. Hopefully I will get the win,” said the young player. About her stay in Madeira, Rana Ismail has no doubts: “I´m so happy I got to stay to the last day here. It´s a great tournament and I´m glad I´m here till the end”.
In the second semifinal of the day, top seed Chan Yiwen had no difficulty in overcoming the Dutch third seed Tessa Ter Sluis (3-0 (11-9, 11-3, 11-2), in just 22 minutes.
The Malaysian player only felt some resistance from her opponent in the first game, but two unforced errors from Ter Sluis near the end of the set handed the game to Yiwen (11-9). From that moment on, the first pre-designated of the competition never looked back and quickly closed the match by 11-3 and 11-2, in front of a Ter Sluis who clearly accused the effort spent against the German Katerina Tycova the day before.
“I am very happy to be in the final. It was a good match against Tessa and I am in a good form and I will try to prepare myself for the final tomorrow,” Chan said. About tomorrow’s final, the Malaysian player has no doubts: “This year I haven´t been playing consistently and going to the final is a big motivation for me”.
Quarters : Men’s top seed beaten
The third day of the Madeira International Tournament was marked by the elimination from the competition of the top seed, Spaniard Bernat Jaume, who fell in the quarterfinals, by 3-0 against Egyptian Moustafa El Sirty. Also saying goodbye was the winner of last year’s women’s tournament, Germany’s Katerina Tycova. In today’s quarter-final match against the Dutch third seed Tessa ter Sluis, the young German fought bravely to stay in the competition but ended up defeated 3-1 after 56 minutes.
Other matches went mostly to seeding …
Men’s Quarters : Top seed exits as remaining seeds advance
Looking only at the PSA ranking, the quarter-final exit of the top seed of the Madeira International Tournament could suggest that we would be facing a surprise. However, his opponent on the occasion was the Egyptian Moustafa El Sirty, who despite currently boasting a ranking of 105th PSA is worth much more than that and proved it on the court.
The superiority of the young Egyptian was evident during most of the match and despite some moments of greater tension between the players, El Sirty was almost always serene and unscathed by the attacks of the Spanish player. The 11-7, 11-8 and 11-7 scores show the control El Sirty exerted in the game, never allowing Bernat Jaume to be able to threaten the lead on the scoreboard. The fact that he concluded the match in less than an hour (46 minutes) will also be important for tomorrow’s semi-final match against Ben Smith (ENG).
“I am glad to win in three. Bernat is a good player and was number one seed. He had a lot of pressure on him, and I am glad to be in the semis,” said Moustafa El Sirty. For the semi-final the recipe will be the same. “I am going to go in and try to be as consistent and disciplined has I can. Play my squash and see the result,” the young Egyptian concluded.
Ben Smith (ENG) put in a top-notch performance against New Zealand’s Lwamba Chileshe, closing out the match 3-0 (11-5, 11-5, 11-5) in just 33 minutes. The third seed was always dominating the operations and showed to be a level above his opponent who tried to counter the English player’s best squash, but without success. With this victory, Ben Smith secured a place in the semi-finals, where he will face Moustafa El Sirty.
“After yesterday being pushed to five games, today feels really good to be able to close out in three,” said the young Englishman. Regarding the semifinal match, Ben Smith was not too worried. “Just want to go out there and play my own game and not worry about my opponent. Looking forward to it”, said the Englishman.
In the other half of the draw, Mazen Gamal (EGY) edged out Mohammad Kamal (MAS) 3-1 (14-12, 11-6, 4-11, 11-4). Of the 46 minutes of the match, 40 were of high intensity and great rallies. In the last 6 minutes Kamal broke down completely physically and offered the ticket to the semifinals to Mazen Gamal. The Egyptian player’s next opponent will be Portuguese Rui Soares.
“It ́s very good to reach the semifinals in Madeira. It ́s my first time here and I am happy to go one more day in the competition. I am expecting a long hard match tomorrow. It won ́t be ease for me, for sure,” the Egyptian player confirmed.
Who remains in the race in search of revalidating the title won in last year’s edition is the Portuguese Rui Soares, second seed in the competition. In what was looking like a tough match against Switzerland’s Robin Gadola, the Portuguese player came in determined not to give any room for any surprises, putting a lot of pressure on Gadola and winning 3-1.
Soares was stronger in the first two games (11-5, 11-9) but Robin Gadola responded in the third by winning 7-11. In the fourth game, the Portuguese player again presented his best squash and closed the match with a partial of 11-6. In the end, Rui Soares was clearly satisfied.
“It’s always good to be in the semi-finals here in Madeira. The first few games are always a bit stressful. Today I felt like I played well. I’ve been more controlled on court and I always really enjoy playing here. I feel fresh which is a good sign going into the semifinals,” said the Portuguese champion.
Looking at the semifinal match, Rui Soares doesn’t expect it to be easy. “I’m going to play against a player I’ve never played with before. He’s very experienced and we’ve gone toe-to-toe in the PSA rankings. He’s a big player and he’s hard to play against. If I can play like I did today, I have a good chance tomorrow”, concluded Rui Soares.
The winner of the 2021 edition of the International Tournament, Katerina Tycova, will no longer be able to defend the title won last year in Madeira. The young German player could not overcome the opposition of the Dutch third seed Tessa ter Sluis conceding after 56 minutes, in 4 games, with the score of 12-10, 11-9, 18-20 and 11-6.
In a match marked by being evenly balance, ter Sluis always managed to recover from disadvantages of more than 3 points in the first two sets to put herself in a more comfortable position in the match. Tycova, however, never stopped believing and in an incredible third set (18-20), in terms of emotion and spectacle, she reduced distances and put herself just one game away from the Dutch player.
It was at this point that Tessa’s greatest experience came to play, managing to better manage the emotions and the “tighter” moments of the 4th set. In the end ter Sluis closed the fourth and decisive game by 11-6.
The Dutch player was clearly satisfied after the match. “It feels amazing. It’s great to reach another semifinal and today I felt really well”, said Tessa ter Sluis at the end. On the semi-final match, Tessa was pragmatic: “I never played either of the girls. So, I don ́t know what to expect really. I will just enjoy my win today, because it was a very tough match and hope for the best tomorrow”.
Also securing a place in the semi-finals of the Women’s Draw was the tournament’s top seed, Malaysian athlete Chan Yiwen. The player with the highest professional ranking in Madeira did not want to leave her credits in the hands of others and secured the victory against the Egyptian Amina El Rihany by the maximum margin, 3-0, in just 27 minutes. The score of 11-6, 11-3 and 13-11 show the superiority of Yiwen who will face ter Sluis in one of the semi-final matches.
“It’s the first time I played against Amina and I am really happy with my performance. Again, I have never played against Tessa, but we have been roommates. I will try to enjoy the game and play good squash”, concluded Chan.
Jacqueline Peychär (AUT) had to overcome stiff resistance from the young American Riya Navani to secure a place in the semi-finals, winning 3-2 (8-11, 11-7, 9-11, 11-9 and 11-4) in a match that lasted almost an hour. Navani only broke in the fifth and final set, allowing Peychär to gain a comfortable lead on the scoreboard to close out the match 11-4. In the end, Peychär was overjoyed by the result.
“I’m very happy and relief to come through in 5 games. It was a very tough match. In the fifth game I was very happy to finish without any big troubles or getting to scared in the end,” said the Austrian player. About tomorrow’s match against Egypt’s Rana Ismail, Peychär was relaxed. “The pressure it ́s not on me. She is the number two seed and I’m just excited to be in the semi-finals. It’s my last tournament of the year so I will give it my all”, she assured.
Second seed, Egyptian Rana Ismail, defeated English Isabel McCullough 3-0 (11-6, 11-4, 11-7) without much difficulty. Asserting her status as favorite, Rana Ismail entered the game very strongly and soon made her mark, forcing McCullough to work hard to try and stay in the rallies. Despite the excellent physical condition of McCullough, Ismail showed that she had other arguments in technical terms and ended up closing the match in just 27 minutes.
“I feel good and happy about the way I have been playing here. I am more used to the court and my shots are way better now. I will play my game plan and hope it works”, said the young Egyptian at the end.
Round Two : quality goes up a notch
The second day of the Madeira International Tournament saw the quality of the games rise to all-new levels. It’s amazing how the players who were dominant yesterday sat today in the opposite role and were unable to counter the power of their opponents.
The weight of the ranking made itself felt and the favourites left no room for uncertainty and stamped their place in the quarterfinals. The last two surviving Portuguese players in the women’s competition fell to their opponents, leaving the women’s competition orphaned of national athletes. In the men’s draw Rui Soares, second seed of the tournament, advanced to the next round.
Men’s Round Two
The winner of the 2021 edition of the International Tournament of Madeira Island, Moustafa El Sirty (EGY), made his debut in the competition with a convincing victory by the maximum margin (3-0) over the Scotsman Alasdair Prott. After a first set where there was some balance (12-10), El Sirty shot up in the next two sets (11-3, 11-3) for a triumph in less than 30 minutes. An auspicious debut from the young Egyptian and one that shows that El Sirty is in Madeira in search of his second title at the event.
Lwamba Chileshe (NZL) had to present his best game to get the better of the young Swiss David Bernet. Bernet entered the match better than his opponent and even had a 4-point lead (9-5) getting very close to closing the first set. Chileshe reacted in time and eventually took the lead after
the first set (12-10). In the next two games, the New Zealand player controlled the rhythm of the points better and, despite the good response of the young Swiss, he ended up closing the match by 3-0 (12-10, 11-6 and 11-4) in 38 minutes.
In a high-level squash match, Robin Gadola (SWI) got the better of Christopher Gordon (USA) by 3-1 (10-12, 11-8, 11-6, 11-7). Two very experienced players who presented the public who went to the courts of the Galo Active Fitness Club with plays of high quality and spectacular moments. A real delight for the lovers of the sport. Gadola survived the battle; it remains to be seen in what conditions for the quarter-final meeting against Rui Soares.
In a match with some moments of tension, Mohammad Kamal (MAS) defeated England's Noah Meredith by 3-1 (11-7, 5-11, 14-12, 11-5). The match was very close, especially in the third set where the winner was only found after playing advantages (14-12), which led to some heated moments between the players. In the end, however, everything was in order and Kamal advances to the next round of the tournament.
Mazen Gamal (EGY), seeded 4th, faced Elliott Devred (WAL) and won 3-0 (11-5, 15-13, 11-1). A match that was marked by the injury of Elliott, who at the end of the second set requested the presence of the physiotherapist. The player from Wales still tried to play on but he was never the same again and the third game was a mere formality for Gamal who closed the match 11-1.
The third pre-seed, England's Ben Smith, struggled to get past Darren Pragasam (MAS) to win 3-2 after 51 minutes of play. The score of 9-11, 11-7, 11-5, 7-11 and 11-6 show how evenly matched the players were. Two totally different styles of play that provided the many spectators present with a game of the highest level and with a lot of emotion in between. In the end, Ben Smith proved stronger and secured his ticket to the quarter-finals of the competition.
Rui Soares kept the Portuguese flame alive at the event, stamping his passport to the quarter-finals after beating Egypt's Omar Elkattan by 3-0. The Portuguese athlete started the match strongly, winning the first two sets by the same score 11-6. In the third and final set, Elkattan did everything to try to take the match to a fourth set, but Rui Soares did not give any chances to the Egyptian player, closing the contest with an 11-9 score. A victory in just over 30 minutes that leaves Rui Soares in a good position for the complicated quarter-final match against Robin Gadola (SWI).
Spaniard Bernat Jaume, the tournament’;s top seed, had to put up is A game to overcome the strong resistance of Canadian Brett Schille. The 3-1 win (11-7, 11-6, 3-11, 11-7) was never really in question but the extra effort that Bernat Jaume was subjected in face of Schille’;s great game was probably not in the Spanish player’s plans. Even more so when in the quarterfinals he faces the Egyptian Moustafa El Sirty, winner of the competition in 2021.
Women’s Round Two
In the Women's Table the favorites did not leave room for any surprisesand stamped, with greater or lesser difficulty, their passport to the quarterfinals.
In the first match of the day, Amina El Rihany (EGY) gave Ellie Jones (SCO) no chance and sealed a 3-0 victory (11-3, 11-2, 11-1). The Scottish athlete, who had been so good yesterday in the match she played, never managed to counter Amina El Rihany’s best squash and conceded in just 15 minutes.
How everything changes from one day to the next.
The winner of the previous edition of the International Tournament of Madeira Island, Katerina Tycova (GER), had to pull out all the stops to beat the young American Emma Trauber. After winning the first two sets (11-3,11-8), Tycova saw Emma Trauber fight back and win the third set (6-11). In the fourth game Trauber had a 4-point lead (9-5) but could not capitalize, with Tycova taking the opportunity to recover and ended up winning 11-9 and closing the match in 49 minutes.
The Madeiran Sofia Pita did not get the much-desired victory against Isabel McCullough (ENG), despite all the support that came from the stands. The ‘home’ athlete still managed to balance the game in the first two sets (11-8, 11-8) but ended up conceding in the third partial by 11-3 and thus offering passage to the next phase to her opponent. McCullough put in a very sober display and never let herself be affected by the atmosphere, controlling most of the points and also benefiting from some unforced errors from the Portuguese player. The triumph in less than 30 minutes (23m) was everything the English athlete could have wished for, as she will play the quarter-finals in excellent physical condition.
Riya Navani (USA) needed the same 23 minutes to break the resistance of the Dutchwoman Juliette Permentier, triumphing 3-0 (11-7, 12-10 and 11-3). The strong pace imposed by the American player from the start of the match was always a problem for Permentier, who always seemed to be under the Cushing. The first two sets were well played, with the second even reaching the advantages (12-10). However, the effort expended by the Dutch player was too much and in the last set Navani would close comfortably with an 11-3 score.
The contest between Jacqueline Peychär (AUT) and Carys Jones (SCO) did not have much history, with the fourth pre-designated, Peychär, always one level above her opponent, eventually winning after 26 minutes by 3-0 (11-5, 11-7, 11-8). The Scottish player seemed to want to grow as the match went on, but Jacqueline always found something extra in her game to respond to Jones attempts to get closer on the scoreboard.
The third seed of the tournament, the Dutch Tessa Ter Sluits, managed to dispatch the embattled Tamara Holzbauerová in less than 30 minutes, 3-0 (11-6, 11-5, 11-7). A result that must have made Ter Sluits happy, as the Czech player could have proven to be a difficult opponent to overcome. A
sober and consistent performance from Tessa who thus moves unscathed to the quarter-finals of the competition.
Catarina Nunes carried the last hopes of a Portuguese presence in the quarter-finals of the competition, but Rana Ismail (EGY) was not playing along and confirmed the favoritism with which she presented herself at the start of the match, winning by a clear 3-0. The partials of 11-3, 11-2
and 11-6 leave no doubt about the superiority of the young Egyptian who showed that she is in Madeira to win. The 16 minutes of the match do not do justice to the effort of the athlete from Porto who, perhaps, did enough do deserved a little more time on court. But against facts there are no arguments and Rana Ismail proved to be stronger and a serious contender to lift the trophy.
The 1st pre-designated of the tournament, Chan Yiwen (MAS) overcame the North American athlete Hebaallah Nossier by 3-0 (11-9, 11-4 and 11-5) in less than 30 minutes and showed to be very comfortable on the courts of Galo Active. Only the first set had some uncertainty regarding the
winner, but Chan Yiwen maintained control of the operations and managed to closed by 11-9. In the remaining two sets, the Malaysian athlete left no room for doubt about her superiority, winning with relative ease by 11-4 and 11-5.