Asal battles through to the semi-finals after marathon match with Makin
By ALAN THATCHER
Mostafa Asal took 95 minutes to finally shake off the threat from No.6 seed Joel Makin to reach Thursday night’s semi-finals.
No.2 seed Asal, the Great Entertainer from Cairo, won a brutal, often bruising encounter 11-9, 11-13, 11-8. It was a pulsating battle that had the crowd on the edge of their seats throughout.
Rarely, in our 19 years of welcoming the world’s best players to London’s Docklands, have we witnessed anything like this.
It was raw, it was dynamic and it provided brilliant entertainment for the full-house crowd. They roared encouragement for Welshman Makin as he fought back to win the second game tiebreak and the drama continued unabated throughout the third.
Makin was fortunate to escape with no conduct penalty after wrestling Asal to the floor at the front of the court near the end of the match, but apart from that incident referee John Massarella kept the lid on some pretty physical proceedings with calm authority.
A delighted Asal said: “First of all, guys [the crowd], you are making squash very exciting. I’m very excited to play here. I love the way you are cheering, it’s like a football match.”
When asked how his body stood up to such a punishing encounter, he added: “Everything hurts. Joel is unbelievable, to be back and to compete at that level is never easy, the guys are so powerful and strong, they compete in every tournament and you get the fitness level up.
“I want to thank John Massarella. I know we’ve had lots of battles between me and him, but I’ve missed him all the time I’ve been off court.”
To reach the final Asal needs to navigate a path past Peru’s No.4 seed Diego Elias, who won an equally entertaining tussle with Switzerland’s world No.26 Nicolas Mueller.
The final match finished after 11pm and Elias did well to hit the finishing line first against a confident opponent who attacked with abandon.
Elias finally made it through, winning 11-5, 8-11, 11-9 in 45 minutes of full-on, tumultuous genius.
A relieved Elias said: “That was a great match. Nicci had been playing great, he hit some unbelievable shots after the first game and I was struggling a bit, the ball got colder and I’m just happy at the end I played better and could win this match.
“I started warming up at 8pm and came on court at 10 so I was very excited to get on, but I guess my energy went down and I’m just happy I could win this match it’s always tough to play a match after waiting for so long.
“It’s going to be a tough match. I just need to go back and do all of my recovery but I think it’s going to be a good match so I just want to be at my best.”
Fares Dessouky toppled No.3 seed Tarek Momen to reach the other semi-final against Mazen Hesham.
Dessouky played stylish, impressive squash at high pace to win the opening game but squandered several opportunities to go through in straight games as Momen recovered to win the second.
However, Momen’s challenge faded as Dessouky regained control in the third to power through 11-6, 10-12, 11-3 in 42 minutes.
He was not happy about some traffic issues in mid-court and said: “The last tournament I played the same way. I was 2-1 up and there was a lot of talking in that match. I don’t know if it’s weird decisions or I’m playing a different sport, but I don’t have the line I want to go to the shot and he’s in my way. Every time there’s interference and it’s affecting my focus on the court. I was 2-1 up last time and the same thing happened. So I guess I have to learn from my mistakes.
“In best of five you’re more relaxed. Today I was so nervous and in the second game when I was 10-7 up I was so nervous. But I wanted to give it everything in the third and not start thinking about losing, because I will lose for sure if I think like this, so I needed to stay in a positive mindset.”
Dessouky meets his long-time friend Hesham in the semi-finals after the No.8 seed ruthlessly despatched giantkiller Victor Crouin 11-3, 11-3 in just 20 minutes.
Crouin looked nervous and Hesham seized on every opportunity to deliver a masterclass in front-court attacking.
“We’ve been unlucky with injuries and it’s great to see Fares playing well and we’re both healthy, finally. It’s going to be tough. We know each other pretty well and I hope tomorrow I bring my A-game.”
Fans feast on four fabulous matches on quarter-finals night
By ALAN THATCHER
Wednesday is usually the first night to sell out when the tickets go on sale because spectators are guaranteed to see four top-class matches.
Looking at the line-ups taking to the glass court later on, that promise seems to be assured.
First up at 6pm is an all-Egyptian battle between No.3 seed Tarek Momen and Fares Dessouky (seeded 7).
Both have been runners-up at Canary Wharf and it was the 27-yer-old Dessouky who made it to the final first, finishing as runner-up to Nick Matthew in 2017.
Momen followed that path in the following two years, losing out in the decider to Mohamed ElShorbagy in 2018 and Paul Coll in 2019.
The absence of world No.1 Paul Coll in the top half of the draw will have sharpened the appetite of both of these hugely talented Egyptians.
Victor Crouin, the man who overcame Paul Coll in the second round on Monday, will be facing No.8 seed Mazen Hesham in the second match.
It promises to be a fascinating contest, with the flamboyant but unpredictable Hesham hoping to break down the US College champion from France who produced plenty of attacking flair to take advantage of a rare off day by the top seed.
After the break we will be seeing the best of British against the best of Egypt in this week’s draw when Joel Makin tackles No.2 seed Mostafa Asal.
After last night’s physical encounter between Asal and Nathan Lake the crowd are certainly going to be fired up for this one. And Welsh No.6 seed Makin will certainly relish the occasion if the match takes on a physical dimension.
The final match features No.4 seed Diego Elias and the in-form Swiss Nicolas Mueller. The world No.26 from Zurich has looked like a top ten player during two consecutive tournament wins over Marwan ElShorbagy and it will be interesting to see what tactical choices Elias makes to attempt to nullify Mueller’s attacking flair.