Qatar’s Al Tamimi and Amjad Make History on opening day
There will be two Qatari players in the second round of the PSA Men’s World Championship for the first time in history after local players Abdulla Al Tamimi and Syed Azlan Amjad both claimed wins on the opening day of the 2019-20 edition at the Khalifa International Tennis & Squash Complex in Doha, Qatar.
World No.47 Al Tamimi became the first player from the country to reach the last 32 of the biggest men’s tournament in squash as he upset French World No.14 Gregoire Marche to send the home support wild.
Al Tamimi has threatened a big upset numerous times in the past – not least when he took three-time World Champion Nick Matthew to five games back at the 2016 edition of the Qatas Classic – and he finally got his first major win on home soil as he defeated Marche 11-6, 11-9, 7-11, 11-9 to reach the last 32.
“It felt really good, I saw the happiness in my dad’s eyes and all of my family and friends are here, so I’m glad I made everyone proud,” Al Tamimi said afterwards.
“I don’t want to stop here, I’m really looking forward to the next round. I lost a bit of concentration and my length in the third game. I was thinking that I had to have a good length at the start of the fourth game because the winners would come after. Even though he was coming back at me, I tried to always keep the lead over him.
“My goal now is to really focus on the next round and make sure I play well again, if I do then I have a chance to win.”
Al Tamimi will play another Frenchman, Mathieu Castagnet, in the next round where he will be joined by compatriot Amjad after the World No.159 advanced from his round one fixture with Spain’s Iker Pajares in bizarre circumstances.
Pajares was 2-1 up in games and 2-0 behind in the fourth game when he went to hit the ball back to himself off the front wall but inadvertently struck Amjad, who then had to go off court due to sustaining an injury.
Amjad was unable to return to court to finish the match and was taken to hospital but, as it was an opponent-inflicted injury, the match was awarded to the Qatar player, and he will take on 2015 World Championship runner-up Omar Mosaad in the next round.
Meanwhile, 2017 World Champion Mohamed ElShorbagy got his tournament under way with a 3-0 victory over 20-year-old Frenchman Victor Crouin as he returned to action after sitting out the CIB Egyptian Squash Open last week.
The 28-year-old has reached three finals so far this season at the China Open, Oracle NetSuite Open and U.S. Open – winning the first two – and he kickstarted his attempts to win a second World Championship title with a 11-8, 11-6, 11-7 victory over Crouin.
Crouin impressed at the Egyptian Open as he reached the third round to earn himself a spot on the glass court in front of the famous Great Pyramid of Giza. He performed well and was able to move ElShorbagy around the court, but the Egyptian’s superior experience saw him come through at the latter stages of each game.
“I had Shanghai, San Fran and the U.S. Open, so there were three tournaments in a row,” said ElShorbagy, who reached World Championship finals in Qatar in 2012 and 2014.
“I felt towards the end of the U.S. Open I was feeling a bit flat mentally and physically, and it was nice to get a break, refresh again, think about my game more and see what I needed to improve after those three events. I’m coming here feeling strong again, I’ve done some good work and let’s see what happens.”
The 28-year-old top seed will take on England No.1 Adrian Waller in the last 32, while No.2 seed Tarek Momen navigated a banana-skin fixture against Germany’s Raphael Kandra.
Kandra has proven himself capable of claiming big scalps in the past – as evidenced by his shock run to the semi-finals of the Allam British Open last year – and he caused plenty of problems for Momen, with the pair sharing the spoils in the first two games. But 2018-19 World Championship runner-up Momen steadied the ship and prevailed in games three and four to book his second round spot against fellow Egyptian Mazen Hesham.
“I’ve always wanted to win this title, I keep coming back to fight for it,” Momen said.
“I have another chance this time, and I’m pretty determined to go all the way until I fulfil that dream. I’m playing Mazen next, that’s another tricky one and we haven’t played each other in a while. I know how tricky he can be, he has a pretty awesome arsenal of shots, and I definitely look forward to having a good match against him tomorrow.”
2016 World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad got his title assault under way with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Frenchman Auguste Dussourd, winning 11-4, 11-8, 13-11.
Gawad comes into the event off the back of a stunning title win in front of the Pyramids at the Egyptian Open, and he is returning to the scene of his first PSA Platinum title this week in Doha, which he won just two weeks after his World Championship triumph over Ramy Ashour.
“Winning a major tournament gives you extra confidence, especially when you’re playing well, and I played really well back home in Cairo,” said Gawad, who will play Mexico’s Cesar Salazar.
“Now a week after we are playing a World Championship here in Qatar and that gives me more confidence. I’m focusing on my performance, how I’m playing and how I can can enjoy my squash and play better on court. Hopefully I can do something special here.”
Elsewhere, England’s Daryl Selby suffered an upset against Egypt’s World No.43 Youssef Ibrahim, despite the latter rolling his ankle with the scores poised at 9-9 in the fifth. After a lengthy delay of almost half an hour, Ibrahim hobbled back on to court and won the next two points to claim a shock victory, and he will play former World No.1 James Willstrop next.
England’s Declan James was the only player to come back from two games down on the opening day of action as the World No.22 avoided an upset against World No.58 Vikram Malhotra, and he will line up against No.5 seed Simon Rösner in the last 32.
Round two of the 2019-20 PSA Men’s World Championship begins on Saturday November 9, with play getting under way at 12:00 (GMT+3). Play will be broadcast live on SQUASHTV (rest of world), Eurosport Player (Europe only) and the official Facebook page of the PSA World Tour.