R3: James Willstrop 3-1 Karim Abdel Gawad

James Willstrop (ENG) 3-1 [3] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) 11-8, 4-11, 11-9, 12-10 (71m)

When Karim lost the first game, I thought, well, I would have been surprised had he won it. We know the Egyptian track record of wining 5 games bless him. And he started well actually, 4/1, only to be completely overplayed by the former Qatar Classic Champion, 4/4, then 10/5. A big push from the Egyptian Open champ, 8/10, but it’s still James in 12m, 11/8.

A superb response from Karim in the second, 8m of crafty and accurate squash, we think that’s it, nice for James to have taken a game, off you go now… 11/4.

Ha ha ha… the little we know about squash, the little we know about Human Resources..

3/0 for Karim in the third, still looking with the momentum, James into exhibition mode. Up to now, he was playing his accurate Ponte Squash, drive, line, and long drop shots. But now, he is going for the double, triple deception… Did Karim see it as a sign of renouncement? Did he relax and think of the quarters?

It’s fascinating to observe, how Karim just fell in the Willstrop trick, playing HIS game, at HIS pace, trying to match HIM, instead of speeding the pace and pushing him physically. He let the Englishman roll him into a spidernet… all ready to be eaten… 6/6… 9/9… 11/9 James…

The plot thickens, doesn’t it…

Another great start for the Baby Face Assassin in the 4th, 3/0, 4/1. James is sticking to the score, and here we go, 4/4. Four errors from James at that point. He is puffing a lot. He is not going to last long, surely. Karim is about to overtake him. Surely? The BFA is making the rallies longer, the court bigger, and twisting and turning James… nothing does. 8/8. And the incredible… James, 10/8 Match Ball.

The Egyptian crowd is stunned. Karim plays his best squash, and forces a decider, 10/10. Surely, surely, he is going to win another 5 setter… Not today… It’s 12/10 to James in 28m, and if James did 5 errors, Karim didn’t make a single one in that last game..

James. Just. Being. James. Nuff said.

James

Today was about persistence I think, on this court, there are a lot of opportunities to attack, so I just played it.
This is definitely my best win since my victory at the Commonwealth Games, I haven’t competed at that level for a while.

I am absolutely thrilled. It is hard to say because I am on a rush of adrenaline, particularly in these conditions where it is shootout squash. The intensity is cranked up and you haven’t got any time to settle. The mental intensity of the squash that has been played is heavy, so the adrenaline is high. I didn’t know whether I was capable of doing it. I know what I am doing in training, and I know I can play alright and I know I can hit the ball alright, but it is whether physically I can cope with these players in a match situation.

In the context of what I am doing in my career, I am enjoying my squash and there are other things that are going on. There is a nice balance, but that is what you find when you are a little bit older. It means I have the freshness and the experience to produce a performance like that, and it is great that I can do it on a big occasion.

His engine at the minute is strong, so he is match fit and sharp, much more probably than I am. Just because of the amount of matches he has played, but then I have the advantage of being fresher. At 10-10, I knew it was a chance, because the momentum would have gone with him in the fifth. He played a blinding three minutes of squash at that point, but I just had to try and take the right shot at the right time.

To be in the quarter finals, and with a rest day, that is quite positive. It is a fabulous prospect, and hopefully I can get recovered well and do it justice on Wednesday.

But for now, I think I’m going to go to bed…