R3: Zahed Salem 3-1 Miguel Rodriguez

[14] Zahed Salem (Egy) 3-1 [8] Miguel Rodriguez (Col) 8-11, 11-9, 11-7, 11-9 (74m)

Big win for Zahed over Miguel

Those two had met 9 times on the PSA tour, and it was overwhelmingly for the Colombian, 8/1. But their matches always are both intense and physical. Although they are good friends off court, on court, the centre of the court is the point of focus for them, and contact galore we had.

Zahed had a bit of an injury with his wrist, Miguel with his ankle, both just back to full fitness. But today, I wonder if Miguel was completely on court. When was the last time a top player left the court at game ball (2nd game), thinking he lost the game??!!!

It was beautiful squash though, from the first rally to the last. Both moving extraordinary well, both using the cold conditions to find exquisite winners/counterdrop. And if there were a few up and down the wall, in particular on the left side, it was still very entertaining 74m.

First game 19m, very close up to 7/7, but Zahed making too many errors (5) to put Miguel under pressure, and it’s 11/8 for the Colombian.

Excellent start for the Canonball in the second, 7/2, but a constant attacking from the Egyptian will make that lead melt like butter under the sun and against all odds, it’s Zahed that takes that crucial one – confidence wise – 10/8, 11/9, 20m of hard battle..

Good start for Miguel I thought, made the rallies shorter, crispier, and his shots sharper. 4/0, 5/2, but again, Zaza – as apparently he was called when he was young – turned the tables, 6/6, 8/6, 11/7, shorter game, 14m. From 5 errors in the first game to none in that one…

The last one, well, Miguel looks under the weather from 4/4, and although he’ll keep pushing, Zahed is all over him, 9/4, 10/5. Nerves creeping in, and I can hear Cindy Merlo, Zahed girlfriend just behind me going “the plan, stick to the plan, don’t forget the plan”

He did forget the plan for 4 points, going for too much and opening the court, but finally got the balance right and finds the winner shot of the month in front right corner, 11/9 in 14m… He is in his first ever quarters of the Worlds…

Zahed:

“I’m happy to be through to the quarter-finals, it’s the first time for me a the World Championship.

“Beating Miguel is never easy, so it means a lot to me to be through and to win today. It’s incredible, I’m happy and proud of it.

“You’re playing in the last 16 of the World Championship and you’re 10-5 up. You’re just one point away from winning the match, a lot of things were going through my mind.

“When I lost the first match ball I started remembering when we played at the Grasshopper Cup, I was 2-1 up and 10-7 up and lost in five. I was thinking about that a lot, but I’m lucky to win 11-9 in the end. I can’t remember what shot I did, but I’m happy to be through.

“This tournament is important for everyone, it’s a World Championship. I’ve given my best, I have had tough matches, I’ve played so well and I’m proud of my performances. And I’m very grateful for having captain Amir Wagih and my girlfriend for their support …

“It’s good to be playing in the quarters and I’m looking forward to it.”