Semis : World’s top two to contest CW Final

The semi-finals of the St. James’s Place Canary Wharf Classic were all-Egyptian best-of-five affairs with top seeds and world top two Mohamed ElShorbagy and Ali Farag winning through to Friday’s final.

St. James' Place Canary Wharf Classic 2020 : SEMI-FINALS

[1] Mohamed ElShorbagy (Egy) 3-1 [3] Tarek Momen (Egy)  4-11, 11-7, 11-4, 11-6 (49m)

[2] Ali Farag (Egy) 3-0 [7] Marwan ElShorbagy (Egy)                  11-3, 11-4, 11-4 (39m)

ElShorbagy extracts CW revenge

Geoff Bew reports

Mohamed ElShorbagy gained revenge on Tarek Momen for knocking him out of last year’s Canary Wharf Classic with a comfortable semi final win.

He recovered from a slow start in which he lost the first game 4-11 and looked in control as he dispatched the World Champion 3-1 to make the final at the East Wintergarden for the second time.

His game plan was clearly to take the ball early and he used volley drops and counter drops to good effect as he took the next three games 11-7, 11-4, 11-6.

The match had a different pace to the earlier rounds as the semis reverted to the traditional best-of-five format, which Mohamed referenced in his after-match comments.

“Mentally it’s a massive change from best of three to best of five, everyone could see there was a more patient, structured approach to the game,” he said.

“Tarek has been playing incredible squash in recent weeks and he said himself how good he was feeling about his game and when someone is in that frame of mind you know you’re in for a tough match.”

Farag in imperious form

Former world number one Ali Farag looked in imperious form as he beat his nemesis Marwan Elshorbagy 3-0 to reach the final.

Not many players can boast a better head to head record against The Velociraptor, but his rival went into tonight’s semi final leading 4-3.

Ali managed to keep The Jackal quiet though as he wrapped up victory in less than 40 minutes – 11-3, 11-4, 11-4.

The 27-year-old used deception and his trademark cat-like movement to soak up everything Marwan threw at him, leaving the crowd gasping in awe.

Ali has only played the Canary Wharf Classic once before, in 2018, when he reached the semi final.

He went one better tonight and now faces Mohamed Elshorbagy in the final as the pair continue their battle for the number spot.

Speaking after the match, he said he was inspired by his wife Nour El Tayeb’s victory over world number one Raneem El Weleily at the Black Ball Open in Cairo.

Worryingly for his rivals, when asked whether he was playing the best squash of his career he said: “I’d like to think I could still get better.”

Semis preview by Alan Thatcher 

The battle between the world champion and the world number one is a repeat of the 2018 final, a five-game epic won by ElShorbagy in 86 minutes.

They also met in last year’s semi-finals, when Momen gained revenge before falling to Paul Coll in the final.

It’s a tough one to call, as always, but they have met five times since last year’s Canary Wharf semi-final and ElShorbagy has won them all. Three of those matches have been tournament finals, in Zurich, San Francisco and New York.

In career terms, Mohamed has reached 62 PSA finals and won 40 of them, while Tarek has won eight times in 27 finals. Their PSA head to head record shows Mohamed leading 18-5.

In the other semi-final, Ali Farag must start the clear favourite based on the current rankings (two against eight) but Marwan ElShorbagy has a good track record in their encounters, leading 4-3.

While Marwan is working his way back up the rankings after falling away from a career best position of three in 2018, Ali’s career has been one of continued improvement and achievement since swapping the ivy-clad walls of Harvard University for the jet-setting life on the PSA World Tour.

He comfortably won their last encounter in straight games at last year’s British Open, but Marwan won the three previous matches during that golden period when we wondered if he might eclipse his brother at the top of the rankings.

Marwan leads the PSA head -to-head 4-3 and a fascinating duel is in prospect between two highly intelligent players.

Reverting to a best-of-five format, we are sure to see more patient patterns emerge after the frenetic, high-energy best-of-three battles that have produced some incredible excitement and wonderful entertainment during the opening four days.

All four players are now into their stride, and at this stage it will be down to quality on the night.

The ability to manoeuvre your opponent around the court to create openings of opportunity is a captivating element of this great game.

At this level it’s a high-speed game of patience. Working your opponent out of position is only half the battle. Finishing a rally with a winning shot is the second and most decisive part of the process.