Egypt’s reigning World Champion Ali Farag was forced to come from two games down against compatriot Mohamed Abouelghar to progress to the quarter finals of the Allam British Open taking place at Hull’s Allam Sport Centre.
Farag stands a chance of regaining top spot in the men’s World Rankings next month should he match or better rival’s Mohamed ElShorbagy’s results this week at the sport’s oldest tournament. But the chance almost slipped away completely this evening as he found himself staring down the barrel of defeat as Abouelghar took a commanding 2-0 lead.
The World No.2 soon turned things around though as he refocused and got his game plan back on track to get back on level terms with relative ease, an edgy fifth game then ensued with plenty of decisions taking their toll before Farag claimed it 11-9.
“It’s a shame whenever Abouelghar and I share a court because we’re such very good friends and you don’t want either of us to lose really,” said Farag afterwards. “Obviously I’m very relieved and very proud of how I fought back.
“Mohamed was so clinical today. I didn’t start off badly, or maybe I did, but he was hitting winners out of nowhere. I had to step it up a little, which I did, but then it was edgy in the first two games, so I decided to slow it down in the next three.
“Coming into this after the World Championships is not easy. Also, the fact that I wasn’t home and had to change my routine. I love my routine so much, it gives me confidence, so to change it was not easy.”
Asal has been a man in form this season, claiming the CIB PSA World Tour Finals title before missing out on the PSA World Championships due to visa issues. However, the ‘Raging Bull’ came back into action with a bang and confirmed his title hopes for the week.
“I’m grateful that I’m here and that I made it here in front of the home of squash in England,” said Asal. “I used to play a lot of British Junior Opens and it’s my favourite tournament as well.
“After the World Tour Finals, I had lots of problems, mentally as well. All my team was disappointed. I want to compete I want to win the tournament. After the World Tour Finals, I’m not playing for the first or second round, I’m playing for the tournament. I’m happy to be here, happy to be back and I’m sure there’s more to come this tournament.”
The longest match of the day came courtesy of Colombia’s Miguel Rodriguez and Malaysia’s Eain Yow Ng with their five-game bruiser of a match lasting 101 minutes.
Rodriguez made history back in 2018 when he became the first South American player to win the prestigious trophy, beating World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy in the final on that occasion and the Colombian made sure to make more memories at the event as he held off a comeback from Eain Yow in a thrilling battle with cramp eventually getting the better of the 23-year-old.
The Malaysian was in confident form after claiming his biggest ever career win over former World No.1 Karim Abdel Gawad in the previous round and a topsy turvy start to the match saw all three games go to tie-breaks with lots of stoppages for decisions as Rodriguez took a 2-1 lead.
Eain Yow rallied back well though as he managed to fight through the pain barrier to draw level once again but the decider proved to be a step too far though as Eain Yow was clearly struggling with cramp as Rodriguez closed out and helped his opponent off court at the end.
“I knew I was going to have to fight today, that was our first meeting on the PSA World Tour,” said Rodriguez. “I felt this was a serious match, like a three-hour match. I had to dig in and did everything I could. In the first game he played really well and I wasn’t sure about my tactics and so I started playing more fluid squash, more patient, maybe more quality shots in the second game but what a match.
“This is motivation for me to come back to the British Open, where I became a legend. Winning this tournament in 2018 – amazing memories.”
The two players had a memorable match back at the 2018 British Open where Kandra claimed a shock victory, but it was not to be for the German this time around as ElShorbagy came from 9-5 down in the third to take the victory.
In the women’s draw, World No.1 Nour El Sherbini continued to show her dominance as she took just 23 minutes to dispatch India’s World No.10 Joshna Chinappa to book her place in the last eight.
El Sherbini, who won her fifth World Championship title last month in Chicago, will face compatriot Nadine Shahin in the next round after she reached her maiden Platinum quarter final following her 3-1 victory over Malaysia’s Rachel Arnold.
“There’s a huge difference between 1-1 and 2-0 up,” said El Sherbini. “I didn’t want to lose the second game and make the match longer, I just tried to refocus and get my game plan back and try to win every point. It was a huge advantage to me to win the second game.
“Nadine is really good, in beating Salma and Rachel in two tough matches. Being in the quarter final of the British Open is something really big for her and I’m sure she’s going to be excited and looking forward to this match and I’m also going to be excited and looking forward to it. It’s always hard playing an Egyptian, I didn’t play her a lot actually but I’m looking forward to it.”
Elsewhere, USA’s Amanda Sobhy had her own powerful performance as she came out on top in the all-American battle against World No.13 Olivia Clyne.
Sobhy held the advantage going into the match with eight wins to Clyne’s one in the head-to-head record and the No.6 seed continue that run of dominance as she hit clean lines and found all of her targets to ensure she advanced and marked her name as one of the contenders for the women’s title.
“The court is definitely going to take an attacking ball in, which is nice,” said Sobhy. “But it rewards good length too. I think the level is so strong for the women, especially at the top that it’s basically whoever shows up on the day can pull the win, whether that’s for the seed or against – it makes things exciting and keeps me on my toes. I’m just going to try and keep enjoying being out here.”
The 21-year-old didn’t put a foot wrong as she axed the Canadian, who struggled to get into the match after receiving a walkover yesterday due to the withdrawal of France’s Camille Serme, 11-4, 11-3, 11-3.
“I’m really pleased with my performance today,” said Elaraby in her post-match interview. “I’ve had a tough time travelling abroad over this period of time, being away from my family, home and friends – it’s been really hard. I’ve been working on myself and I’m really glad I fought and with my performance, I’m happy to be through.
“I’m looking forward to playing Amanda on the glass court, I can’t wait.”
Round three of the British Open takes continues tomorrow (August 19) and play starts at 12:00 (GMT+1). Action from the Allam Sport Centre will be broadcast live on SQUASHTV and the official Facebook page of the PSA World Tour (excluding Europe & Japan).
Results – Third Round: Men’s 2021 Allam British Open
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) 3-2: 10-12, 9-11, 11-5, 11-6, 11-9 (76m)
Mostafa Asal (EGY) bt Omar Mosaad (EGY) 3-0: 11-8, 11-3, 11-6 (40m)
Miguel Rodriguez (COL) bt Eain Yow Ng (MAS) 3-2: 15-13, 11-13, 14-12, 8-11, 11-4 (101m)
 Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) bt Raphael Kandra (GER) 3-0: 12-10, 11-8, 12-10 (38m)
Draw – Men’s Third Round (Bottom Half): To Be Played August 19th
 Paul Coll (NZL) v Mazen Hesham (EGY)
Gregoire Marche (FRA) v  Diego Elias (PER)
Youssef Soliman (EGY) v Iker Pajares Bernabeu (ESP)
Baptiste Masotti (FRA) v  Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY)
Draw – Men’s Quarter Finals (Top Half): To Be Played August 20th
 Ali Farag (EGY) v  Mostafa Asal (EGY)
Miguel Rodriguez (COL) v  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY)
Results – Third Round: Women’s 2021 Allam British Open
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt Joshna Chinappa (IND) 3-0: 11-4, 11-9, 11-1 (23m)
Nadine Shahin (EGY) bt Rachel Arnold (MAS) 3-1: 8-11, 11-9, 11-9, 11-9 (45m)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt Olivia Clyne (USA) 3-0: 11-5, 11-4, 11-4 (30m)
Rowan Elaraby (EGY) bt Danielle Letourneau (CAN) 3-0: 11-4, 11-3, 11-3 (24m)
Draw – Women’s Third Round (Bottom Half): To Be Played August 19th
 Hania El Hammamy (EGY) v Melissa Alves (FRA)
Sabrina Sobhy (USA) v  Joelle King (NZL)
Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) v Donna Lobban (AUS)
Tesni Evans (WAL) v  Nouran Gohar (EGY)
Draw – Women’s Quarter Finals (Top Half): To Be Played August 20th
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v Nadine Shahin (EGY)
 Amanda Sobhy (EGY) v Rowan Elaraby (EGY)