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16 Jul 2024

Farag Foils Willstrop's World Championship Hopes

29 Oct 2016

Egyptian world No.6 Ali Farag booked his place in the third round of the 2016 Wadi Degla PSA Men's World Championship after coming through a thrilling five-game battle with James Willstrop - denying England's former world No.1 the chance of a ninth successive quarter-final berth in the PSA's premier championship.

The duo, both of whom have been in some of their finest ever form in recent months, went head-to-head for the first time on the PSA World Tour and it was a spectacle that lived up to the billing as the fans inside the Wadi Degla Club in Cairo were treated to an exhibition of squash at its finest.

The nail-biting encounter - the match of the tournament so far - saw the lead change hands throughout the 66-minute contest until, with the scores locked at two games apiece, Farag began to pull away and stormed home in the latter stages to complete a 5-11, 11-1, 11-8, 9-11, 11-5 victory.

"I'm feeling so good about the win but not just that," said Farag.

"I struggled to find the fire within me since Al-Ahram - something was wrong. I lost a bit of confidence in myself and I was struggling get out of that dilemma.

"But that's the beauty of playing in Egypt - I had so many people yesterday talking to me. My parents, Nour [El Tayeb], my brother, Shabana, Hassan from Heliopolis club and they talked me out of that situation and I felt better going to bed last night."

Farag will be joined in round three by compatriot Mohamed Elshorbagy, the world No.1 who was in fine form to down experienced Finnish campaigner Olli Tuominen.

37-year-old Tuominen pushed top seed Elshorbagy hard in the opener, but the hard-hitting Egyptian narrowly took it by an 11-9 margin and he maintained his superiority in games two and three to seal a third round berth.

"When I was 10-6 up [in game one] I lost a little bit of concentration and I shouldn't have done that against someone with as much experience as Olli," said Elshorbagy.

"I felt that he got tired after the first game, which helped me a little bit. In the third I was tired like him and I had to keep digging, especially when I was 8-7 down because I didn't want it to go to a fourth.

"Other than that, I'm so happy to get a rest day tomorrow and I'm looking forward to the next round."

Elsewhere on the second day of action, three-time winner Nick Matthew followed up a narrow first round win over New Zealand's Campbell Grayson with a comfortable 3/0 win over Hong Kong's Leo Au.

The 36-year-old Englishman - meeting Au for the first time - was in fine fettle to counter his Hong Kong opponent's superb retrieval skills with some intelligent shots in all four corners of the court - and duly ran out an 11-7, 11-7, 11-8 winner to set up a third round clash with German No.1 Simon Rösner, who beat Mexican Cesar Salazar.

"I was happy, especially after yesterday, to get 3/0 today," said Matthew.

"I was telling myself to stay fresh but sometimes you can rush it, so that was the danger. Sometimes you have to put the hard yards in to win quicker. That was the biggest battle I found tonight, he's such a laid back character but all of a sudden he sparks back into action."

Colombia's Miguel Angel Rodriguez was also victorious as he secured back-to-back wins for the first time this season after following up a round one win over Mahesh Mangaonkar with victory over Mohamed Reda and he will face Farag in the next round.

World No.4 Karim Abdel Gawad came through in five to defeat fellow Egyptian Mohamed Abouelghar and will take on world No.18 Max Lee in the next round, while Karim Ali Fathi dispatched Omar Abdel Meguid to ensure that he will take on Elshorbagy for a place in the last eight.