Hesham Ends 8-Year Farag Losing Streak To Make Optasia Semis
25 Mar 2023
World No.9 Mazen Hesham overcame top seed Ali Farag for the first time since 2015 in the quarter-finals of the Optasia Championship in London to leave the semi-finals of the PSA World Tour Gold event lacking any of the top four seeds.
Hesham had lost his last ten Tour encounters with World Champion Farag but confidently established a 2/0 lead after producing incredible squash to find winners in all four corners of the court and completely control the defending champion at The Wimbledon Club.
In true champion style, Farag responded by taking a close third game 11-9 and then steamrolling Hesham in the fourth game to set up an exciting climax to the contest. As the score reached the latter stages, Hesham saved the first match ball of the clash at 10-9 and then earned his own chance to end the contest two points later. The Malaysian Open champion fired a ball past Farag to claim the game 12-10 and a surprise place in the semi-finals.
"I haven't beaten Ali in so long. I think I had beaten him and then got injured, and then after this, he was killing everybody, back when Ali had been dominating the tour," Hesham said.
"I've known him and [Mohamed] ElShorbagy for so long now. So, to get a win over one of these guys is still a very, very happy moment for me. Obviously, I always expect more from myself, I want to beat these guys and where I want to take it step by step.
"I'm happy with the win today, I'm happy with how I fought today after losing two games in the third and the fourth. Ali, I think was very, very smart. In the fourth, he caught me by surprise. Lob and drop, lob and drop. I was 6-0 down. I think I did the right thing, to just let this game go and fight hard in the fifth. And it worked, as I said, I'm really happy to get the win over him.
"I wish him the best for the rest of this season. I think he's getting better and better every tournament. So it's good to have him back."
The next highest seed behind Farag and Hesham was Welshman Joel Makin, the No.7 seed who fell to a superb performance from France's Baptiste Masotti. The Frenchman had beaten No.4 seed Marwan ElShorbagy for the second time in a week in the previous round and backed that performance up to overcome the in-form Makin in a tactical three-game battle.
Masotti will be featuring in his first Gold event semi-final as he takes on former World Champion and world No.1 Karim Abdel Gawad.
The Egyptian recently returned to World Tour action after recovering from a heel injury, and showed his fighting qualities to overcome a spirited effort from Malaysia's Eain Yow Ng to progress to the final four. Yow levelled the score to 1/1 after losing a brutal first game 16-14 but couldn't sustain the quality to the front corners which allowed Gawad to move in front and close out the contest in four games.
Fellow Egyptian Youssef Soliman completes the semi-final line-up as he beat giant-killer and event wildcard Charlie Lee in straight games. The world No.12 used his greater experience of World Tour events to remain composed despite the home support for Lee and constantly pile the pressure onto the Englishman.
Despite a competitive second game for Lee, Soliman was able to take the match in three games and book his place in his first ever Gold semi-final, where he will face compatriot Mazen Hesham for the second time this season, with the head to head poised at one-all.