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16 Apr 2024

Soliman Upset Sets Up All-Egyptian Optasia Final

26 Mar 2023

World No.12 Youssef Soliman upset the seedings at the Optasia Championship in London when he claimed a win over world No.9 Mazen Hesham to set up an all-Egyptian final with former World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad at the PSA World Tour Gold event.

The all-Egyptian clash between Soliman and Hesham opened proceedings at The Wimbledon Club, with a packed house ready to enjoy the exciting affair. The players didn't disappoint as they utilised all four corners of the court with ease to push each other to the physical limits. Hesham earned himself a 2/1 lead by showcasing his amazing skills in the front two corners and looked sharp and focused heading into the fourth game.

Soliman stayed strong however and started to negate Hesham's attacks with his smooth and powerful movement. The No.8 seed started to create more opportunities to drag Hesham into the front two corners and reaped the rewards as the higher seed started to tire. After levelling the match at two-all, Soliman established a healthy lead in the fifth game and motored through to victory, winning 11-4.

"My leg is completely gone! When you play with Mazen, he will make you feel done. You just have to pick up, I did well to contain him at times but at other stages he was up and he was going for it," said Soliman - now in his 14th, and career-biggest, Tour final.

"The court was too big for me and I couldn't read him. He is magic and he is so hard to read. I am definitely glad to be through, and it was a big opportunity for the four of us as the top four seeds were all out of the tournament. We all knew. And I am so happy with the way I handled my nerves in the fifth and even when I was 2/1 down. Thank you to the crowd, you have been amazing

"When you play in front of a crowd like this, you want to play good squash. Sometimes it was a bit random, but every single time I play in London, it is amazing, with a good crowd, always behind us, so thank you!"

Soliman's opponent will be compatriot and former World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad, who needed just three games to defeat France's Baptiste Masotti and claim a place in his first final since returning from injury.

Masotti had claimed impressive victories over seeded duo Marwan ElShorbagy and Joel Makin to take his place in the semi-finals but came up against a fit and firing Karim Abdel Gawad who was determined to progress.

The Egyptian's front-court skills are well renowned and were in full flow in the second semi-final of the night. The 2016 World Champion managed to move Masotti into all four corners consistently to always ask questions of the Frenchman's physicality and endurance after a tough week of squash. Gawad managed to play the big points better at the latter stages of each game as he took the 42-minute match 11-8, 11-7, 11-8 to reach his first final since March last year.

"I played Baptiste two or three years ago in Chicago and there is a huge difference in the way he plays. I am so happy for him, the way he has improved in the last couple of years," Gawad said after the victory.

"He is playing beautiful shots and he has matured at the same time so all credit to him and I wish him luck in the next few tournaments. He is doing really well and I think that he is breaking into the top ten soon.

"It is great, and I am now in a new experience. I have never been out of the court for a year. This is a new experience and I am still learning. I am happy to be back into a final again, I haven't been in one for a while now so to be back from injury and in the finals is great! I am still hoping to win the tournament tomorrow, of course.

"We [he and Soliman] played last March in the final in Pakistan, it is always a tough match against him. He is playing well, almost breaking the top ten, so it will be a great match tomorrow and I am looking forward to it."