10:54 am
21 Apr 2024

Farag Fells Hesham To Claim Houston Open Title

19 Feb 2024

Ali Farag secured his fifth title of the season, and the 38th of his PSA Tour career, comfortably beating Mazen Hesham in an all-Egyptian final at the HSC Houston Open.

Hesham had played some scintillating squash on his way to the final, upsetting both Mostafa Asal and Mohamed Elshorbagy in five games, but was no match for the world No.1.

Farag himself had only dropped one game in his previous three matches this week, and set the tone for victory here on just the second point of the match, flicking a forehand winner cross-court after a Hesham boast had stayed fractionally high.

He continued to move Hesham around and dominate the T, taking game one 11-4 in just nine minutes, clinching it on inch-perfect lob to the back of the court.

Hesham had been stuck behind his opponent for much of the opening game and that continued in the early rallies of game two, with his frustration showing after hitting a tin on a backhand to fall 4-1 behind.

But as he did in yesterday's semi-final win over Elshorbagy, Hesham began to find his feet in game two, moving back to level terms at 7-7.

Farag then pulled clear again to give himself three game balls at 10-7, and while Hesham saved the first two, he could not save the third, albeit in controversial circumstances.

The 29-year-old stopped mid-rally, thinking Farag was in his way, and immediately asked for a review after the referee gave a let, thinking it should be a stroke. The decision backfired horribly, though, as the video referee instead gave a no let, handing Farag the game.

That appeared to take the wind out of Hesham's sails, as Farag marched through game three in just seven minutes, clinching glory on a forehand drive down the line.

"It means a lot," said Farag after victory. "I think I played really good squash all week. I progressed every day, better than the day before, but I would say that the draw helped me a little bit. My opponents were a little bit fatigued coming into my matches, especially Karim [Abdel Gawad] yesterday and Mazen today.

"But I won't take any credit away from myself. I think I capitalised on it well, I was focused from the very first point all the way to the end, because even when they are fatigued, they can hurt you big time, so I'm very pleased."

As with his semi-final win over Gawad, Farag's game plan was to be patient and elongate the rallies in today's final, something he felt he executed early on.

"I did that well for the first game and a half," he said. "Then Mazen started getting into it and I turned a little too passive.

"I didn't go with him, I didn't weather the storm well enough, but thankfully I had a bit of a lead, so by the time he got back we were still on par. Then I won that second and obviously it was a huge psychological boost for me to go into that third."