Youssef Soliman (Egy) 3-2  Mazen Hesham (Egy) 6-11, 11-8, 7-11, 11-6, 11-4 (73m)
This match reminded me the World Junior Open Final in Qatar a few years ago, between Marwan the Controller, against Abouelghar, the Shot Maker. People was dazzled by Abou’s squash, but it’s Marwan’s discipline and analytic squash that took the cake.
Well, tonight, about the same feel between Youssef and Mazen. Mazen, being Mazen, finding incredible shots from very unlikely places, fast, intense, intense with himself, with the ref too, having an on going love/hate dialogue with the official, making a few errors, 11.
On the other side was a calm and composed Youssef, who accepted that he was going to look like a fool at times: “he makes you look dumb” he commented at the end… Only one error the whole match, in the middle of the 18m first game, and that was the key. No free points. A very long opener that he lost 11/6 but the damage to Mazen’s fitness was done somehow.
Second game, Mazen is controlling up to 5/5, 6/6, but the contender finds better energy at the end, and winners – with a little block here and there – and it’s 11/8 in 10m for Yous.
Mazen gives it everything he has in that third, 3/0, 4/1, 5/2, 8/4, 9/5, closing it 11/7, but it’s another 15m of very fast pace squash, a lot of up and down the court, and Mazen admits that at that point, he was completely gone: ‘I was so tired! I couldn’t even warm up the ball in the 4th’.
Well, the errors start creeping in for that 4th game, 2/0, 4/1 Youssef, 5/5 though, but it’s the beginning of the end, 11/6 in 13m for the AlhyClub Man, and 7/0, 8/3, 11/4 in 8m in the 5th…
🗣 "I wanted to just make it hard for him. I tried to make it physical as much as I can and I'm glad it paid off in the fifth"@y_soliman97 reacts after sealing his place in the @OPTASIAsquash 2023 final 💪#OptasiaChampionships pic.twitter.com/aEMzSFKgOL
— PSA World Tour (@PSAWorldTour) March 25, 2023
To be honest, I don’t think I was physically ready for that kind of matches. I haven’t played like this for a long time, although I’m playing better and more regularly now.
Normally, I don’t have the time to have a proper training with those guys at the start of the season because I’m trying to work on my injury, I feel I’m getting better with the tournaments.
It’s kind of both match fitness and fitness. Coming back to this tournament, I was kind of tired mentally, but I did really well in it, even today, although I was so tired! I couldn’t even warm up the ball in the 4th, I’m not sure it was obvious from outside the court, I was waiting for him to warm up the ball for me…
All credit to him, he worked really hard, he deserves to be in the final, you could see how hard he pushed today, and he deserves it more than me today. I’m happy with the way I played, even if I was so tired.
Overall, I don’t think I should be too disappointed, I’m getting better, very slowly, taking one day at a time, and I think a few things clicked in this tournament: I was moving better, I was feeling a bit better, and I pushed a little bit better, hopefully, this will continue to the next season, and hopefully, I’ll have a better place amongst these guys.
“My legs 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.
“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!”
“I want to thank my parents, without them, their support, I wouldn’t be able to achieve anything.
“My coaches, Amr Khalifa, Mike Way, I’m so happy with my set up at the moment… They are so supportive whether I’m up or don’t, always in my corner…