You won’t find more chuffed people than Karim Abdel Gawad and myself this week. Both back to Optasia/Channel Vas after four years: him to win it again, and I enjoying watching him do it.
As I already explained, it was my first return to the UK in 4 years. When you lived 25+ somewhere, it’s become part of you, may you admit it or not… Although I don’t seem to have grasped the British Diplomatic Skills that comprehensively. To say the least…
On that note, let’s start with what I didn’t appreciate too much about the event: having to go to the main Club to go to the ladies room quite a long way away, and the level of the music that was unbearable for me. As you can see, very little to complain about!
Player of the event?
It has to be Charlie Lee, who else? That boy, entering the draw as a guest/wild card, had the best time of his career, between Rafi Kandra and Mo Bagy back to back! He made his dad Danny a very proud/emotional coach…
I would say – and that will surprise a few – Baptiste Masotti. The whole week, he seized the opportunities that were presented to him with both hands. First coming back from match ball down against Greg Lobban in round one, the “old Baptiste” would have fluffed it.
Then he ousted a wobbly Marwan in the second – for the second time in one week – and a slower Joel in the quarters. Those matches in particular, he won them with panache, calm and accuracy, staying focused and composed throughout (well, nearly).
Knocking at the door?
Eain Yow Ng overcame French WR8 Victor Crouin in the second round, and he managed to put Karim Abdel Gawad under enormous pressure, pushing him to 16-14, 7-11, 12-10, 11-8 in 65m. “I am sending a strong message to the top guys” concluded the Smiling Ninja! He certainly did.
Special thanks to
Ali Farag, who agreed to speak to me after being down 2/0, coming back 2/2, and finally bowing 12/10 to a player he hadn’t lost to in PSA since 2015. Despite his disappointment, Mr Fantastic took the time to chat and let us know his feelings and emotions. It didn’t go unnoticed like I am always grateful to every single player that accepts to speak to me when the match isn’t going their way…
Youssef Soliman of course. Not sure many would have predicted him as a finalist at the start of the week. That discrete athlete has worked extremely hard on both his skills and fitness with Amr Khalifa and Mike Way and is finally reaping the reward of his hard work…
Best court cleaner?
The award goes to Harry, a Lecturer Scientist of all people that helped keep the court in tip top conditions, with the help of young players. Even Linda Davie helped! But Harry was the Master of the Broom, and his joie de vivre and kindness to us all made our week smoothly easy.
Doing your bit for others?
It has to be a tie between Stacey Ross for his work with SquashSquared since 2015. He started with one school and they have now 14 more, with 6 in the pipeline.
“When squash is part of their curriculum and have their private courts at school, kids aren’t that keen to be coached” explains Stacey. “So I wanted to coach some kids that genuinely wanted to be on the court, and we Squash Squared, they all do you know, 100% the kids have never played before.
“They want to be here, they enjoy it. So it’s nice to coach, it’s nice to see. And that’s really rewarding to me.” he concludes.
And of course, Bassim Haidar. You may immediately think about Optasia and Squash. But Bassim has been supporting many charities like YoungLivesAgainstCancer for years, he also helped SquashSite a few years ago and so many others.
But side by side with Danny Lee, Bassim was also crucial in supporting the rehabilitation of Alex Couch, Squash Coach from St George’s, who suffered a massive stroke about 2 years ago.
Seeing Alex back on his feet during the event made me believe that maybe one day, against all odds, my brother who suffered the same ordeal might walk again. God Bless you Bassim.
But give back credit where credit is due, this was the return of the King of Touch, aka the Baby-Faced Assasin, the one and only Karim Abdel Gawad.
Far away from controversies and bullying, ‘The King’ Karim Abdel Gawad blessed us with his skills, calm and laid-back attitude that made him both World Champion and World Number One. He successively beat Omar Mosaad, Diego Elias, Eain Yow Ng, Baptiste Masotti, and Youssef Soliman.
As Youssef commented, “It’s great to have him back as a fan, not as a player”. I remember Raneem commenting about Nour El Sherbini’s return “Unfortunately, it’s good to have her back”…
This is the best news that could happen in our beloved Sport. We are grateful. See you next year IsA.