By Mikhil Bhat/ Doha
For the second straight month, Egyptian world number three Tarek Momen was pushed beyond his wits and into a thrilling five-setter by Qatar number one Abdulla Mohamed al-Tamimi.
And while the results may show Momen having won both the matches, by his own admission, he “thought I was going to make an exit today”.
Al-Tamimi’s campaign at PSA Men’s World Squash Championship at home was halted in heart-breaking circumstances after an injury and bleeding on his hand towards the end of the fourth game hampered his momentum with the last year’s finalist pouncing on the opportunity to close out the game and then the decider, winning 3-2 (11-5, 10-12, 9-11, 11-9, 11-4).
“Of course I am disappointed about the match. I had my chances. The fourth game I think I had my chance, I was playing really well, I had my momentum,” world number 47 said after the match.
“Unfortunately I had to stop because of the bleeding, and that kind of stopped the momentum. And he is really experienced. So he knew exactly what to do. He was warming the ball, so much that the ball was flying again.
“I couldn’t really play the way I was playing before that. I was 6-3 up, I had my chances. I think I am playing better squash at the moment. I had a couple of good results.
“Second time in a month to take Tarek, number 3 in the world, to five games, and to have chances to win both the matches, that only gives me positive vibe for the next tournament and the rest of the season 2020.”
It started in ominous fashion for al-Tamimi who hit the first serve of the match out, and Momen took his opportunities well to close it out in eight minutes.
In the second, however, al-Tamimi always stayed within striking distance, even as Momen managed to level the scores at 10-10. However, the 24-year-old from Qatar, was clinical in cutting the pace off the next two balls to leave Momen reeling, even as he pumped fists and got the crowd going.
Down 4-7 in the third, al-Tamimi then won five straight points in front of a roaring crowd that had vociferous support for both the players. While Momen levelled it, al-Tamimi closed it out at 11-9 mixing up the pace well, and a bad pick up by Momen handing his opponent the 2-1 lead.
Fourth is where al-Tamimi had his rival tottering with a 6-3 lead. While Momen came right back into the game, it was a blood injury while leading 8-7 that changed the course of the game. After the Qatari hit the court taped up, he often was seen clutching the back of his right leg and grimacing.
Momen closed that one out, and the fifth was pretty much one-way.
The 31-year-old from Cairo was all praise for his young opponent, who had impressed with wins over world number 14 Gregoire Marche of France, and world number 28 Mathieu Castagnet, also of France, for his place in the last 16 match.
“I can’t believe I am making this speech now. I really thought I was going to make an exit today. I had a tough loss last week (to Welshman Joel Makin) in Cairo and the circumstances looked very similar on court today.
“I was basically being outplayed. In the third and the fourth, he was on fire, everything was just going in. He did what he did in the US and I had not thought he could double that, but he did today. He far exceeded my expectations, and played unbelievable squash. I just had to grind it out,” Momen said after the match.
While Momen got through, two other Egyptians were sent packing, with Peruvian world number 7 Diego Elias beating Fares Dessouky 3-1 (10-12, 11-8, 11-6, 11-4), and former world number 1 James Willstrop producing a thriller against world number 4 and 2016 champion Karim Abdel Gawad in a 3-1 (11-8, 4-11, 11-9, 12-10) victory.
A very physical game had the audience at the edge of their seats. With very little to separate the two players, the referees (court and video) were put in the spot, even as the rallies were setting the hearts racing.
“I am absolutely thrilled. It is hard to say because I am on a rush of adrenaline, particularly in these conditions where it is shootout squash. The intensity is cranked up and you haven’t got any time to settle,” said 2010 World Championships finalist Willstrop, who had very dear friend and 10th seed Saurav Ghosal in his corner.
“His engine at the minute is strong, so he is match fit and sharp, much more probably than I am. Just because of the amount of matches he has played, but then I have the advantage of being fresher. At 10-10, I knew it was a chance, because the momentum would have gone with him in the fifth. He played a blinding three minutes of squash at that point, but I just had to try and take the right shot at the right time.
“To be here (in the quarterfinals), and with a rest day, that is quite positive. It is a fabulous prospect, and hopefully I can recover well and do justice on Wednesday,” added Willstrop
Willstrop will face German fifth seed Simon Rosner, who beat 11th seed Makin in the shortest match of the day at 47 minutes, in the quarterfinals tomorrow, while Momen faces Elias.
Today, the ElShorbagy brothers — top seed Mohamed and ninth seed Marwan — are in action in their third round matches against Ghosal and Mohamed Abouelghar respectively, and so is the top non-Egyptian ranked player in the world — Paul Coll of New Zealand — against 12th seed Omar Mosaad.
RESULTS (Round III)
2-Tarek Momen (EGY) bt Abdulla Mohamed al-Tamimi (QAT) 3-2: 11-5, 10-12, 9-11, 11-9, 11-4 (76m)
6-Diego Elias (PER) bt 13-Fares Dessouky (EGY) 3-1: 10-12, 11-8, 11-6, 11-4 (56m)
5-Simon Rosner (GER) bt 11-Joel Makin (WAL) 3-0: 11-8, 11-8, 11-5 (47m)
James Willstrop (ENG) bt 3-Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) 3-1: 11-8, 4-11, 11-9, 12-10 (71m)
Today’s schedule (Round III)
3pm: 14-Zahed Salem (EGY) v 8-Miguel Rodriguez (COL)
4pm: 7-Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) v 9-Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY)
5pm: 4-Paul Coll (NZL) v 12-Omar Mosaad (EGY)
6pm: 10-Saurav Ghosal (IND) v 1-Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY)
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