Ali Farag’s victory in the Egyptian Open on October 17 was an extra special one as it ensured he would start the Qatar Classic as the world’s top-ranked squash player.
The 28-year-old Egyptian has gained a lot of confidence from winning on his home turf and is eager to make an impression in the Doha tournament starting today at the Khalifa Tennis and Squash Complex.
“I am starting to enjoy myself again on court. I am finding myself, I am finding my character, finding my gameplan!,” Farag tweeted after winning the first Platinum title of the 2020-21 season in Egypt.
The man Farag deposed in the Egyptian final was the three-time champion Mohamed El Shorbagy, who is also in fine form this year and is keen to stop his compatriot’s momentum.
El Shorbagy won the Manchester Open on September 22, after 192 days of recess due to the coronavirus pandemic. His Manchester title was the 42nd PSA title of his career, moving him to fifth on the all-time squash win list.
But in the event of Farag’s failure to reach the semi-finals in Doha coupled with title success for El Shorbagy, the latter will become the World No 1 again in December.
El Shorbagy was seeded to play World Junior Champion Mostafa Asal in round two, but Asal has withdrawn. El Shorbagy is likely to face 2018 runner-up Simon Rosner in the last eight. Meanwhile, Farag must negotiate a draw that could see him line up against the likes of Englishman Declan James, Peru’s World No 6 Diego Elias and the 2017 finalist Tarek Momen.
Rosner, who won a bronze at the 2019-20 World Championships held in the Qatari capital praised the excellent arrangements during the tournament.
“Qatar Classic is always a great tournament. Very pleasant to be in Qatar as people are looking so much after you,” said the 32-year-old German.
“I’m gonna be 33 on November 5. So hopefully I’m still in the tournament. I might have another 2-3 years. Then I will see what my future will be like. I have last 2-3 years on the Tour.
“I wouldn’t say, kind of hungry enough anymore. I am trying to enjoy my game. I’m not looking at the points or rankings. I want to give off the best,” said Rosner.
Forty-six players including the world’s top-eight are featuring at the prestigious tournament, one of the signature events on PSA Tour, which carries a total prize purse of $175.000 cash prize.
World No 5 Paul Coll and 2011 champion Gregory Gaultier (wildcard) are also in the fray.
Qatar’s most successful player and World No 27 Abdullah Mohamed al-Tamimi will be leading the home charge alongside Syed Azlan Amjad (a wildcard entrant) and Abdulrahman al-Maliki.
Last year, two Qataris made it into the second round of the 2019 Men’s World Championships in Doha.
Al-Tamimi overturned the seedings to topple Frenchman Gregoire Marche, while wildcard Amjad also made it to the next round after Iker Pajares was forced to concede the match for an opponent inflicted injury. Al-Tamimi reached the Round of 16, narrowly losing to eventual champion Momen. Al-Tamimi will meet England’s Patrick Rooney in round one.
After picking up some ranking points this year, Amjad has inched his way up and is in the process of moving into the double-digit ranking list.
“Hopefully I will reach under-100 by end of the year,” said Amjad, who will play first round against Mohamed El Shorbagy today morning.
The tournament, a PSA Platinum event, will abide by strict Covid-19 protocols with relation to health and safety, international travel policies and social distancing guidelines.
The proceedings begin at 11am today.
File photo of Ali Farag (left) of Egypt in action against Saurav Ghoshal of India during their Qatar Classic match on October 31, 2018.