By Sports Reporter/Doha
Qatar’s No1 player and the World No 30 Abdulla al-Tamimi did not disappoint the home fans as he dug deep to produce a 10-12, 11-3, 11-8, 8-11, 11-3 win against England’s Patrick Rooney in the first round of the Qatar Classic at the Khalifa International Tennis & Squash Complex in Doha yesterday.
Al-Tamimi could have wrapped up the match in the fourth game itself, but a few unforced errors allowed his 52nd-ranked opponent to bounce back from a 4-7 deficit to take the match into the fifth game, which the Qatari won in less than 10 minutes.
“The effect of lack of matches reflected in my game today,” al-Tamimi said. “It is tough playing here every time as I have to raise the level of my game each time I play as I want to make my country proud. After a great performance here last year, I’ve had a lot of pressure coming into this tournament especially with the lockdown we’ve been having due to Covid 19.
“I haven’t had any matches since February in Chicago. I only played one match against Tarek (Momen) in Manchester, and when I came back, I had to do two weeks of quarantine which means that work went for nothing,” he said.
Al-Tamimi, who will face Diego Elias of Peru in his next match tomorrow, added that he would have to raise his game and play a lot better than he did today against the World No.7.
“Diego and I are terrific friends, and I’m looking forward to our match, which I think will be interesting and entertaining for everybody,” said the Aspire Academy graduate.
Meanwhile, Gregory Gaultier of France, the 2011 champion, also gave a commanding performance which belied his 38 years of age. The Frenchman trounced his much younger opponent, Spain’s Iker Pajares Bernabeu, 3-1 (10-12, 11-3, 11-9, 11-8) to advance into the second round.
It wasn’t just only age that separated the two opponents as there was also a gulf in rankings between them. While Gaultier is ranked 56 on the global standings and he is playing in Doha courtesy of a wildcard, Bernabeu is the World No 29.
Bernabeu was quick out of the blocks as he outlasted the ‘The French General’, who became the oldest World No 1 of all time when he took the top spot in the rankings in April 2017, in the battle of wits in the first game. The game which lasted 16 minutes saw the points bouncing back and forth between the two before a tie-breaker ended in favour of the Spaniard.
The next three games saw a resurgent Gaultier, who is making a return from injury, dominating his opponent as he took the match in style.
“It has not been easy coming back from several months of not playing due to injury. Today, I had to raise my game after I lost the first game. I told myself that I needed to put more effort and take the game point by point, even if I have to lose. Fortunately, I managed to get my rhythm back, and from 2-1 up I had a bigger mental advantage, and I took it on from there,” Gaultier, who will be up against Marwan ElShorbagy in the next round, said.
Earlier in the day, World No 31 Mohamed El Sherbini took just 31 minutes to book a place in the second round with a 11-6, 11-8, 11-9 victory over Qatar’s Syed Azlan Amjad.
The 26-year-old, who is the cousin of current women’s World No 1 Nour El Sherbini, has not been in action since Chicago in February due to injury. The first game was a no-contest as the Egyptian proved too strong a contender for the Qatari player.
“I’m delighted to start my first tournament on a winning note today. This is my first match since being injured as I haven’t played any tournament since Chicago in February. Though I won the match, I believe I still need to improve as I couldn’t find my rhythm probably because it was my first match in a long time. I should have to play much better than this tomorrow,” the elated El Sherbini said.
Speaking about the draw, ElSherbini said: “The draw is good. I am prepared to enjoy my day on the court. Thank you to everyone who has come out to support me today.”
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