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El Shorbagy Brothers Reach Quarterfinals

New York, NY, January 22, 2012.

“This is one of the happiest days for the El Shorbagy family,” said Mohammed El Shorbagy minutes after his five-game victory over Australia’s Cameron Pilley in the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions at Grand Central Terminal. Not just Mohammed but his younger brother Marwan will be playing in the quarterfinals of the $115,000 PSA World Series tournament. Marwan, the 18-year-old reigning Junior World Champion, continued his fearless trek through the talent-laden Tournament of Champions draw as he knocked off 20th ranked Tom Richards by winning a 12-10 nail biting fifth game.

“I was just pushing, pushing, pushing the whole time out there,” said the younger El Shorbagy. “I was doing what my brother told me, because he had played Tom before and I hadn’t.” The older brother’s advice was to play a basic game, but at the same time, look for every opportunity to attack. The first game was a seesaw with Richards grabbing an early 7-4 lead and El Shorbagy then forging ahead 8-7; Richards edged out an 11-9 win. Although Richards took an early 4-2 lead in the second, the young Egyptian stormed back and scored nine unanswered points to win the game and even the match. The third game saw Richards back in command as he surged to an 8-3 lead, winning the game 11-7. The momentum shifted back to El Shorbagy in the fourth when he took the lead at 3-2 and never relinquished it.

El Shorbagy again took an early lead in the fifth. Down 4-7, the 25-year-old Englishman was not ready to surrender and evened the match at seven all. El Shorbagy won the next point and Richards evened the score again – the pattern was repeated three times until El Shorbagy took the last and final lead at 11-10 and won the game 12-10. For the fast-rising Egyptian teenager it was another exultant moment on the glass court in Grand Central Terminal – the first one having occurred two days earlier when he beat eighth seed and former world #1 Thierry Lincou. All this after having to be persuaded by his brother to even enter the iconic championship which is a favorite of the PSA tour players.

Just a couple of hours later, it was the older El Shorbagy’s turn to make some magic on court. (In this case, older being a relative term as Mohammed is all of 21-years-old.) “Marwan’s match inspired me, but it also took a lot out of me,” said Mohammed. Like his brother, he went the distance against Australia’s Cameron Pilley, an opponent whom he finds especially difficult to play. “This was an up and down match,” said El Shorbagy. “Sometime I was playing super, and sometimes like an 11-year-old.” Fortunately for the Egyptian, he was super in the fifth, jumping out to a 9-2 lead and winning the decider 11-5.

The older El Shorbagy’s quarterfinal opponent will be England’s Nick Matthew. The top seed eliminated Adrian Grant, his Commonwealth Games gold medalist doubles partner, in three games. “It was a good tough game,” said Matthew, whose year-long reign at the top of the world rankings came to an end in January after a two-month injury hiatus. ”Anyone who thinks I can come right back to my top form after two months out doesn’t know squash. I am still trying to find my game.”

The younger El Shorbagy’s quarterfinal opponent will be Daryl Selby, who defeated Germany’s Simon Rosner in four games. The match almost went to five games when Rosner came back from a 5-10 deficit to earn a game ball at 11-10. An ill-considered attempt at a cross court backhand drop from deep in the court resulted in a tin to tie the game and Selby took advantage to finish the match. “I have been struggling recently to finish off games,” Selby said after the match. “so at that point, I was trying not to make an error – to make him have to win the game instead of my losing it.”

Rounding out the trio of Egyptian squash players into the quarterfinals is two-time titleholder Amr Shabana, whose match with Miguel Angel Rodriguez was the most entertaining and dramatic of the day. Once again, the Colombian qualifier thrilled the crowd with his speed, quickness and acrobatic style of play while Shabana’s ability to hit a winning nick at the most opportune times left the spectators in the capacity crowd shaking their heads in amazement on several occasions. Shabana seemed to have control of the match when a took a 2-0 lead after winning the first two games 11-6,11-8. But the never say die Rodriguez was unfazed and won the third game 11-7. The fourth game was all Rodriguez as he jumped out to a 9-3 lead and won the game 11-4. “I got sucked into his game,” said Shabana,” which is to hit a lot of shots and try to make each one better than the last, which results in a lot of tins. I needed to be more patient and wait for a loose ball to attack.” The change in strategy worked – after trading the lead back and forth several times in the early part of the fifth game, Shabana asserted himself at seven all by hitting a service return winner into the nick. He then patiently kept the ball tight to the wall until he had an opening to attack- even so, it was nearly impossible to hit a shot that the speedy South American could not reach. Shabana surged ahead to 10-7 and at 10-8, hit the ball to every corner of the court. His opponent covered all the corners and thrilled the crowd by hitting a shot from behind his back and then one through his legs before a deep cross court from Shabana was just enough out of reach to force a game winning racquet error.

Shabana’s quarterfinal match will pit two of the game’s best shotmakers against each other as he takes on Gregory Gaultier, “I was worried that I would get off to a slow start after having to wait so long to play,” said the Frenchman, referring to the fact that he got on court at 10PM, one and a half hours after his scheduled match, due to several lengthy matches earlier in the day. “But I actually started quickly.” After winning the first game 11-4, Gaultier lost concentration and dropped the second game to opponent Nicolas Mueller. The third and fourth games were entirely in the Frenchman’s control – he was never behind in either game.

The final quarterfinal pairing will be a contest between two Englishmen, each of whom won their matches in three games. World #1 and second seed James Willstrop dispatched qualifier Mohammed Abbas while sixth seed Peter Barker eliminated Canadian Shahier Razkik.

Results – Monday, January 22, 2012 in Vanderbilt Hall in Grand Central Terminal

[2] James Willstrop (ENG) bt. Mohammed Abbas (EGY) 11-8,12-10,11-2
41 mins

Daryl Selby (ENG) bt. Simon Rosner (GER) 11-8,4-11,11-6,13-11
67 mins

[1] Nick Matthew (ENG) bt. Adrian Grant (ENG) 11-5,11-7, 12-10
65 mins

[6] Peter Barker (ENG) bt. Shahier Razik (CAN) 11-3,11-5,11-5
42 mins

[Q] Marwan El Shorbagy (EGY) bt. Tom Richards (ENG) 9-11,11-4,7-11,11-6 12-10
85 mins

[7] Mohamed El Shorbagy (EGY) bt. Cameron Pilley (AUS) 6-11,11-9,8-11,11-6,11-5
76 mins

[5] Amr Shabana (EGY) bt. [Q] Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) 11-6,11-8,7-11,4-11,11-8
71 mins

[3] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v. Nicolas Mueller (SUI) 11-4,10-12,11-6,11-1
59 mins

Schedule of Play on the Glass Court in Grand Central Terminal

Monday, January 23, 2012

Noon – [6] Sarah Kippax (ENG) v. [Q] Miranda Raineri (CAN)

12:45 PM – [2] Natalie Grinham (NED) v. [Q] Lucie Fialova (CZE)

1:30 PM – [3] Samantha Teran (MEX) v. Nour El Sherbini (EGY)

3:00 PM – [8] Nour El Tayeb (EGY) v. Latasha Khan (USA)

3:45 PM – [5] Jaclyn Hawkes (NZL) v. [Q] Lauren Selby (ENG)

4:30 PM – [4] Donna Urquhart (AUS) v. [Q] Maria Toor Pakay (PAK)

6:00 PM   7] Dipika Pallikal (IND) v. Olivia Blatchford (USA)

6:45 PM – [2] James Willstrop (ENG) v. [6] Peter Barker (ENG)

7:45 PM – [Q] Marwan El Shorbagy (EGY) v. Daryl Selby (ENG)

8:30 PM – [1] Rachael Grinham (AUS) v, Kanzy Emad El-Defrawy (EGY)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

6:45 PM – [1] Nick Matthew (ENG) v. [7] Mohamed El Shorbagy (EGY)

7:45 PM – [3] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v. [5] Amr Shabana (EGY)