MF : Farag comes back to retain the title

[2] Ali Farag (Egy) 3-2 [1] Mohamed ElShorbagy (Egy) 6-11, 9-11, 11-2, 11-6, 11-5 (74m)

What I felt: from the start, Mohamed was flat. He is clever enough to hide it nicely but in my opinion, he started the match with very little in the tank.

And it reminded terribly of the situation which in 2016 cost him the world title in Wadi Degla. In the quarters, Mohamed wanted to punish Ali for taking a double bounce in a previous encounter and put all his mental energy in that quarters, roaring at the end as he won the world title.

And yesterday, at 10/8 match ball against Tarek, Mohamed had that same roar. For reasons I’m not going to go into, he just didn’t want to lose to Tarek. And I thought, that’s a tactical/emotional error. That rage that sometimes is his fuel can also be his worst enemy…

Mohamed tonight had enough mental and physical fuel for a game and three quarters.

He won the first game in 15m, stringing 8 points in a row from 1/2 to 9/3, taking it 11/6, without having made a single error (2 for Ali).
From the start of the second, I saw sign of tiredness from the former World number 1. A few mistiming of his shots, pretty uncharacteristic of him for sure. Still, Ali with legs pretty heavy from him battle with Paul, is just reacting, doing the work and visiting the four corners. 1/1. 2.2. 3.3. 4/4. 6/4 Mohamed, who makes two errors in succession, 6/6. He now looks tired.

7/7. It’s now Ali showing signs of fatigue, a tin and a no let, court cleaned while video review. 8/8, boom, another tin from Mohamed, what is going on?

That gives wings to Ali, 9/8. A huuuuuuge rally, with a tactical error from Ali. His ball is called not up, Mohamed is very tired, I mean, reallllly tired. We can see it. Wael tells Ali his ball is not up, but the review is not cancelled, giving time to Mohamed to recover. And booom, 11/9 in seconds. 22m loooong game.

A very short third game, 7m, 11/2 for Ali, with Mohamed asking for 3m injury time added to his 2m rest between the 3rd and 4th. Probably tactical, but it might have given Ali the certitude he was on the right track and Mohamed suffering. As he did the previous games, Fantastic comes back very early on the court, doing a “Nick Matthew I’m not tired let’s get on with it” impression.

The fourth is a masterclass from Ali. He puts Mohamed on a piece of string, and sends him to all the four corners, mixing the height, front, back, back, front, twist turn. And Mohamed runs, digs in, 3/3, 4/4, 5/5, but that’s it for that game, 11/6 after three tired errors from Mohamed at the end of the game.

The last game was onesided to be honest, 3/0 after two tired errors from Mohamed, 6/1, 7/2, 9/3, 10/4. A push “pour l’honneur” from Mohamed, 5/10 but it’s all over in 10m.

The Farag camp is sitting next to me, Mum is in tears, Dad too, the Aunty is dancing, and Nour, well, is just proud…

I’m feeling amazing. It can’t get any better, you know. Playing at such a venue against the greatest rival of my career and the greatest of our generation. To be able to come back from 2-0 down is something that I am really proud of. As always, I am very proud to be able to share the court with such a great champion like Mohamed. I learn a lot from him every year.

We have played in almost every Platinum event final, but we didn’t play in the most special one until today. We delivered a match for the crowd that they really deserve.

I know we have been recognising him all week, but he deserves more than that. Yassin Kouritam, the young amazing champion. He is a joy to watch, to be around, a great guy from a great family. Everyone has been saying nothing but good about them. We wish him nothing but to recover very soon and to be back here with us!

The best player won today. He is the best player in the world, the world number one, and the current world champion.

Now, I need to look at why he is all that this season.

I have had that all my career, a season where a player raises the level over me, and Ali definitely did that this year. But it’s a long season, we are only going to finish in June, we are still at the beginning…

I need to make some changes, I need to look back with my team and see why I have lost … I have made 4 finals out of my last five events, which is still pretty not bad but for my own level not good enough for me: to lose three finals out of my four finals, that’s not good enough.

I need to look back with my team what I did wrong, and I think I know what I need to change. And I think it’s pretty obvious what I need to change: I don’t want to get into details but it’s pretty obvious to be 2/0 up, getting my tactics spot on like that, but not have enough to play one more game, that’s not acceptable for me.

The same happened to me in the Worlds Finals, the British was more mental than physical, but the World Champ was similar, so….

I’M NOT SLOWING DOWN. There is just something I need to improve right now. And at 30 years old, you can improve that, it’s not like I’m 35 year old, and I’m still the same age as my generation, you know!

But he is the best player in the world right now, and he deserves it, I told him, I respect that. But I’ll get back, the Beast never goes away that easy.