Hesham sends Defending Champ Gawad out on Day of Upsets
Six of the world’s top 10 players across the men’s and women’s draws crashed out of the CIB Egyptian Open, PSA Platinum event on Day Two with World No.14 Mazen Hesham claiming the biggest scalp as he ended fellow Egyptian Karim Abdel Gawad’s title defence.
World No.3 Gawad is a specialist in Egypt and has won two titles in front of the Great Pyramid of Giza, which will host the glass court matches from tomorrow onwards.
But the No.2 seed wasn’t at the races today at the New Giza Sporting Club and was powerless to prevent Hesham from completing a major win as he grappled with the effects of plantar fasciitis which had flared up during his run to the final of last week’s CIB PSA World Tour Finals.
Hesham was clinical and made few mistakes, with his victory marking the first time since April 2016 that Gawad has failed to make it past the second round of a PSA World Tour event on home soil.
Following this tournament, Hesham will undergo military service until the end of 2021, meaning he is currently unable to play squash outside of his native Egypt. The 26-year-old, shorn of his trademark hairstyle, says he is making the most of this event and refuses to put any pressure on himself.
“After this tournament, I’m going to the army, so I’m not going to go outside of Egypt for a while,” revealed Hesham.
“I might as well not put any pressure on myself and relax, tomorrow is another day and another game, it’s such a strange period as well. I am working hard, I’m injury free, I’m fit, and I’m taking it match by match.
“To be in the last 16 doesn’t matter that much to me but what matters to me is to be able to play with somebody as good as Karim. After he lost the first game, we know that he is not the best at the beginning, I kept wondering when he was going to wake up and I rushed a bit in the third, and he came back very strong.”
Hesham will be joined by 19-year-old compatriot Mostafa Asal, who achieved one of the biggest wins of his burgeoning career as he took out Germany’s World No.8 Simon Rösner.
Asal was appearing at his first tournament since the restart of the PSA World Tour following the six-month COVID-19 enforced suspension and his shot-making talents were in full flow as he outgunned his opponent to book his spot in the last 16.
“Simon is such a dangerous player, so talented, and when I saw the draw I thought that is tough,” said Asal.
“But I train with [Karim Abdel] Gawad, and that helped me to put up a plan as I watch him play Simon. My dad told me not to take my PlayStation, but I asked what am I going to do in those four walls all day? It’s helping me feeling relaxed, like it’s a normal day.”
England’s former World No.1 James Willstrop made sure a trio of top 10 players missed out on a place in the next round as the 37-year-old took out the in-form World No.9 Joel Makin. Gregory Gaultier made his PSA World Tour return with a victory over fellow veteran Borja Golan, while top seed Ali Farag dispatched 2015 World Championship runner-up Omar Mosaad.
There was plenty to celebrate for the Gilis sisters in the women’s draw as Nele and Tinne defeated United States No.1 Amanda Sobhy and Welsh World No.9 Tesni Evans, respectively.
For Nele, it was her first ever win over a top 10 player as she vanquished World No.7 Sobhy 8-11, 11-9, 6-11, 11-8, 12-10, overturning two match balls in the process. Gilis will take on Canada’s Hollie Naughton for a place in the quarter-finals.
“A year ago, I would have been nervous for a match like this, but during the lockdown I thought a lot about my father who passed away about 10 years ago,” said 24-year-old Nele.
“He is still a huge part of my life and he would have wanted me to enjoy my life. It was like a mirror was placed in front of my face and asked me: ‘So, why are you stressed? You are living your dream, so start enjoying it’.”
Tinne followed her older sister’s example as she put in an immaculate performance to beat Evans in straight games. The 22-year-old’s 11-9, 11-5, 11-8 victory will see her play the in-form Hania El Hammamy in the last 16, with El Hammamy coming off the back of a title-winning run at the CIB PSA World Tour Finals last week.
“I went on there with nothing to lose and no pressure on me,” Tinne said.
“And I was a bit tense as well because I watched Nele’s match. That’s not true, actually I was fired up because I was thinking that it was my turn now to win.”
Elsewhere, Egypt’s Farida Mohamed, 18, followed up her Black Ball Open scalp of World No.8 Joelle King with a 3-0 dismantling of World No.5 Sarah-Jane Perry. The World No.38’s reward is a round three clash with India’s Joshna Chinappa.
The likes of World No.1 Nouran Gohar, World Champion Nour El Sherbini and World Tour Finals runner-up Nour El Tayeb also got their tournaments under way with victories.
Round three begins on Mon 12th Oct. Action continues at the New Giza Sporting Club from 12:45 (GMT+2), while four matches will be held at the glass court in front of the iconic Great Pyramid of Giza from 18:00 onwards.