QF : Farag in three incredible games to complete quarter-finals

Ali Farag beats Mazen Heshem in three to complete the semi-final lineups

[2] Ali Farag (Egy) 3-0 [9/16] Mazen Hesham (Egy)   11-6, 11-7, 12-10 (48m)

The two words ‘ridiculous squash’ were I think created for those two I tell you… And Ali tonight was like a darts board, just on automatic pilot, trying to take shelter from the endless avalanche of winners, flick, volley nicks, long drop shots from the four corners to the four corners…

The score truly and utterly doesn’t describe the intensity and the incredible pace Mazen imposed for the duration of the match.
Ali, bless his little Dunlop socks, were weathering the storm the best he could, knowing/hoping by experience that errors would eventually creep in the equation, which they did.

First game, the shortest, 13m, pace unreal imposed by the Amazing Mazen, but Ali still on every shot, up 6/3, caught up 6/6, but Ali collecting the investment at the end of the game, 2 errors from 9/6, and it’s 11/6 for Mr Fantastic.

The second sees Mazen excited like a 220v live battery, and as at 5/5 he was refused the court to be cleaned, both Ali and the ref feeling it was time wasting to recover – can you blame the boy! – there was an never seen moment at 7/5 Ali serving, where during a review, Mazen actually kindly pushed the two court cleaners out of the court summoned by the ref with a “well you didn’t give me the court cleaning earlier, now we don’t need it, the court is fine”!

It was a surreal moment immediately tackled by the ref who went “Mr Hesham, you CANNOT refuse the court to be cleaned after I asked for it”. Little smile from Mazen who went : “we can have them now if you want”… Cheeky…

We were at 7/7 and again, Ali collecting the rewards, as 4 errors came out of the magical racquet from Amazing M. 17m length…
And the third, Ali needed to stay really focused as Mazen was not throwing the towel: starting as fast as he did in game 1, Amazing was still shooting and took the lead, with Ali showing “des signes de fatigue” – who knew… from 3/3, up went Amazing, 6/3, 8/5, 9/6, setting up two well deserved game balls at 10/8.

But there again, like in the two previous games, after a return of serve that finds a winner from Ali, it’s three errors in a row from Mazen. Match over, 16m last game…
I feel that Ali will hurt from muscles he forgot he had tomorrow morning…


Ali : try to find different things out [to beat a Hesham’s unique play-style]. We came on with a very dead ball. I know the wind affects it a bit, which makes it even deader, but I think there was something with the ball. You had to hit the ball really over the service line to get it deep into the back corners. I think I dealt with that well in the first, but as you saw in the second and third, I don’t think I played badly but he just comes up with winners from nowhere really.

You just have to accept that at some point. It’s annoying that three of them came at 5-5 in the third, three rolling nicks that I could do nothing with and I don’t think my shot was bad either, but I was just happy that I won that one because I was already thinking of the fourth to be honest. I was thinking that I was going to change the ball, thinking about what my tactics were going to be, but then 10-8 to 10-10 in a fraction of a second. A return nick from myself and a return tin from him and there we were again. I’m very relieved to be through in three for sure.

Revenge is a very negative emotion I don’t want to go on court with. Paul is flying with confidence and rightly so, he’s playing the best squash of his career. The scary thing is, he’s only going to get better from here. But I hope [I am, too] and I have a clear plan in my head about how I’m going to play. Let’s hope I’m able to execute it because I’m sure he’s got a lot of plans ready for me as well. But it’s always enjoyable playing with Paul. He’s very fair, very fit, unfortunately! But hopefully I’m going to be up for it.

We’ve never seen crowds like this from the very beginning, from the quarters it’s been a full crowd. Thanks to the whole events team, they’ve put on a great show. I was one of those kids once and I know exactly how they feel and I’m super proud to be the one playing on this stage at the tournament and I hope I can go one step further, well, two steps further!