R3 : Men’s Pyramid Matches

Tarek Momen despatches Iker Pajares in the first men’s match in front of the Pyramids

[3] Tarek Momen (Egy) 3-1 Iker Pajares (Esp) 11-6, 11-1, 11-2 (27m)


Tarek : It’s always a special feeling coming back here.

It’s a special venue, everyone would kill to play five minutes on this court. I feel very privileged to have this opportunity and keep playing every year and happy to be back after tomorrow.

Today, I think I did pretty well throughout the whole match. I wanted to start a little bit sharper than yesterday, I played well yesterday but I just didn’t start well, so I wanted to flip that. I’m very happy with the way I managed to keep my errors at a low rate and pleased to get through in three games.

I know Iker is a very tough opponent, but I knew that he had a couple of tough matches, so I wanted to make sure that I made the first game as tough as possible, so I could run away with a few points. The first game was a bit tough and the conditions today were pretty hot, so we felt it a bit on court and I wanted to make the most of it.

I’m playing Zahed next, he is a good friend of mine and is a really good player. He hasn’t been playing for a while, he hasn’t been able to travel, so it’s good for him to come here after such a long break and make it to the quarters. Hopefully it will be a good match and everyone will enjoy it.

[1] Mohamed ElShorbagy (Egy) 3-0 Karim El Hammamy (Egy) 11-8, 11-4, 11-9 (50m)

Mohamed is such a clever player. He lately doesn’t play at a fast and frantic pace anymore, as he says himself, ‘I’m too old’.  But today he did. Why? Because he spent 33m on court, while Karim has 142m of huge battles.

And it paid off for two games. Karim, only able to react – beautifully I might add – but react only, and wasn’t really able to make Mohamed doubt.

Finally, after two ridiculously fast games, Mohamed slowed down juuuuust a little bit, and it was enough for the contender to try and step in front of his opponent. Suddenly, Karim was able to play HIS game, slowing down the pace and forcing a few errors out of Mohamed.

But as El Hammamy explained himself at the end of the match, at 9/7 in the third, he just lost the plot, and wasn’t able to contain a fuming Mohamed having be penalised for a push that he considered being really only a little brush at that point! It took only a few seconds to Mohamed to “done and dusted” the third…

Mohamed : Karim is a great player, he won the World Junior Championship and he focused on his studies at the American University, which is one of the toughest universities in Egypt, so he didn’t play as much as he would have liked to, so he’s now playing more in the big stages, where he should be. This is our first meeting and it was a high quality match.

The most challenging thing today was actually the court conditions. I came to practice yesterday and it was really windy and the weather was much nicer than today because today was so humid and hot. I’m just happy to be able to win the last point and not go to a fourth game because it was tough at the end.

I haven’t played a tournament here in the last two years, the last tournament I played here was in 2016. It’s an honour to be back here playing in front of the Pyramids and in front of an Egyptian crowd. It’s never easy to be back playing in Egypt because there is so much pressure, but I feel blessed every time I can go on court and perform.

I’m playing Yow in the quarters, he’s like a younger brother to me. We live in Bristol, just next block to each other, he came to Bristol a couple of years ago to train there and it should be an exciting match. I’m really happy for him to be in the quarters, he has had some big battles to make it here and a great tournament the last event as well. It’s our second meeting, we practice a lot in Bristol but I think our match in two days will be a bit different.”

Karim : I don’t know what’s happening to me. I’m up 9/7, I know Mohamed is going to take quick rallies. I played a very bad crosscourt, and then he took it. Suddenly, 8/9. Then 2 tins.

That’s unacceptable at this level you know.

But that’s fine, all credit to him, he always puts the pressure on you with his accuracy, you know how it is. But I think I was accurate too in the first and third game, forget about the second, it was horrible but that’s the pressure he put on me in that game.

I came back in the third, but at 9/7, the experience and the level of matches he plays, and the big stages made the difference, pushing me to make errors. That’s why he is world number 1, world Champion, the list goes on…