Shorbagy downs Palmer in a thriller; Will meet Mosaad in final
Shorbagy (right) proved too much for Palmer in a classic contest. (Birmingham Athletic Club photo)
Bloomfield Hills, Mich. – Experience gave way to youth Sunday at the 2011 Motor City Open presented by the Suburban Collection. Young guns Mohamed El Shorbagy and Omar Mosaad advanced past veterans David Palmer and Adrian Grant, respectively, to set up an All-Egyptian final. On another tense day for Egyptian youth in the streets of Cairo, Egyptian youth reigned supreme on American squash courts.
Shorbagy and Mosaad will compete Monday night for a piece of the $50,000 prize money and a Rolex watch from Greenstone Jewelers.
The pressure was telling. Palmer vents his frustration on his racquet. (Birmingham Athletic Club photo)
Shorbagy, only 20 years-old and ranked #9 in the world, held his own against the big 34-year-old Palmer – a former world #1 and current #16 – in a fast-paced affair that ended in a 3-1 (11-5, 4-11, 11-7, 12-10) result. It was the first time the two competed against each other, and the idea of playing against such a decorated squash player left Shorbagy in awe.
“I’m so proud to play with someone like David Palmer,” Shorbagy said of the Aussie who has won 26 career titles and been a mainstay in the Top Five for the better part of a decade. “It’s the first time I’ve ever played him, and I’ve always wanted to play him. I didn’t care about winning or losing. I was just enjoying every single second of that match.”
Palmer (left) fought hard until the very end. (Birmingham Athletic Club photo)
“Playing him and beating him, that’s something that makes me proud and something I’m going to tell my kids one day,” he added. “I played David Palmer once and beat him once. I know he was thirty-four years old but still I will say I beat David Palmer!”
For two games, the two big hitters sized each other up. Each game went quickly, one game each.
“I didn’t have a game plan in the beginning,” Shorbagy said. “All I did know was that he has the best backhand volley in the world. So I was just trying to keep it away from him.
The first two games we were trying to know each other’s game, and then in the third and fourth, it was tight all the way.”
Indeed, games three and four were enthralling – the best squash of the tourney. Two top players at the top of their games. Drives, drop shots, lunging defense, spectacular kills, subtle boasts. It was textbook stuff and the capacity crowd at the Birmingham Athletic Club loved it.
Palmer summoning energy from a hidden reserve after a gruelling rally. (Birmingham Athletic Club photo)
“I was trying to be patient, not going for silly errors,” continued Shorbagy after the match. “I could see in his face that he was really tired, but because he has so much experience, he knows how to play tired.”
The crowd rallied behind Palmer at the end – eager to see a fifth game of this wondrous squash. But this was Egypt’s day.
Shorbagy’s opponent in tomorrow’s final – countryman Mosaad – is big, 22-years old, and ranked world #15. And he held his ground against the physical, 30 year-old Grant, who was coming off back-to-back, five-game marathons on Friday and Saturday. The strain of those two matches – along with the fact that the Englishman is still is recovering from a hip tear – worked to Mosaad’s favor, as he recorded his first win against Grant in four tries.
Mosaad (right) got the better of Grant in a very physical match. (Birmingham Athletic Club photo)
“I remember what I do wrong,” Mosaad said of his strategy since the two last met in Spain in November. “Today, I made the tactics to win this game. He played two matches before me – difficult matches. So I tried to make the game quick. The difference between this match and the others (I lost) was I make this game quicker, a little more volleys and I get the win.”
Monday’s final marks the third meeting between Mosaad and Shorbagy, with their series tied 1-1. Shorbagy won in Spain in 2008 and Mosaad took the most recent encounter in Finland in 2009.
“Me and Mosaad are really good friends off court,” Shorbagy says. “When people see us playing, they actually think we hate each other. But me and Omar are good friends and are really close from when we were really, really young. So, it’s going to be fun tomorrow.”
“I’m just happy to reach the final,” says the rising Egyptian star. “Whoever’s going to win, it’s going to be a good day because it’s going to be an Egyptian.”