Mohammed-el-Shorbagy finds his focus in time to beat Borja Golan

Former World No. 1 Karim Darwish was ruthless as he eased past Tom Richards of England 11-3, 11-4, 11-6 in the pre-quarterfinals of the $165,000 Punj Lloyd PSA Masters squash tournament at the Siri Fort Sports Complex here on Wednesday.

Combining explosive power and delightful touch, the second-seeded Darwish literally toyed with Richards who had shown the door to another talented Egyptian, Hishan Mohd. Ashour.

Enjoying it

“I'm really enjoying it, and happy about my performance,'' the fifth-ranked Darwish, who had reached back-to-back finals in Hong Kong and Kuwait recently said.

Darwish will be next challenged by the two-time former World junior champion Mohammed El Shorbagy, a lad 10 years younger, who had grown up idolising him among Egyptians.

“Shorbagy is a tough opponent, and I need to be on my toes. He is hungry and eager. I have to use my experience and be smart on court,'' said Darwish.

The 20-year-old Shorbagy overcame spells of inconsistent play and a tough opponent, Borja Golan of Spain, to make the quarterfinals in four games. He conceded the need to focus a lot better to arrest the swing of momentum.

Shorbagy observed that he had problems playing the top Egyptian players with the same confidence that he showed against other top players, including World No. 1 Nick Mathew. He recalled his good fight against his hero Darwish recently in Kuwait when he lost 13-15 in the fourth game.

“He is like a big brother to me, with a 10-year difference. I will try to continue in the same fashion and win those two points,'' said Shorbagy cheekily, even as he gratefully acknowledged Darwish's role in helping him win the World junior title by training with him.

Friends and foes

There was another conflict of friendship on court, as another former World No. 1, currently ranked third, Gregory Gaultier of France beat his roommate Mohd. Azlan Iskandar, in straight games.

The Frenchman was so much on top of his game that he often sent the strong Malaysian scampering on futile errands around the court.

“We were in different parts of the draw when we made our plan for stay. But the draw changed after Nick Mathew pulled out and I had to face him in the second round. I was in Malaysia for a month, and we know each other's game. He is fast and hits the ball early. His game helps me improve my standard,'' remarked Gaultier.

Of course, with his vast experience and rich game, Gaultier was able to tackle the problem of friendship pretty easily.

“One hour before the match, I go this way and he goes the other way. Once the door closes, you only think about the game'', he said.

The results (pre-quarterfinals):

Karim Darwish (Egy) bt Tom Richards (Eng) 11-3, 11-4, 11-6; Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egy) bt Borja Golan (Esp) 11-6, 11-8, 6-11, 11-7; Laurens Jan Anjema (Ned) bt Omar Mosaad (Egy) 11-4, 7-11, 11-7, 11-5; Gregory Gaultier (Fra) bt Mohammed Azlan Iskandar (Mas) 11-7, 11-6, 11-8.

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