Round-1 match recap from Squash Emcee Andy Taylor, Voice of the Qatar Classic.
Since 2017, Andy Taylor has been the voice of the Qatar Classic Squash Championship. With his individual style and delivery, Andy writes and narrates each player’s introduction; highlighting career accomplishments, providing context for fans before each match. As tournament emcee, Andy also interviews the winners and hosts the trophy ceremony at the conclusion of the championship.
In addition to his role with the Qatar Squash Federation, Taylor also hosts Doha’s professional tennis events, the Qatar ExxonMobil Open and Qatar Total Open.
A voice acting veteran, Andy is best known as the Voice of the US Open in New York. There, he has spent the last 20-years shaping the sound of the tennis season’s final Grand Slam; enhancing the fan experience. Informing. Entertaining. Celebrating sport and its colorful cast of characters.
Fourth meeting. Serme wins the long rallies to earn another 3-game victory
This was the fourth meeting between these two talents, and first at a PSA Platinum. 11-years-ago, Mazen Gamal won their first clash in the Quarterfinals of the Swiss Open PSA Challenger. Lucas Serme has now won their last three battles.
Serme vs Gamal | Match Context
Originally, Lucas Serme was scheduled to play India’s Vikram Malhotra in Round-1. However, just four days out, Malhotra withdrew, opening the door for the World #67, Mazen Gamal. Earlier this month, Vikram (World #47) earned his first career match victory at a PSA Platinum, defeating Tom Richards to reach the 2nd-Round of the US Open. It was a big deal. Vikram hadn’t won a match since before the global pandemic abruptly ended the 2019-20 season. It was his first triumph in 19-months.
Lucas Serme -39- (FRA) | Round-1 Emcee Introduction
Ranked as high as World #32, this 2-time French Nationals Champion is now an 18-time Finalist on Tour, and owns 7 PSA Challenger titles in all. At the Majors, he’s been one of the last 16 standing 3-times – including the 2017 World Championship, the 2018 British Open, and last year here in Doha – in his Qatar Q-Terminals Classic debut. Last Winter – at home in France – with marquee events still shuttered throughout most of the world – he reached three consecutive PSA Challenger Finals in Bordeaux, Nancy and Congnac; then took Mohamed Elshorbagy to five games in the Semifinals of a special invitational in Pakistan. Competing in his second Qatar Q-Terminals Classic – From France, please welcome Lucas Serme.
- R1 — W — Mazen Gamal -67- (EGY) | Score: 11-4, 11-5, 11-6 (40m)
- Last season, following the global shutdown of the sport, Serme fell early in Manchester and at the Egyptian Open
- Here in Doha, he reached the Round of 16 in his Qatar Classic debut, defeating Todd Harrity and Tom Richards, before falling to Joel Makin
- Though he fell early in the remaining Majors – from December to February, Lucas reached three consecutive PSA Challenger Finals at home in France; losing all three Finals to compatriot Victor Crouin
- At a special invitational in Pakistan, Serme defeated local favorite Tayyab Aslam – then battled five games with Mohamed Elshorbagy. In fact, for the second time in his career – Lucas was up 2-0 on the Beast of Alexandria
- In 2019, Serme lost his first 5-game battle to Elshorbagy in a Shanghai thriller during Round-2 of the China Open. Final score: 11-8, 11-9, 7-11, 4-11, 2-11 (86m). Physical attrition. The Beast’s specialty.
Mazen Gamal -67- (EGY) | Round-1 Emcee Introduction
Just four days ago, he got word he needed to hop a flight to Doha. Thanks to a late player withdrawal, and thanks to his ranking of World #67; he’d earned direct entry into the Qatar Q-Terminals Classic 2021. In all, he owns 9 PSA Challenger Tour titles, has been ranked as high as World #51; and last January in Poland, reached his 16th PSA Challenger Tour Final at the Enjoy Open, where he faced legend Gregory Gaultier in the championship match. In 2009, he made his Qatar Q-Terminals Classic debut as a 23-year-old qualifier. Now, 12 years later, he’s back in Doha competing in his 22nd career PSA Platinum – in pursuit of his first main draw victory at a Major. From Egypt, please welcome Mazen Gamal.
- R1 — L — Lucas Serme -39- (FRA) | Score: 4-11, 5-11, 6-11 (40m)
- Vikram Malhotra withdrew on 13 October, opening the door for Mazen Gamal
- Never know when opportunity will strike. One has to be ready at all times
- Gamal is the third addition to the tournament since the initial draw was released at the end of September
- World #60 Bernat Jaume replaced World #7 Fares Dessouky, who suffered a neck injury last month during his season opener in Giza
- World #63 Ryosei Kobayashi replaced Abdulla Al Tamimi, who’s still recovering from the calf injury he sustained at the Egyptian Open
► MORE EMCEE RECAPS FROM THE QATAR CLASSIC SQUASH CHAMPIONSHIP 2021
QATAR SQUASH: 27 YEARS OF HIGHLIGHTS AND HISTORY
For nearly three decades, the Qatar Squash Federation has hosted the sport’s elite at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex. Originally coined the Qatar International, Pakistan’s Jansher Khan captured the first five Doha titles from 1992 to 1996. Canada’s Jonathan Power then won back-to-back Doha titles over Scotland’s Peter Nichol; earning triumphs at the 1997 Qatar International and the 1998 World Championship.
Enter the Qatar Classic Squash Championship
After a two year absence, professional squash returned to Doha in 2001. Rebranded the Qatar Classic, Peter Nichol – now representing England – again reached back-to-back Doha Finals. This time, he captured the first two Qatar Classic titles over Australia’s David Palmer. England’s Lee Beachill and James Willstrop won the next two Qatar Classic titles, before Egypt began its outright Doha dominance.
In fact, since Ramy Ashour became the first Egyptian Doha champion at the 2006 Qatar Classic; the Arab nation has won 13 of the last 15 Doha titles, including three World Championships. Alexandria’s Mohamed Elshorbagy – the only 3-time Qatar Classic Champion – reached a record six consecutive finals on this court between 2012 and 2017. Most recently, Ali Farag won back-to-back Qatar Classic titles in 2018 and 2020. Unfortunately, the World #1 won’t be back in Doha this year to defend the title.
Professional Squash and COVID-19
Like every international sport, the recent global pandemic has created tremendous challenges for squash events worldwide. Due to COVID’s insidious spread, the 2019-20 season ended abruptly in March; immediately following Mohamed Elshorbagy’s victory at the 2020 Canary Wharf Classic.
Without fans, the sport launched its return six months later in Manchester – another Elshorbagy triumph. However, with global cases hitting a second surge, all events in the United Kingdom, United States and Asia were shuttered. The 2020-2021 season was in peril. At the time, as a U.S. resident, Andy Taylor made the difficult decision to suspend all international travel. Reluctantly, he stepped away from his role as emcee at the 2020 Qatar Classic.
Saviors. The Qatar Squash Federation and CIB’s CEO Hussein Abaza of Egypt
Over the next 10-months, Qatar and Egypt were the only two nations to host PSA Platinum events. Without the U.S. Open. Hong Kong Open. New York’s Tournament of Champions. The Windy City Open. And British Open — The sport needed bold and determined intervention.
Cautiously, the QSF moved forward with the Qatar Classic, providing a COVID safe bubble for players and crew. Meanwhile, Egypt’s Hussein Abaza went above and beyond. Remarkably, CIB’s CEO spearheaded two PSA World Tour Finals, the Egyptian Open, two Black Ball Opens and El Gouna International. From September to June, he funded six expensive, top-tier PSA events for both the men’s and women’s tours. Egypt became the hub of the sport – a safe place to compete while vaccinations took hold; while the world recovered.
Thankfully, since July, much of the globe has slowly opened back up. Chicago hosted the World Championships. Hull welcomed the sport’s elite for the British Open. Last month, it was only fitting that the 2021-22 season began in front of the pyramids at Giza. True to form, Egyptian rivals Ali Farag and Mohamed Elshorbagy headlined the event; delivering an exceptional 5-game Final, where Farag lifted his 9th Platinum trophy.
A Sport Back on Track, thanks to human compassion and ingenuity
After September’s Egyptian Open, the U.S. swing was also a tremendous success. From San Francisco to the US Open’s immaculate new Arlen Specter US Squash Center in Philadelphia; fans responsibly returned, recently tested or fully vaccinated. All starved to once again see the best in the world compete inside the glass.
Now, squash returns to the Arab Gulf for the 17th Qatar Classic Squash Championship.
Thankfully, as global vaccinations continue their ascent, the new squash season is beginning to follow a familiar path. While the past 19-months have been dark, spotlighting the reality of human fragility; it has also been an epoch defined by compassion, resilience and hope. Squash, as a sport and lifestyle, embodies these traits.
When we choose to quiet the noise, steel our determination, and commit to selflessly work together toward collective good; ultimately toward survival — the darkness is no match for our blinding ingenuity.
No, the fight isn’t over. But we’ve hit some astonishing nicks, and continue to edge closer toward “match ball.”