Round-2 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.
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.
Second meeting. Asal overcomes slow start. Overpowers Ghosal’s tactics
These two clashed for the first time five months ago, in Round-2 of the El Gouna International Open, under identical Platinum circumstances: Both came into the match after a 1st-Round Bye. After 54 hard-fought minutes, Mostafa Asal emerged the victor in three games. Tonight, the Raging Bull needed over an hour to get the job done.
 Mostafa Asal -10- (EGY) | Round-2 Emcee Introduction
Just 12-days-ago, this 20-year-old Egyptian National Champion captured his first PSA Platinum title at the US Open, defeating top-10 talents Paul Coll, Diego Elias and Tarek Momen to lift trophy. The question is no longer: “WHEN will he capture his first Major?” It’s: “HOW MANY will he accumulate over the course of his career?” Even legend Jansher Khan says one day, this young talent will follow in his footsteps and become World Champion; and in Jansher’s words: “That day may not be far away.” Making his Qatar Q-Terminals Classic debut – From Egypt, please welcome the reigning PSA World Tour Finals Champion and #10 Player in the World – The Raging Bull, Mostafa Asal.
- R2 — W — Saurav Ghosal -16- (IND) | Score: 7-11, 13-11, 11-9, 11-6 (69m)
- R1 — BYE
- Champions recognize champions, even before those champions become champions. Make sense?
- For several years, while Asal was a Junior, those at the top of the sport all recognized his potential, starting with Mostafa’s physique and athleticism. Put another way, all recognized that Asal’s “foundation” for greatness was rock solid. But would he put in the work necessary to develop his technique, strategy and expand his instincts? Short answer: Yes
- During Gregory Gaultier’s 2017 run the to the El Gouna International title, the French General practiced with 16-year-old Mostafa Asal every morning; not something an 11-time PSA Platinum champion would do unless the teenager had legitimate skills, and could push him on court
- When a legend like 8-time World Champion Jansher Khan (who spent 97-months as the sport’s top-ranked player) acknowledges potential and predicts future greatness; that has a meaningful impact. Both for the promising talent, and (importantly) for the talent’s competition. Reputational intimidation often defeats opponents before they even take the court
- The full quote from Jansher Khan back in March: “I like what I see, and I believe one day he will follow in my footsteps to become a World Champion and that day may not be that far away”
- At 20-years-old, Asal has a winning record against three of the top-5 players on the PSA World Tour: Mohamed Elshorbagy, Paul Coll and Tarek Momen. Meanwhile, Marwan Elshorbagy and World #1 Ali Farag have only lost to Asal once, in the best-of-3 format at the PSA World Tour Finals.
- The truth is, the Raging Bull’s climb to the top officially launched with his lights-out PSA World Tour Finals run at the Mall of Arabia last June. This month’s US Open triumph is just affirmation that he’s chosen the quickest and steepest path to the summit
- But in the words of 6-time World Champion Jahangir Khan, Asal has now become “the hunted, rather than the hunter.” It will be interesting to see how The Raging Bull responds to the role reversal
Saurav Ghosal -16- (IND) | Round-2 Emcee Introduction
In 2006, he made his Doha debut as a skinny 20-year-old kid from West Bengal, and became the first Indian squash player ever to medal at the Asian Games. Now, 15-years-later – he is undeniably the greatest Men’s talent in his nation’s history. Ranked as high as World #10 – he’s a 5-time Major Quarterfinalist, including two World Championships – and owns 9 PSA titles in 17 career Finals. Competing in his 11th Qatar Q-Terminals Classic – he is back on the glass court here in Doha, hungry for his first match victory of the new season. From India, please welcome Asian Games Gold Medalist, Commonwealth Games Silver Medalist, and 13-time Indian Nationals Champion – World #16, Saurav Ghosal.
- R2 — L —  Mostafa Asal -10- (EGY) | Score: 11-7, 11-13, 9-11, 6-11 (69m)
- R1 — BYE
- The “Draw Gods” have not been kind to Ghosal at the start of the 2021-22 season; Saurav faced Karim Abdel Gawad, Joel Makin and Ali Farag in his opening matches at the Egyptian, NetSuite, and US Opens respectively
- After three defeats (and a 4-5 record last season), India’s top talent has dropped outside the PSA’s top-15 for the first time since January of 2018
- It’s tough, because Ghosal was showing legitimate momentum in early 2020. In February and March, he reached the championship match of the Bronze-level Pittsburg Open; captured his 13th Indian Nationals title; and made his Quarterfinal debut at the Canary Wharf Classic. Then, pandemic global lockdowns abruptly ended the season
- As a top-16 talent, reestablishing rhythm isn’t easy with Round-1 Bye’s at the Platinums. Aside from victories over Tom Richards in Egypt and Cairo – Saurav came up short until the World Championships in Chicago, where he reached the Round of 16
SAURAV GHOSAL IS AN INDIAN RECORD BREAKER
- 2006: In Doha, became the first squash player from India ever to medal at the Asian Games (Bronze)
- 2013: In the UK, became the 1st player from India ever to reach the QF of the PSA World Championship
- 2014: India’s 1st Asian Games Team Championship Gold Medal. Defeated World #7 Ong Beng Hee of Malaysia in the championship round
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.”