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.
Fifteenth meeting. Third at Qatar Classic. Important win for Abouelghar
This was the 15th career meeting between these two top Egyptian talents. Karim Abdel Gawad leads their head to head with 9 victories, including their most recent – in the 3rd-place match of the 2020 Egyptian National Championship. In 2019, they met in the Championship match of the PSA World Tour Finals – where they battled for 92-minutes, before Gawad captured the title, 12-10 in the fifth.
Today marked their third clash at the Qatar Classic. Ten years ago, Mohamed Abouelghar won their first professional meeting in the opening round of Qatar Classic qualifying. Two years later, Karim Abdel Gawad won their last Doha clash in 2013’s 1st-Round. Today, Mohamed displayed the brilliant shot-making that elevated him to World #7 during the 2018-19 season. Ever since the 2019 World Tour Finals, top-10 opponents like Gawad have been his kryptonite. Games two, three and four were significant steps in the right direction.
This wasn’t an upset. This was Abouelghar back to playing his best squash when it matters most.
Mohamed Abouelghar -15- (EGY) | Round-2 Emcee Introduction
At 28-years-old, he is a 6-time PSA Platinum Quarterfinalist, an Egyptian National Champion, owns 10 career PSA titles, and has been ranked as high as World #7. Ten years ago, he made his Qatar Q-Terminals Classic debut as an 18-year-old qualifier ranked outside the top-100; and later that season, reached the Final of the PSA World Junior Championship on this court. Today, he’s back in Doha as the World #15, hungry for his first Qatar Q-Terminals victory since 2015; when as a qualifier – down two games to none – he came back to defeat 2005 champion James Willstrop. Competing in his 8th Qatar Q-Terminals Classic – From Egypt, please welcome The Bullet, Mohamed Abouelghar.
- R2 — W —  Karim Abdel Gawad -06- (EGY) | Score: 4-11, 11-3, 11-8, 11-3 (45m)
- R1 — BYE
- One of Mohamed Abouelghar’s biggest victories was his Round of 16 upset of Karim Abdel Gawad at the 2017 British Open. At the time, Gawad was the reigning World Champion and World #2. Abouelghar was the World #23 and hadn’t beaten Karim in nearly four years. With the victory, Abouelghar reached his first of six career Platinum Quarterfinals
- A steady top-20 talent over the past five seasons; unlike other Egyptian talents, the Bullet didn’t burst onto the scene and rocket-up the rankings. His climb to the top of the sport has been measured — and tested by injuries
- No question, the Bullet’s best season came during the 2018-19 campaign. After 3-months off, he tore into the new season by capturing his first Gold-level title at the China Open, defeating former World #1 Gregory Gaultier en-route to the title. He then won his first PSA Silver title at the Motor City Open, and upset World #1 Ali Farag at the Grasshopper Cup. At the Majors, he reached the Quarterfinals at four of the seven Platinums and made his Round of 16 debut at the World Championship. Inside the top-10, he reached the championship match of the PSA World Tour Finals and jumped to a career-high ranking of World #7
- Since then, the results haven’t been as epic, but they’ve been good enough. Injuries and the global pandemic haven’t helped
- When squash returned from the 6-month shutdown that abruptly ended the 2019-20 season, Abouelghar reached Round-2 of the Manchester Open; then was forced to withdraw from the Egyptian Open after testing positive for COVID-19
- At the remaining Platinum events of the 2020-21 season, he lost his opening matches at the Qatar Classic and Black Ball Open; then fell in the Round of 16 in El Gouna, at the World Championship, and at the British Open
- With Round of 16 losses in Giza and Philadelphia this season, the Bullet’s ranking is starting to slip. Before the new season began, he was the World #12. Here in Doha, he’s the World #15
 Karim Abdel Gawad -06- (EGY) | Round-2 Emcee Introduction
The #5-seed in this year’s draw – this mesmerizing maestro from Alexandria is a PSA World Champion, a World Tour Finals Champion, a former World #1; and in 2016, captured his first of four career PSA Platinum titles right here at the Qatar Q-Terminals Classic. In fact, his 19-match win streak during the 2016-17 season remains one of the most memorable accomplishments in modern squash. At the Worlds in Cairo – he defeated Nick Matthew, Mohamed Elshorbagy and Ramy Ashour to become World Champion; then captured his first PSA Platinum title here in Doha, his second at the Tournament of Champions, and by season’s end claimed the World #1 ranking. In all, he owns 23 career PSA titles, is a 37-time Finalist; and a win this afternoon will mark his 300th career victory on the PSA World Tour. From Egypt, please welcome 2016 Champion and the #6 Player in the World – The Baby Faced Assassin, Karim Abdel Gawad.
- R2 — L — Mohamed Abouelghar -15- (EGY) | Score: 11-4, 3-11, 8-11, 3-11 (45m)
- R1 — BYE
- 12-years-ago, Karim Abdel Gawad made his Doha debut at the 2009 Qatar Classic as an 18-year-old qualifier ranked outside the top-100. He pushed World #36 Eric Galvez of Mexico for 97-minutes, but fell 13-15 in the deciding game
- The next year, he qualified for the 2010 Qatar Classic and faced Gregory Gaultier for the first time (lost in four games)
- In October of 2011, he lost to Mohamed Abouelghar in the first round of Qualifying, but returned to Doha in December to captured Arab Games Silver
- At the 2013 Qatar Classic, Gawad reached his first PSA Platinum Quarterfinal (lost to 2-time champion Karim Darwish)
- Karim then captured his first Platinum title at the 2016 Qatar Classic, right after he won the PSA World Championship in Cario
- In 2017 and 2018, he fell early to Simon Rösner and Ali Farag, respectively – and in 2019, James Willstrop upended Gawad’s run at the 2019 PSA World Championship on this court
- Last year, Karim withdrew from the Qatar Classic with a heel injury; an issue that plagued his performances during the remainder of the 2020-21 season
- It’s a shame, because Gawad was on-fire right after the sport’s return from global lockdowns; he reached the Finals of both the Manchester Open and the PSA World Tour Finals
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.”