Qatar Classic 2021. Youssef Ibrahim advances to Round-3

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.

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.

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Ibrahim does it again. Elshorbagy’s first opening defeat at a Major in 12-years

Last year in the Round of 16, down two games to one, Youssef Ibrahim came back and earned the biggest victory of his career. This year, the Princeton Tiger dictated the entire match, outplaying the World #2 from first ball.

Ibrahim vs Elshorbagy | Match Context

Fans – last year, right here on this court – these two talents met for the first time in Doha’s Round of 16. Remarkably, down two games to one, Youssef Ibrahim saved match ball and came back to earn the biggest victory of his career; defeating 3-time champion Mohamed Elshorbagy in a fifth and deciding game; reaching the Quarterfinals of a PSA Platinum event for the first time.

Youssef Ibrahim -17- (EGY) | Round-2 Emcee Introduction

What this 22-year-old southpaw has accomplished over the past three seasons…is extraordinary. During the 2018-19 campaign, he captured seven PSA Challenger Tour titles – SEVEN – leaping nearly 150-points in the PSA rankings. And when the sport resumed following the global pandemic lockdowns, he launched into the PSA Platinums like a caged animal. In Giza, he won his first two career Platinum main-draw matches at the Egyptian Open; earned that stunning upset here in Doha to reach the Quarterfinals; and made Round of 16 runs at the Black Ball Open and El Gouna International. He defeated James Willstrop at the World Championship – Karim Abdel Gawad in Manchester; and by season’s end, cracked the PSA’s top-20 for the first time. Back in Qatar with a career-high ranking of World #17 – From Cairo, please welcome Youssef Ibrahim.

  • R2 — W — [1] Mohamed Elshorbagy -02- (EGY) | Score: 11-3, 11-5, 7-11, 11-9 (47m)
  • R1 — BYE
  • The work Youssef put-in during the 2018-19 season set him up for the fast-track success he’s enjoyed since squash returned from the global pandemic lockdowns. That season, the southpaw from Cairo won seven PSA Challenger Tour titles. SEVEN. At one point, he went on a 21-match win-streak! Ibrahim climbed from World #199 in September of 2018, to World #51 in August of 2019. Hell of a season
  • Now inside the top-60, Youssef didn’t have to depend on Wild Cards or withdrawals to test himself against the sport’s elite at the PSA Platinums
  • After falling in the first rounds of the US and Egyptian Opens at the start of the 2019-20 season, Youssef knew his ranking would start to slip if he didn’t put wins on the board. So, after a Round-1 win over Daryl Selby at the World Championship in Doha, he entered a pair of PSA Challengers; reaching the Semifinals of the Pakistan International Championship, and the Final of the EM Noll Challenger in Philadelphia
  • During the “pandemic pause” – Ibrahim rode out the lockdown as the World #51
  • When play resumed, Youssef launched into the 2020-21 season like a caged animal. He won his first two Platinum matches in Giza at the Egyptian Open; then upset Mohamed Elshorbagy at the Qatar Classic to reach his first Platinum Quarterfinal
  • He made Round of 16 runs at the Black Ball Open and in El Gouna; defeated James Willstrop at the World Championship in Chicago; and upset World #6 Karim Abdel Gawad en-route to his first PSA Silver Semifinal at the Manchester Open
  • He started the 2019-20 season as the World #50 – and by the end of July, cracked the PSA’s top-20 for the first time
  • Youssef missed the first Platinum event of the new season at the Egyptian Open, instead starting his campaign with a Round-1 loss to Paul Coll at the NetSuite Open
  • Also, with all the success comes a new challenge: Adjusting to Round-1 Bye’s at the Majors. Earlier this month at the US Open, Youssef fell to World #38 Karim El Hammamy in his opening Round-2 match, and was 0-2 to start the 2021-22 campaign. Safe to say he turned that around immediately with tonight’s momentous triumph
[1] Mohamed Elshorbagy -02- (EGY) | Round-2 Emcee Introduction

Fifty. FIVE-ZERO. One of the greatest champions ever to emerge from the Nile Delta, he has held the World #1 Ranking for 50-weeks combined, and has spent 11-years ranked inside the top-10. He’s a World Champion, owns an unheard-of 20 PSA Platinum titles; and last month – in front of the Pyramids at Giza – reached his 29th Platinum Final at the Egyptian Open. Doha, the Qatar Classic, and this glass court have played a significant role in his rise to greatness. It was here, in 2012, he reached his first World Championship Final. It was here, in 2013, he captured his first Platinum title. And it was here, in 2017, he broke Jansher Khan’s long standing record of five successive Doha Finals – by reaching his 6th, to capture his 3rd Qatar Q-Terminals Classic title. From Egypt – please welcome World #2 – The Beast of Alexandria, Mohamed Elshorbagy.

R2 — L — Youssef Ibrahim -17- (EGY) | Score: 3-11, 5-11, 11-7, 9-11 (47m)
R1 — BYE

  • No other player has reached more successive Finals in Doha
  • 6 consecutive Finals on this court – 2012 World Championship Final to the 2017 Qatar Classic title
  • Qatar Q-Terminals Classic Champion in 2013, 2015, 2017 (Finalist in 2016)
  1. Janshir Khan (PAK) — 97-months — Played Feb-87 to Dec-98 / 11-year career
  2. Jahangir Khan (PAK) — 94-months — Apr-80 to Nov-93 / 13-year career
  3. Peter Nicol (ENG) — 60-months — Jan-92 to Oct-06 / 14-year career
  4. Geoff Hunt (AUS) — 59-months — Jan-75 to Mar-82 / 7-year career, nearly 5 spent as World #1
  5. Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) — 50-months — Aug-06 to Present / 15-year career continues
  1. Jansher Khan (99)
  2. Jahangir Khan (62)
  3. Mike Corren (52)
  4. Peter Nicol (49)
  5. Mohamed Elshorbagy (43)

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Squash Emcee Andy Taylor. Qatar Classic 2020. Champions in Doha 1992 to Today

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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.”