Round of 16 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.
First meeting. Epic battle. Emotional, meaningful triumph for the Black Falcon.
Mazen Hesham -13- (EGY) | Round of 16 Emcee Introduction
They call him…unorthodox; unpredictable. But one thing’s for certain: Both qualities give opponents headaches; and make him one of the most entertaining talents to experience live. In 2012, he emerged from juniors as one of Egypt’s most dynamic young talents – and by 2015, was making deep runs at the Majors. Here at the 2015 Qatar Q-Terminals Classic, at just 21-years-old, he reached his first Major Semifinal, and cracked the PSA’s top-15. A year later, injuries derailed his momentum (at one point, dropping him outside the top-50).
But his – is a journey of perseverance. Over the past three seasons, he’s reached three Platinum Quarterfinals, earning wins over top-10 names like Elias and Gawad. Last March, at the Egyptian National Championship, he defeated World #1 Ali Farag. And today, he’s back in Doha right where he left off 6-years-ago – as the World #13. From Cairo, please welcome The Black Falcon, Mazen Hesham.
- R3 — W — Youssef Ibrahim -17- (EGY) | Score: 9-11, 11-4, 11-13, 11-6, 11-8 (61m)
- R2 — W — George Parker -36- (ENG) | Score: 11-4, 11-6, 11-7 (25m) | RECAP
- R1 — BYE
- Mazen Hesham emerged from juniors as one of the hottest young Egyptian talents on Tour. Immediately following 2012’s World Junior Championship in Doha, the 18-year-old launched into his first full professional season by capturing 3 PSA Challenger Tour titles in 4-Finals. By the end of the 2012-13 season, he’d leapt from World #114 to World #47
- Over the next two seasons – he captured three more Challenger titles; reached his first Platinum Quarterfinal at the British Open; and broke into the PSA’s top-20
- By the start of the 2015-16 season, he was an undeniable threat. Behind wins over Ali Farag and Omar Mosaad here in Doha, he reached his first Major Quarterfinal at the 2015 Qatar Q-Terminals Classic and climbed to a career-high ranking of World #13
- Then…the dreaded hip injury at the start of the 2016-17 season. The Black Falcon didn’t play a single match from late September until April. He dropped out of the top-50. At one point, plummeted to World #70.
- But he persevered
- At the start of the 2017-18 season, Mazen made Final-4 runs at three PSA Challengers and regularly qualified at the Platinums. By April, he was back in the top-30
- During the 2018-19 season, he reached the Quarters again in Hull to break back into the top-25
- Then, during the pandemic shortened 2019-20 seasson, Hesham became a Round of 16 staple at the Platinums. When the global virus shut everything down in March, he found himself back inside the top-15 – where he remained during the 2020-21 campaign thanks to three more Final-16 Platinum appearances and a Quarterfinal run at the Egyptian Open
- This season, he reached the Quarters in Giza again; and earlier this month, made a Round of 16 run at the US Open. This week, he returns to Doha where he left off 6-years-ago: As the World #13
- That is persistent, dogged determination
Youssef Ibrahim -17- (EGY) | Round of 16 Emcee Introduction
Last night, this 22-year-old made a statement. For the second time on this court, he defeated 3-time Qatar Q-Terminals Classic Champion Mohamed Elshorbagy; becoming the first player in 12-years to knock-out the Beast of Alexandria in his opening match at a Major. Tonight, he’s back inside the glass looking to reach Doha’s Quarterfinals for the second year in a row. A two-time, first-team All-America Princeton University Tiger – he has been on-fire since the start of last season. After his Quarterfinal run here in Doha – he reached the Final-16 at Black Ball, El Gouna, the PSA World Championship – and upset World #6 Karim Abdel Gawad en-route to the Manchester Semifinals. By season’s end, he climbed 33 spots in the rankings, from World #50 to World #17. From Cairo, please welcome Youssef Ibrahim.
- R3 — L — Mazen Hesham -13- (EGY) | Score: 11-9, 4-11, 13-11, 6-11, 8-11 (61m)
- R2 — W —  Mohamed Elshorbagy -02- (EGY) | Score: 11-3, 11-5, 7-11, 11-9 (47m) | RECAP
- R1 — BYE
- The work Youssef put-in during the 2018-19 season set him up for the fast-track succees 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 Quaterfinal
- 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 went 0-2 to start the 2021-22 campaign…until his victory yesterday over Mohamed Elshorbagy
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.”