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.
Fifth meeting. Physical. Testy. Tense. Understandable, considering their history.
All credit to Soliman, who played valiantly despite carrying a leg injury into the match. The first game lasted over 30-minutes with loads of contact; the reality of facing an imposing opponent who takes up acres of real estate. As usual, Asal used his strength, size and reach to overcome Youssef’s quickness and athleticism. After 52-minutes, Soliman cashed it in, to prevent worsening the injury.
 Mostafa Asal -10- (EGY) | Round of 16 Emcee Introduction
Just 2-weeks-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.” On Monday, he made his Qatar Q-Terminals Classic debut with a victory over World #16 Saurav Ghosal – and today, looks to extend his win streak to seven consecutive matches. From Egypt, please welcome the reigning PSA World Tour Finals Champion and #10 Player in the World – The Raging Bull, Mostafa Asal.
- R3 — W — Youssef Soliman -19- (EGY) | Score: 13-11, 11-8, 2-1 ret (52m)
- R2 — W — Saurav Ghosal -16- (IND) | Score: 7-11, 13-11, 11-9, 11-6 (69m) | RECAP
- 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.
Youssef Soliman -19- (EGY) | Round of 16 Emcee Introduction
Back in Doha with a career-high ranking of World #19; on Monday – down 2-games-to-1 – he came back to earn his first career victory over “The Hammer of Thor” Omar Mosaad; advancing to the Round of 16 here at the Qatar Q-Terminals Classic for the first time. And over the past two years, he has turned up the heat at the Majors. He made his debut Final-16 run at the 2020 Tournament of Champions. Two months later, he defeated both Mostafa Asal and Marwan Elshorbagy to reach the Round of 16 at Windy City. But his biggest breakthrough came just 2-months-ago. || With his August run to the Quarterfinals of the British Open – at 24-years-old, he cracked the PSA’s top-20 for the first time. Competing in his 3rd Qatar Q-Terminals Classic – in pursuit of his second Platinum Quarterfinal – From Egypt, please welcome Youssef Soliman.
- R3 — L —  Mostafa Asal -10- (EGY) | Score: 11-13, 8-11, 1-2 ret (52m)
- R2 — W — Omar Mossad -20- (EGY) | Score: 11-2, 6-11, 10-12, 11-3, 11-8 (66m) | RECAP
- R1 — BYE
- While this is Soliman’s first Round of 16 run at the Qatar Classic, Youssef has performed well at other events here in Qatar
- In 2015, at just 18-years-old and ranked outside the top-150, Youssef made a Quarterfinal run at the Qatar Circuit No.2 Challenger
- Two years later, ranked World #56, he reached the Semifinals of the Qatar Circuit No.4 Challenger, where he fell to local hero Abdulla Al Tamimi
- Last year, he won his first Platinum-level match in Doha over Mazen Gamal, then fell to World Champ Tarek Momen in the 2nd-Round
- Now, with a ranking inside the top-20, Soliman finds himself adjusting to life as a top talent. This week in Qatar, for the first time, he launched a Platinum campaign in the 2nd-Round, instead of the First (Round-1 Bye)
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.”