Day 1. Round 1. Zahed Mohamed

Andy Taylor. Host. Qatar Classic Squash Championship. Day 1. Round 1. Zahed Mohamed

Host. Andy Taylor. Qatar Classic 2017

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Zahed Mohamed (EGY) def Gregoire Marche (FRA) 11-6 5-11 11-6 8-11 11-2 (59-min)

Why not save the best match for last? The World #21, Gregoire Marche vs. the World #20, Zahed Mohamed. Two guys in their mid-20’s, both with career-high rankings.

While the match-up may not have been a fan favorite, the competition certainly lived-up to the billing. This was a thrilling, deciding-game clash, with emphatic pendulum-shifts of momentum.

Gregoire Marche. A Quarterfinalist here last year

Last year, Marche reached his first career World Series Quarterfinal here in Doha. He was up 2-games to love on the legend Nick Matthew, before the Wolf awakened and won the final three games. A 9-time Finalist on the PSA World Tour, last month he won his third consecutive title in Nante; his 7th PSA Tour title overall. Last July, he captured the Silver Medal at the World Gamnes in Poland.

Zahed Mohamed. Nearly defeated Gawad here last year

Karim Abdel Gawad won the 2016 Qatar Classic, but he almost didn’t make it past the Round of 16. Zahed Mohamed took the eventual champ to a deciding game in the Round of 16, winning the second and fourth games 11-9 in a 58-minute tussle.

It’s easy to lose track of Zahed in the deep sea of Egyptian talent, but the 25-year-old is well on the way to making himself memorable. In 2016, he was a finalist at the Egyptian National Championship in Cairo and went on to win the CNS International in Islamabad. Back in February, he won his 4th career PSA Tour title at the Pittsburg Open, then in May reached his 14th career final at the Internacional Sporta Open in Guatemala.

Back and forth battle, ending with a whimper

Mohamed owned game-one. Marche saved two game balls, but was too far in the hole to launch a comeback. In the second, Gregoire shifted gears and never gave Zahed a whiff of the lead. The third was the complete opposite of game-2; a 10-minute battle where Zahed never relinquished control. The fourth was a thriller, locked at 8-all. 3-points from the Round of 16, Mohamed felt the pressure, gave up a few errors and ultimately the game. Sadly in the decider, Marche disappeared. In just 7-minutes, Zahed Mohamed closed out the match, setting up a clash with the World #1, Gregory Gaultier, Tuesday at 3:00p. (FULL MATCH RECAP)

After the match, Zahed made a point to recognize the pro-Egyptian fans who stayed for the night’s final match: “I normally only play well in Egypt, but today, the crowd here was so supportive they made me believe I was home. And that’s why I played well…Now I proved to myself I can play well on the glass court, I will play against Gaultier with all the confidence I can get against the top player who has won everything on the planet and dominated last season.”