Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) def Borja Golan (ESP) 4-11 11-5 11-7 16-14 (62-min)
Borja Golan and Karim Abdel Gawad have played five times in the past four years. Admittedly, Borja was one of Karim’s favorite players growing up. Only 8-years apart, with the exception of a 28-minute thumping by Golan in the 1st-Round of the 2016 Hong Kong Open, all of their matches have been lengthy. The two split their last four matches, but Golan enjoys the edge head-to-head, with three wins to Karim’s two.
Karim Abdel Gawad. Defending Champion. Still a sluggish starter
It’s well known in squash circles that Karim Abdel Gawad is a slow starter. Down one, or even two games, he always seems to find his way. Last season, his slow starts earned him 7 PSA titles, his first World Championship, his first two PSA World Series titles in four finals, plus the World #1 ranking by May. The Baby-Faced Assassin is nearly unbeatable down the stretch. The defending Qatar Classic Champion owns 18 PSA Tour titles, and last month, started the new season by reaching his 29th career Final at the NetSuite Open in San Francisco. Gawad loves Doha – he won Arab Games silver on this court six-years-ago before winning the title over Mohamed ElShorbagy last November.
Borja “El Toro” Golan. An intriguing history with Gawad
Last season, Borja Golan didn’t win a single Tour-level match between September and February. The former top-5 player dropped out of the top-20; then in March, he finally broke the ice. Golan reached the Semifinals of the Windy City Open in Chicago, scoring a HUGE win in the Quarterfinals…defeating World #2 Karim Abdel Gawad to earn his best tournament finish since the season began at the China Open. The two played again in April, at El Gouna International, where Gawad emerged the victor in four.
When a World #2 takes-on one of his Idols
Game-1 lasted just seven minutes. El Toro wasted no time snatching his “gimme” from Gawad. But right on cue, Karim came out creative in game-2, splashing shots off every surface, seizing control of nearly every point. With an 11-5 win, the World #2 leveled the match.
The third game took just 9-minutes. Again, Gawad was exemplary. Golan closed the gap to 6-7, but Karim ran away with it from there.
Game-4 got dramatic. Down 5-9, Gawad’s fans got loud, determined to help the Alexandrian turn it around. It worked. With 3 clean winners and an El Toro error, we were level at 9-all. Borja then saved the first match ball to force a tiebreak. The Spaniard earned two game balls in extra time, but couldn’t put Gawad away. Finally, on Karim’s fourth match ball – the 1st-Round battle was over. In 62-minutes, Gawad leveled their head-to-head at 3-matches apiece. (FULL MATCH RECAP)
Karim Abdel Gawad: I know I reached the final in San Francisco, but I still don’t feel I’m playing my best squash, still I’m trying to win to get my confidence back in my squash, in my movement. And that’s why it was so important for me to win against somebody as experienced as Borja…I truly believe like during a whole season, there is only 20% of the time where you are playing your best squash. The rest of the time, you are trying to win by experience and pushing hard when you are scrapping around: that’s what I’ve learned, that in squash, you can win without playing your best.