Ali Farag (EGY) def [Q] Leo Au (HKG) 11-2 11-6 11-6 (26-min)
Tomorrow, Ali Farag will climb to a career-high ranking of #4 in the World. He’s now 12-2 since the start of the season. To put that in perspective: In his first three events of 2017-18, he was a Finalist at the China Open, won his first World Series title at the US Open, and reached the Final of the St. George’s Hill Classic. Impressive start.
Leo Au has plenty brag about, as well. The 27-year-old began the new season by winning his 9th PSA Tour title at the HKFC International in Hong Kong; then last week, captured career title number-10 at the Malaysian Open. Five days later, the World #28 had to jump right into Qatar Classic qualifying to reach the main draw. With wins over Farhan Zaman, Richie Fallows, and a 1st-Round upset of Ryan Cuskelly – he reached Doha’s Round of 16 for the second straight year.
Success has its price
Winning never gets old, but playing deep into tournaments means more time on court. The greater the success, the more fatigue becomes a factor. Ask Gregory Gaultier after his 27-match, 6 successive title win-streak last season. By the time the World Series Finals rolled around, he was toast.
It’s worse when a player is ranked outside the top-20. Even with tournament victories, when the majors roll-around, qualifying is mandatory. That means more matches just for the privelege of competing in the Main Draw.
Insert Leo Au. With only five days rest after winning Malaysia, mentally and physically he had to be back in competition-mode, five time-zones away.
Thanks to his success at the St. George’s Hill Classic, Farag’s recovery was limited as well. But as the World #5, Ali avoided qualifying. He had six days rest before Sunday’s opener versus Karim Ali Fathi – and that made all the difference in Tuesday’s Round of 16 match.
26 Minutes was all it took
As he said after the match, Ali Farag knew he’d need a fast start against Leo: “Leo has been playing extremely well, he has improved immensely, he has had a couple of good results from the start of the season, and beat Cuskelly in the first round, so I knew he would be dangerous today.”
And a fast start it was. In 5-minutes, Farag took the first game 11-2. Leo challenged in the second, pushing Farag around the glass court, but he never got a whiff of the lead. At 3-8 in the third, Au strung together three points, but Ali quickly shut him down and served it out from there. (FULL MATCH RECAP)