Doha, 2 November 2020 - Home favourite Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi earned his place in the last 32 of the 2020 Qatar Classic after edging an exciting five-game battle with England’s Patrick Rooney on the opening day of Qatar Classic Squash 2020 at the Khalifa International Tennis & Squash Complex on Sunday.
Al Tamimi is the highest ranked Qatari squash player of all time and he often saves his best performances for home soil, however a sloppy start saw the World No.30 make seven unforced errors to hand his opponent a one-game lead.
The errors then flowed from the Englishman’s racket in the second as Al Tamimi powered into a 9-0 lead and he converted to draw level.
The match made for captivating viewing with a clear difference in style between the two players. Rooney is coached by the renowned Malcolm Willstrop and favours a methodical style of play which sees him construct rallies to draw his opponent away from the ’T’, whereas Al Tamimi is one of the most unpredictable players on the men’s tour and can hit winners from all over the court.
That unpredictability caused Rooney real problems as he conceded the third but brought the structure back into the match in the fourth to set up a decider.
However, it was all about Al Tamimi in the fifth as he pulled Rooney from pillar to post and he wrapped up a 10-12, 11-3, 11-8, 8-11, 11-3 in 54 minutes to earn his second round spot against Peru’s Diego Elias.
“It’s tough playing here at home,” Al Tamimi said.
“I need to raise my level always, I just want to make the whole country proud. I had some great performances last year, so I had a lot of pressure on me coming into this first round, especially with the lockdown we’ve been having because of COVID-19. I haven’t had any matches since February in Chicago.
“I only played one match against Tarek (Momen) in Manchester and when I came back I had to do two weeks quarantine, so all that work went for nothing. I think its [the errors] just from a lack of matches and I’m really glad I got through this one. I’m sure against Diego I’ll be a lot sharper.
“We’re really good friends and I’m really looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be a hell of a match and I’m sure it’s going to be fair and entertaining for everybody.
“It’s always a good week here, it’s one of the best tournaments on tour, if not the best, because of the organisation and all the history of the game here in Doha.”
Also booking a place in the second round was Frenchman Lucas Serme courtesy of a 3-1 victory against the highest ranked American man, Todd Harrity.
Harrity, the World No.58, will look back with regret on a third game that saw him squander three game balls in an attempt to level up the scores, with Serme ultimately taking the match by an 11-5, 12-14, 11-4, 14-12 scoreline.
Serme dominated the ’T’ in the early stages of the match and had Harrity on strings as he dropped just five points in the first game.
Harrity did brilliantly to break Serme’s rhythm in the second though as he ramped the pace right up and he was rewarded with victory on the tie-break to draw level.
But the 30-year-old couldn’t keep that up as he dropped off in the third, which allowed Serme to re-establish his lead. And the French player held his nerve in the crucial stages to complete a win which will see him play England’s Tom Richards in the next round.
“We haven’t had many tournament since March, we’ve now had a couple of big tournaments and the big guys got through but there were some upsets along the way still,” said Serme.
“I think it’s possible for some surprises.”
Former World No.1 Gregory Gaultier came through a four-game battle against Spain’s Iker Pajares Bernabeu to book a mouthwatering second round fixture with CIB PSA World Tour Finals winner Marwan ElShorbagy.
Gaultier has been handed a wildcard spot for this tournament and he came back from a game down to complete a 10-12, 11-3, 11-9, 11-8 victory in 57 minutes.
Pajares did come back from three game balls down to take the opening game and that fighting spirit was on display throughout the match as he made Gaultier work hard for every single point.
The Spaniard went in short often, but Gaultier soaked up the pressure before unleashing winners of his own. A crucial period in the match saw Pajares lead 9-6 in the third game only to see Gaultier overturn that deficit with five points in a row, each winner being greeted by a cry of triumph from the 37-year-old.
He will take on World No.6 ElShorbagy for the first time since 2017.
“I’m very thankful to the Qatar Squash Federation for giving me the opportunity to get the wildcard to play,” said Gaultier, the 2011 Qatar Classic champion.
“After being out for 14 months, my ranking went from No.1 to No.600, so I’m very grateful to them for giving me the opportunity to play otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to take part in this event.
Earlier, Egypt’s Mohamed ElSherbini marked his first appearance since March with a 3-0 victory over Qatari wildcard Syed Azlan Amjad in the first match of the 2020 Qatar Classic to take place on the glass court.
ElSherbini, making his Qatar Classic debut, was in control for the majority of the match as he hit consistent lines and punished his opponent at the front of the court to march to 11-6, 11-8, 11-9 victory.ResultsFirst Round: Mohamed ElSherbini (Egy) 3-0 [wc] Syed Azlan Amjad (Qat) 11-6, 11-8, 11-9 (31m)
Baptiste Masotti (Fra) 3-0 Ramit Tandon (Ind) 11-6, 11-6, 11-2 (24m)
George Parker (Eng) 3-2 Victor Crouin (Fra) 9-11, 11-8, 4-11, 11-6, 11-9 (66m)
Youssef Ibrahim (Egy) 3-1 Nicolas Mueller (Sui) 11-7, 4-11, 11-8, 11-7 (41m);
Raphael Kandra (Ger) 3-1 Dimitri Steinmann (Sui) 5-11, 11-5, 11-5, 11-2 (43m)
Cesar Salazar (Mex) 3-0 Auguste Dussourd (Fra) 11-5, 11-9, 11-6 (28m)
(WC) Gregory Gaultier (Fra) 3-1 Iker Pajares (Esp) 10-12, 11-3, 11-9, 11-8 (57m)
Borja Golan (Esp) 3-0 Benjamin Aubert (Fra) 11-3, 11-2, 11-8 (23m)
Lucas Serme (Fra) 3-1 Todd Harrity (USA) 11-5, 12-14, 11-4, 14-12 (64m)
Youssef Soliman (Egy) 3-0 Mazen Gamal (Egy) 11-7, 11-9, 11-5 (41m)
Abdulla Al Tamimi (Qat) 3-2 Patrick Rooney (Eng) 10-12, 11-3, 11-8, 8-11, 11-3 (54m)
Tom Richards (Eng) 3-0 Nathan Lake (Eng) 11-6, 11-9, 11-6 (33m)
Shahjahan Khan (USA) 3-1 Vikram Malhotra (Ind) 11-9, 3-11, 11-4, 11-3 (35m)
Eain Yow Ng (Mas) 3-1 Karim El Hammamy (Egy) 8-11, 11-2, 11-6, 11-5 (46m)
Richie Fallows (Eng) 3-0 Tayyab Aslam (Pak) 11-5, 11-9, 11-9 (41m)
Declan James (Eng) 3-0 Abdulrahman al-Malki (QAT) 11-1, 11-8, 11-1 (24m).Tuesday order of play11.00hrs Gregoire Marche (Fra) v Youssef Ibrahim (Egy) 11.45 Saurav Ghosal (Ind) v Raphael Kandra (Ger) 13.30 Youssef Ibrahim (Egy) v Cesar Salazar (Mex) 14.15 Omar Mosaad (Egy) v Borja Golan (Esp)
16.00  Marwan ElShorbagy (Egy) v [wc] Gregory Gaultier (Fra) 16.45  Paul Coll (Nzl) v Baptiste Masotti (Fra)
18.30  Simon Rosner (Ger) v Fares Dessouky (Egy) 19.15  Mohamed ElShorbagy (Egy) v George Parker (Eng)