R2: Ali Farag 3-0 Greg Lobban

[1] Ali Farag (EGY) bt Greg Lobban (SCO) 3-0 Scores: 11-5, 11-6, 11-6 (34m)

Next opponent: Leandro Romiglio

To be expected, it took about a game for the Scot to get used to the outside conditions – windy, glasscourt, noise, crowd movement… From the second on, we had a match, although the score maybe doesn’t reflect it. Greg was neck to neck with Ali up to 5/5, but the Egyptian suddenly pushed up the pace and never let his opponent breathe.

In the third, such a great start for Ali, 7/2, 8/4. Some great rallies at that point, but it’s quickly match ball, 10/5, and despite the kids chanting “warda, warda”, one point, one point, Greg saved one match ball, to finally bow 11/6 in 11m, the longest game of the match.

Greg : The last few times I played Ali, I lost 3/0. I had a close one in Gouna a few years ago, and he is taking seriously since then.

I’ve tried to wrap my brain over the last few days as to how I can get closer to him as I got cubbed in the last two times. I thought I came up with a good plan but I couldn’t execute it as well as I wanted. Maybe in the second and third after a bit of adjusting in the first.

But you don’t get time to adjust against the best player in the world. He is definitely the best player I ever played against. You’ve just got to try and find the answers but it’s never east against Ali.

What I would do differently? Mentally has always been a bit of my weakness of mine and in the second and third, I got a bit distracted, and I think I tried to use it a bit in my favour to try and get a bit of rest in these warm conditions,  but I would have like to get a bit more mentally stubborn in a few of those points in the second and third.

Ali : “I talked to Karim after the knock-up that Greg is a tough player, and he’s very resilient with his tactics and the way he uses height. He doesn’t give me many things to play with, but thankfully my length hitting was good enough to get some loose shots out of his racket and I started taking control from that point.

“Greg is always a very tricky opponent to play against and I was 2-1 down to him last year in El Gouna and he knows how to win. He’s had a lot of scalps against some top players, and I knew I had to be on my mettle, and I think I did that.

“So many things have to fall into the right place. You have to hit a good shot to limit your opponent’s options and if you’ve got all the options in the book there is no way you’ll be able to read it. You want to have the take off from the tee, you want to be able to take off in any position and then when you play with your opponents a lot you get to understand their body shapes and what kind of shot that would produce.

“From the inside I’m always shaky and sometimes it may look easy for us professionals, but believe me it takes a lot of work from the squash side, the fitness side and the footwork side on court. I’m grateful to everyone who has helped me become a great reader.”