SF : Fram Reports: Diego Elias 3-1 Ali Farag

[3] Diego Elias (Per) 3-1 [1] Ali Farag (Egy)  11-5, 11-8, 7-11, 11-7 (85m)

In the beginning of a very long night, Ali started very well his battle against Diego, a player against whom he had some good results in the past, beating him their last 6 matches.

Length, slow to mid pace, finding his targets at  the back, and twisting/turning the Peruvian in the first 4 rallies, creating 4 errors from the Puma.

But that was short lived. In only 2 hands, Diego went from 1/2 to 10/4. His patience – not his strongest attribute normally – and his counterdropping hurt the World Champion again and again. Diego was the better player in the first game, 17m.

Ali gave away an uncharacteristic 5 points to his opponent (3 errors, 2 conceded strokes). Diego, 3 errors. Which makes 6 winners for the Peruvian, 2 for Ali.

The second is where it went all wrong for Ali. Ali doesn’t do anger. He might try influencing the ref with his explanations, but then he moves on to the next rally and doesn’t hold grudges. That doesn’t work for him as it would with certain players who feed from that anger. Anger eats away Ali’s squash.

Where it all went wrong for Ali

We are at a crucial time in the middle of the second, 6/5 to the Puma, who is playing the best I’ve seen EVAH. Ali touches his opponent with the racquet and asks for a let. He goes to his opponent, chatting with him, and for what I can guess, Diego is going “yes, but it didn’t affect the shot”. “That’s not the point, did I touch you”. That’s what I feel from my observations of the scene.

The ref goes “video ref”. “No let, there was no contact”

Ali tries to argue his case, “ask him, just ask him”. The ref is just deaf to the Egyptian plee. Ali then tries to get Diego to admit he was touched. Diego refuses politely, Ali insists. No luck. And Ali loses it. Oh, there was no shouting, no breaking racquets, no exterior signs. But I could see that from that moment on, Ali was beyond angry.

Every time the ref pronounces “contact”, Ali would go “NOW you see the contact??”. At 9/6 to Diego, the Peruvian seems to exaggerate his butt movement and gets a let out of it. Ali remembers it, and a game later, he manages to fool the refs with the same “butt” position, 6/2 for Ali, and Diego. The no let becomes a let – at least, the refs were consistent…

And the cherry on the cake: Another crucial moment occurred in the last game, 6/4. Ali got a no-let, corrected by the video ref in a let. But the next rally, Diego, instead of asking for a let on the left front corner, pushes Ali out of the way to play his backhand crosscourt kill, which Ali can’t get back.

“Is that allowed? Are we happy with that?” Ali goes to Lee Drew, the Boss in Command for the Refs, sitting on the left side of the court.

All those moments, all those interactions outside the court, were so uncharacteristic of Ali. And when I spoke with him at the end, he confirmed, “I exploded inside, and my body didn’t respond well to my anger. It’s nobody’s fault, nobody is to blame, but I’m glad it’s all over. There was so much bottled up inside, and that was the tipping point”

As Ali added, Diego was just too good on the day. And I concur. Diego was SUBLIME last night [yes, as we finished at 2am, I am writing the report the next day, SUE ME].

Back to the second game, from the “no contact” stage, Diego is flying, putting Ali under so much pressure, 8/5, 9/6. The rallies are getting madder, faster, ridiculously more incredible of accuracy and instant reflex. Ali makes two errors – uncharacteristic – at that late stage of the game, and it’s 11/ 8 to the Puma.

25m game. 5 winners for Ali. 8 for Diego. The squash is coming from the Peruvian racquet…

A good response from the former World Champ in the 3rd, 3/0, 6/1, 8/3, 9/5. The crowd is supporting their man, it’s now Diego’s turn to make errors at the latter stage of the game, and it’s 11/7 to Ali.

14m game. 8 winners for Ali, still 6 for Diego.

The 4th start with a bit of block from both players, nothing bad but if I can see it, it’s obvious (I’m not THAT good that I can see what only the players can see). But game goes on.

3/3. 4/4. Surely this is going to 5. Surely. The crowd, Ali’s camp, they are rooting and supporting their champ. But as I mentioned, another incident with movement/ref at 6/4 for Diego, and Ali loses focus for 2 points, 8/4.

A last big push from Ali, Diego is still dominant and accurate, and brilliant, and flamboyant, but Ali claws back to 7/8.

He will not score another point. Diego is just the better player, he is dictating the pace and the shots, and will not be denied. The Puma gets to his first ever World final, and rightly so. Last night, Diego was the better player.

It’s a mixture of two things. One, he was too good on the day. But two I’m honestly relieved it’s over.

I was telling Nour before the event started, I’ve never been going into a world championship where I feel I’m the favourite, and this time, I was the heavy favourite, not the only one but the heavy one, and it got to me.

Before the event I talked to my brother, to Karim, to Nour, this is not the best I felt going into an event. I like the underdog feel, even if I was not  really the underdog but or I was coming back from injury, or Mohamed was the favourite, but this time, I felt so much pressure.

And today it got to me.

I started off well, but then he slowed up the pace, and he played very smartly. And in the second, there were decisions I didn’t like. It’s not anybody’s fault, no one was wrong but I didn’t like it. And I exploded. Inside.

I exploded inside, I was not calm, I tried to play calm, but then my body wouldn’t help me because the mind was so nervous, it was not explosive enough. The decisions were the tipping point. There was so much bottled up and that made me, you know.

The thing I’m proud of, is that I tried until the very last moment. My body wasn’t helping me playing at a fast pace, he was playing very accurate, I tried to lob it, I tried to play slow, I tried to extend the rallies, tried to go for my shots, I did everything I could but he was too good on the day.


Very happy with how I played today. Playing Ali is always tough and I’ve lost to him more than 20 times, he’s one of the best ever and I’m super happy.

“I think the way I fought tonight. Sometimes after the first game against Ali I give up, but not the whole match and I get tired and I don’t push. But tonight I pushed as hard as I could and I think that was the difference.

“I fought really hard and winning the rounds before helped me get here as fresh as I can. I feel great and I’m going to be feeling good tomorrow and I can’t wait to play a World Open final.

“We had a game plan but more than that, my dad was reminding me how hard I needed to push to beat Ali. I really didn’t want to leave tonight without the win.”