Locals dominated the first qualifying round of the El Gouna International Open, the third PSA World Series squash event of the year which will take place at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of El Gouna.
But in a day of intense action at the Sporting Club in Alexandria, nine Egyptians battled through to the qualifying finals - with the prospect of all eight qualifying slots being taken by the host country!
Omar Mohie Elddin Marei pulled off an impressive upset in only his third appearance in a PSA World Tour event. The Alexandria-born 20-year-old stunned the squash world by reaching the final in his first two tournaments - and faced an uphill task in his first World Series event by taking on seasoned professional Joey Barrington, the former world No24 from England.
Barrington took the opening two games and led 8-2 in the third - but the mighty Marei, ranked 265 in the world, bravely fought back to win the match 7-11, 8-11, 11-9, 11-8, 11-6 after 72 minutes.
"When I was down 8/2, what helped me was: 1 God; 2 My father walked in exactly at time; and 3 I'm a big fan of tennis - and for months now, I've been feeding myself with Nadal, Federal and Djokovic. And that helped me a lot in my mental strength."
Marei now faces fellow countryman Wael Farag, who defeated Malaysian Kamran Khan 11-6, 11-9, 19-17, taking eight match-balls to clinch the third.
"The court was really hot today, and I thought that Kamran was taking a lot of time between the points, but I managed to make him work very hard," said the 22-year-old from Cairo. "I knew that Kamran was a very skilful player and was going to volley a lot, so I tried to attack as much as I could and in the first two games, it worked perfectly.
"The third was more challenging, and I was really lucky to get it in the end! I'm so happy I won today 3/0, because for the past three months, I've been playing rather poorly. And I really want to thank Amr Mansi and his team for organising this tournament!"
Zahed Mohamed was the first player through, with an 11-8, 11-8, 11-4 win over compatriot Khaled Abdel Fatah Ghoniem.
"I've been on the PSA circuit for only a year, I was playing a lot as a junior," said Zahed. "But I was concentrating on my studies (Sciences & Technologies in the Arabic Academy of Business in Alexandria). I've now would like to concentrate on my PSA career, but I've got to work even more on my fitness to get further I feel."
Kuwait's Abdullah Al Muzayen and Englishman Adrian Waller provided early non-Egyptian winners, both with comfortable 3/0 wins, over Marwan Mahmoud and Fares Mohamed Dessouki, respectively.
Waller was pleased to beat dangerous Egyptian Dessouki in straight games. "This was a good introduction to the tournament. It's nice to get a hard game, you actually feel better the next day, because it's hard to train as hard as you actually do in a real game.
"The second was pretty hard, he started to get a bit tired, and his movement was not as good as it was in the first and we kept colliding a lot. But I thought I was playing well and I was happy to take that game. Both mentally and physically, it was hard for him to come back from 2/0 down."
England's Robbie Temple and Egyptians Karim Ali Fathi and Karim A G A Samy all advanced without needing to go on court as their Iraqi opponents arrived too late.
RESULTS: PSA World Series El Gouna International Open, Alexandria, Egypt
1st qualifying round:
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) bye
Zahed Mohamed (EGY) bt Khaled Abdel Fatah Ghoniem (EGY) 11-8, 11-8, 11-4 (37m)
Omar Mohie Elddin Marei (EGY) bt Joey Barrington (ENG) 7-11, 8-11, 11-9, 11-8, 11-6 (72m)
Wael Farag (EGY) bt Kamran Khan (MAS) 11-6, 11-9, 19-17 (56m)
Abdullah Al Muzayen (KUW) bt Marwan Mahmoud (EGY) 11-9, 11-3, 11-1 (25m)
Omar Abdel Meguid (EGY) bt Ahmed El Mehelmi (EGY) 11-9, 11-3, 4-11, 11-5 (35m)
Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) bt Adel El Zarka (EGY) 3-11, 13-11, 12-10, 11-5 (35m)
Adrian Waller (ENG) bt Fares Mohamed Dessouki (EGY) 11-7, 13-11, 11-5 (46m)
Campbell Grayson (NZL) bt Ahmed Hany (EGY) 11-8, 11-4, 11-6 (29m)
Andrew Wagih Shoukry (EGY) bt Hesham Mohamed Aly (EGY) 11-5, 11-4, 11-6 (22m)
Karim Ali Fathi (EGY) bt Hasan Hashim Al-Sulttani (IRQ) w/o
Ivan Yuen (MAS) bt Mohd Essam El Sherif (EGY) 11-7, 12-10, 11-1 (31m)
Robbie Temple (ENG) bt Husham Abdulkareem Al-Sady (IRQ) w/o
Karim A G A Samy (EGY) bt Rasool Hashim Abdullah (IRQ) w/o
Amr Swelim (ITA) bt Mohamed Mosaad (EGY) 11-8, 11-8, 11-9 (32m)
Amr Khaled Khalifa (EGY) bye
Qualifying finals line-up:
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) v Zahed Mohamed (EGY)
Omar Mohie Elddin Marei (EGY) v Wael Farag (EGY)
Abdullah Al Muzayen (KUW) v Omar Abdel Meguid (EGY)
Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) v Adrian Waller (ENG)
Andrew Wagih Shoukry (EGY) v Campbell Grayson (NZL)
Ivan Yuen (MAS) v Karim Ali Fathi (EGY)
Karim A G A Samy (EGY) v Robbie Temple (ENG)
Amr Khaled Khalifa (EGY) v Amr Swelim (ITA)
Event website: www.elgounasquashopen.com
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