R1:  Ali Farag (EGY) bt Iker Pajares Bernabeu (ESP) 11-13, 11-3, 11-3, 11-7 (55m)
I like Iker’s squash. He is one of the “unsung heroes of squash” for me. 24, working extremely hard, fair player, fit and athletic, and so talented. He takes on anybody that he draws and I like that. I saw him execute Lucas Serme in 3 in Gouna last year, and only bowing to Mosaad in the fifth next round!
Today, Ali was playing him for the first time, and he struggled a bit in the first game, led most of the game, he managed to turn it round 9/7, only to make a few uncharacteristic errors and the Spanish was able to close it down on his third attempt, 13/11 in an 18m opener.
He didn’t do much in the second, not as fit as he would have liked courtesy of a calf injury, same difference in the third, 11/3, 9m, 11/3 7m respectively.
After a three minutes self injury break added to the 2m between games – our PSA physio Derek Ryan doing his magic on that left leg – he had a much better fourth, good start 2/0, then 2/2, 3/3, but after a huge rally at 4/5 for him, he suffered a bit physically, and Ali closed it out 10/6, 11/7 in a 15m game…
I was playing with my training partner, and he accidentally hit me in the calf with his knee. So I haven’t been able to really prepare for the match, which is truly annoying as when you have the chance to play the world number one on the glass court, you want to be at your best, and give him a good game!
Shame as I was training really, really hard, I was hitting the ball well, clean, oh well, still happy I managed to come and perform!
It felt good to win for sure, but at the beginning, I felt a bit subdued. He surprised me with his tactics. We have never played before and that is rare seeing as I have been on the tour six years now.
I watched a few matches including against Greg in Qatar and Gawad at the TOC and he has never played that slow. He held the ball and played a lot of lobs. It wasn’t what I was planning so it caught me off-guard. All credit to him, but once I got into the groove, I think I took better control of the match.
I come into every tournament trying to win. I have to take it match by match and next I have the giant Omar Mosaad. We share the same fitness trainer, who makes us work very hard. He had a great performance today so I know it will be tough.