Farag Shocks World No. 11 Gawad in Charlottesville

Farag against world No. 1 Elshorbagy in May's El Gouna Open. (image: Steve Line/squashpics.com)
Farag against world No. 1 Elshorbagy in May’s El Gouna Open. (image: Steve Line/squashpics.com)

Charlottesville Open Main Draw

U.S. Pro Series Live

Egyptian Harvard graduate Ali Farag pulled off the largest upset of his young career Thursday night by defeating world No. 11 and Charlottesville Open top seed Karim Abdel Gawad in a dramatic quarterfinal at the McArthur Squash Center at Boar’s Head Resort in Virginia.

“Throughout the match Gawad was always pressing forward and so strong around the center of the court,” said Mark Allen, Tournament Director and McArthur Squash Center Director of Squash. “But Farag absorbed so much of what was thrown at him, and landed plenty of effective counter punches to always keep himself in contention. You could tell the two of them have been competitors for years; it was tight all the way without either play ever edging more than three points in front of their opponent from start to finish. Gawad had three match balls and a strong opportunity to finish on the third one of them, but his short ball into the front right off a poor serve return from Farag clipped the tin by millimeters. Farag then took the next two points to close out the match.”

Farag’s victory had been the second of the night in which the lower-seeded player fought off match balls down 10-8 in the fifth game to come back and win the match. After losing both of his previous matches against Gawad in 2015, Farag finally got the better of his compatriot 8-11, 14-12, 12-10, 5-11, 13-11.

“A hot and sticky day made for a long and physically tough battle between the two Australians,” said Allen. “With little reward for taking the ball in short it was a long and scrappy affair, punctuated by plenty of lets and strokes (going in both directions). Pilley looked like he’d done enough to secure the victory with two match balls in the fourth, but couldn’t finish on either. He had another couple in the fifth too, but it was Cuskelly who took the match, and with his first opportunity. It was a harsh finish for Pilley, with a stroke against for 9-10, followed by a no let at 10-all, and followed by another stroke against on match point—after battling hard for over 110 minutes it was a very unfortunate way to end.”

After upsetting world No. 25 Tom Richards in his first-round match, American qualifier Chris Gordon’s run in Charlottesville came to an end at the hands of New Zealand’s Campbell Grayson. Grayson recovered from losing the first game 11-8, to win the match in four games 11-2, 11-7, 11-2.

Grayson will face second-seeded South African Stephen Coppinger in the second semifinal Friday night after the world No. 14 defeated Scotland’s Alan Clyne in three games.

“Coppinger came through in three games and forty-nine minutes and always looked the likely winner,” Allen said. “His line and length into the back two corners of the court was superb tonight, hitting hard and low, barely clipping the side wall, and hardly ever over hitting—not an easy thing to do on this hot glass court at UVA. As a result Clyne struggled to get any kind of foothold in the match, and became increasingly frustrated. On this form Coppinger looks favorite for the tournament, but tomorrow is always another day.”

The semifinals matches will be streaming live at 6:15pm ET on U.S. Pro Series Live powered by www.clublocker.com.

6:15pm: Ali Farag (EGY) vs. [8] Ryan Cuskelly (AUS)
7:30pm: Campbell Grayson (NZL) vs. [2] Stephen Coppinger (RSA)