[2] Paul Coll (Nzl) 3-0 [5] Zahed Salem (Egy)                  11-9, 11-5, 11-8 (40m)

 

Yes, we started the match way past midnight, and finished it at 1.16 am, but I take that any night against BO3… It was so nice to see real squash again, with both players giving it their best, and playing at a ludicrous pace in the first and third, Zahed trying to slow it down in the second, didn’t work for him, so came back to the original game plan!

It was such a great match, although the score doesn’t tell the story AT ALL!

What cost Zahed the match today were his errors. But then again, he changed his game dramatically under the coaching of retired Mohamed Ali Anwar Reda, and it shows. If before, Zahed could be a bit passive, now he is taking charge, and is making a few errors. But it will pass, and I’m sure in the coming weeks, big win will come IsA.

He was up 6/3, 8/4 in the opener, and got Coll’s camp (sitting next to me) a bit nervous. Paul reassessed, got 5 points in, 8/8, 9/9, and finally 11/9. That game I feel was crucial confidence wise, I could see how smiling Nele was when she came back from the player’s corner…

The second game, well, the Egyptian tried to vary a bit the pace, but didn’t do him much good as he found himself down 10/4, losing 11/5 in 10m (first game was 13).

The third was “de toute beauté”, superb really. Pace up again, Zahed giving it all, attacking at will, again, and again, with Paul picking it up again and again, finding eventually a little counterdrop that Zahed couldn’t save.

Stunning game with nothing between them until 8/8, but tired errors creeping in for the Egyptian, who finally bows 11/8 in 14m, but he can be very proud of himself tonight…

Paul 

I am very relieved to get off court in three. It was mentally very tough and I had to keep myself very focused. It was easy to drift off and think about my bed. I didn’t think about squash, I just concentrated mentally on staying sharp and just playing what was there.

I took a longer nap than usual, just slept as long as I could during the day. I just started my day a few hours later than normal. It was very tough, it was still tough to warm-up and get started in the match. During the day was fine, I just postponed everything a few hours.

“I watched the whole thing Makin v Marche from my bed. It was a very physical match, and he did well to come from 2-0 down against a French crowd. It was a pretty impressive performance from him, but I have played him the day after a 100-minute match and we then played another 100-minute match again so I am sure he will back up again tomorrow.

A win would be perfect. I made the final of my first event last year and just missed out so if I could go one better this time round it would be amazing. I will just try to leave everything out there. I just need to recover, sleep as long as I can in the morning. It is another late match so I will just prepare for it like I did today.