[4] Zahed Salem (Egy) 2-0 [8] James Willstrop (Egy) 11-8, 11-7 (28m)

We all love James. The crowd loved James. No offence to Zahed, who is a lovely boy, but the crowd wanted more of them!!!

Two games of 14m each, James a bit too slow in the first game, Zahed pushing him to the four corners, 10/4 – that didn’t reflect the game though. A good effort from the Gentle Giant, only bowing 11/8.

The next game is about the same, 8/3 for Zahed, with James getting a few lovely rallies at the end, 5/9, but finally bowing 11/7….

Zahed

First of all, I want to say thank you to the sponsors because I love this tournament and I am so happy to be back. To be playing in front of this crowd, it is great to be playing for them.

It is always a pleasure to play such a great player. It is not easy to play against him. I lost twice to him in the past, with one of those coming here in Nantes last year. It was five tough games, but today, I wanted to go for the win as we were playing best-of-three, so I pushed really hard to start with and the plan worked well.

One of my plans was that I was going to give everything in the first game because if you win it, you only need one more push to win the match. I am happy that it worked well and I am proud of how I played. I worked really well in the summer and I am glad to be through to the semi finals.

I am now training with Mohamed Ali Reda now, I left Alexandria to move to Cairo, and I’m only staying at the weekends in Alex.

One of the things I am working on with Reda is to control my opponent’s game. And today, he told me “don’t let James control  you, show him your personality, and impose your game”.

So I tried to push as much as I could today, keeping the pressure up, the pace as fast as I could, twisting and turning him, and mixing a bit the pace with lobs at times to not being too tired.

I’m very happy to be through, proud to beat James as he beat me twice, and I didn’t want it to be a third time. I really want to improve my squash and show that I can do better…