China Open

FINALS DAY – BY Leonard Lee

Today marked the day of the end of the 2016 China Squash Open. Two new champions emerged to take the crown on top of the Peninsula Hotel on the Bund.

Laura Massaro of England and Mohamed Elshorbagy of Egypt both managed to achieve 3-0 victories over their opponents Nouran Gohar of Egypt and Gregory Gaultier of France respectively. Elshorbagy especially, after a terrible performance last year by dropping out in the first round, nearly refused to come. Luckily his decision paid off, and for the first time in his career, he had managed to take home the China Squash Open trophy.

Just two weeks before, Gohar had beaten Laura Massaro of England in a spectacular five-game thriller. Today however, Massaro, with an amazing performance, had turned the tables around. In the first game, Massaro was consistently hitting her tight drives and crosses, and scarcely made any mistakes.

She returned Gohar’s low-aggressive shots with ease while staying on the T and forcing Gohar to struggle for every shot. Massaro’s drop shots proved to be killer, constantly catching Gohar off guard throughout the game. Massaro, claiming dominance over the T, had managed to take an early lead with a score of 8-3. Gohar however, wasn’t any bit discouraged. She managed to tie the score back to 8-8 after five spectacular rallies.

Massaro had to step in and end her streak by changing up her own playstyle. By the time Gohar had adjusted to this change, she had already lost the game 11-9. The second game saw Gohar return with a spirit of revenge kindling inside her. Her shots became more aggressive and tight, which caused Massaro quite a bit of problems. Despite seeing Gohar go into rage mode, Massaro had kept her cool and displayed true skill by consistently returning every one of Gohar’s killer shots.

The rallies usually started off with Gohar twisting and turning Massaro, but within a few balls, Massaro would recover and retaliate with her own attacking shots, catching Gohar off guard and ultimately winning the point. The game went 11-5 for Massaro despite Gohar’s adrenaline boosted performance. The final game went quite similarly to the second, with Gohar again whipping the ball into oblivion and many times Massaro had just threaded the needle and barely retrieved Gohar’s shots.

These types of rallies kept up, and Gohar’s shots eventually started to slack. Taking advantage of every opportunity, Massaro had the entire court in her dominion and won the game with a convincing 11-3 victory. After the match I asked Massaro about her match and the tournament in general, she had a lot to say about it.

Starting off with the organization of the tournament, she told me: “I’ve had such an amazing week, the location is amazing and the hotel is brilliant, and it’s just so nice to start the season with a victory like this one”. I also asked her about her match, and how she felt about it. “I had a tough week losing to Nouran (opponent) in Hong Kong, so I made sure I will try my best and try to beat her here today”.

She also was kind enough to offer some more details about it, “I think I generally played a little bit better in the court and I tried not to get dragged in with playing hard shots with her. Both of us had tough matches last night, so I just tried to play a solid game the entire time.”

Today Massaro demonstrated peak performance against Gohar, who seemed to be underperforming on the courts today, and because of it took home the China Squash Open trophy in a breathtaking 3-0 victory to seal the deal.

This has been quite an unforgettable week and has been unique in the hearts of many people including me. Hopefully next years tournament will be just as exciting as this years’, and hopefully many more players will take part in this ever-growing, spectacular event.