Stage set for classic encounters in Qatar
28 Oct 2017 - 2:54
By Armstrong Vas / The Peninsula
World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad is keen to put on track his up-and-down 2017-18 season by successfully defending the Qatar Classic crown he won last year at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex.
Second seed Gawad – who beat compatriot Mohamed El Shorbagy 3-0 in the 2016 final –has a tricky first round tie on Monday against Spain’s former World No.5 Borja Golan in store, with Golan getting the better of Gawad in their Windy City Open quarter-final clash in February.
November 2016 was one of the most remarkable months of Gawad’s career as he became the third Egyptian to lift the PSA Men’s World Championship title, while he followed that up two weeks later with his first ever World Series title at the Qatar Classic, defeating compatriot and the World No.1 at the time, Mohamed El Shorbagy.
It was a landmark moment for Gawad, who had only ever reached a solitary World Series final before his displays in Doha.
Gawad has had an up-and-down beginning to the new season, with a runner-up finish to ElShorbagy at the Oracle NetSuite Open last month followed by a shock first round defeat at the hands of World No.10 Paul Coll at the US Open.
The 26-year-old from Giza is determined to put that defeat behind him though as he targets a third successive World Series title to go with his triumph in Qatar last year and the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions crown he picked up in January inside New York’s stunning Grand Central Terminal.
“For me, that loss will just make me stronger and more hungry to win,” said Gawad.
“I know I didn’t perform my best, I know losing in the first round is not what I am supposed to do.
“That will make me learn from it and come back as strong as I can.”
Gregory Gaultier tops the draw in Doha as he makes his first appearance of the season after sitting out the early weeks with an ankle injury that saw him forced to withdraw from both the NetSuite Open and US Open.
The Frenchman will begin his tournament against Mexico’s Cesar Salazar – who recently won the Chicago Open.
Gaultier could face two-time Qatar Classic champion Mohamed ElShorbagy in the semi-finals of the tournament should both prevail through their respective fixtures. The Egyptian former World No.1 has had a strong start to the season, which has seen him claim titles at the NetSuite Open and Channel VAS at St George’s Hill and a runner-up finish at the US Open. Mohamed ElShorbagy will open against a qualifier in round one.
Also in the bottom half of the draw, three-time World Champion and 2009 winner Nick Matthew is on Gawad’s side of the draw and is making his last ever appearance at the tournament after last month’s announcement that the Yorkshireman will be retiring at the end of the season.
Matthew – who beat Egypt’s Karim Darwish in the 2009 Qatar Classic final – will start his tournament against a qualifier in round one. US Open champion and current leader on the World Series Standings, Ali Farag, will look to continue his purple patch as he also opens against a qualifier in round one.
Tournament wildcard and home hope Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi, the World No.37, will be looking to start strong in front of his home crowd as he comes up against Egypt’s Fares Dessouky in round one.
Other strong contenders in the men’s draw include England’s former World No.1 James Willstrop, who last won the tournament in 2005. The Yorkshireman faces a tough ask in round one as he takes on Peru’s Diego Elias, who has been one to watch on the Men’s Tour so far this season – defeating England’s Matthew at the NetSuite Open and Marwan ElShorbagy at the US Open. The younger ElShorbagy brother will begin his tournament against New Zealand’s World No.10 Paul Coll.
The Doha event, which kicked off with the qualifying rounds yesterday, is the second leg of the World Series event of the Men’s Tour and presents another chance for players to earn points for the World Series Standings as they bid to qualify for the season-ending PSA World Series Finals – with only the top eight players on the men’s standings earning a coveted berth at the lucrative tournament.
Matches of the main draw will take place from tomorrow after two days of qualifying, with final on November 3.