The 25-year-old's impressive early-season performances continued as he claimed his first PSA World Series title and the no. 1 spot in the Road to Dubai rankings, as Gruffudd Owen reports
Egypt's dominance of men's squash was made even more apparent at the Qatar Classic last week as Karim Abdel Gawad made it three wins in three for the country in the 2016/17 PSA World Series.
With Ramy Ashour lifting the trophy at the season-opening Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Open and Mohamed El Shorbagy winning the Delaware Investments US Open in October, it was Gawad's turn to fly the flag for Egypt with a much-deserved Qatar Classic victory – the first PSA World Series title of his career.
In truth, the win should come as little surprise for those who have been following Gawad's performances this campaign. A runner-up at the Hong Kong Open and a semi-finalist in Philadelphia, the 25-year-old has raised his game to another level this season, heading into the event at Doha's Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex fresh from winning the PSA Men's World Championship in his home city of Cairo.
Seeded third in the draw, Gawad defeated compatriots Mohamed Reda and Zahed Mohamed in the first and second rounds respectively before eliminating no. 5 seed Marwan El Shorbagy – another Egyptian – in the quarter-finals by three games to one to set up a last-four tie against Daryl Selby of England.
Despite losing a tight first game 16-14 to the world no. 19, Gawad proved to be too strong for his opponent thereafter, comfortably winning the next three games 11-6, 11-2, 11-5 to secure a place in the final.
And while a title decider against world no. 1 Mohamed El Shorbagy seemed a daunting challenge on paper, Gawad saved his most stunning performance until last, blowing his higher-ranked rival away in straight games to clinch his maiden PSA World Series championship.
“I’m very happy with the way I performed today,” he told the PSA website after his win.
“For the first time, I was under pressure. When you are a world champion, people expect you to win and that you have a big chance to win. That is a new element I had to integrate into my preparation.
“Being world champion and Qatar champion sounds good, really good. I’m living the dream. But next season, I’m aware that I’ll have to make sure I’m very consistent if I want to stay in competition with the top boys.”
The victory sees Gawad top the Road to Dubai rankings on 205 points after three tournaments, with the Egyptian now in a strong position to qualify for the Finals in June.
Next up for the PSA World Series is January's JP Morgan Tournament of Champions in New York.