Gawad Powers To Pittsburgh Hat-Trick
12 Feb 2024
World No.6 Karim Abdel Gawad downed England's Marwan ElShorbagy in straight games to claim the Pittsburgh Open title for the third time since 2014. The tournament was the top seed's first since a calf injury sustained during the Hong Kong Open in November 2023.
The climax of the PSA World Tour Silver event at the Rivers Club in Pittsburgh presented an opportunity for the Egyptian to earn his third Pittsburgh Open title after successful campaigns in 2014 and 2015, while for Englishman ElShorbagy it was a second successive runner-up finish.
While both semi-finals saw long, arduous rallies to score points, the first game of the final saw the opposite, as every attempted winner seemed effective for the Egyptian.
Gawad looked strong in the early stages and ElShorbagy appeared slightly behind the pace of the match, perhaps due to playing 153 minutes of squash over the course of his quarter-final and semi-final matches.
The Egyptian took a 1/0 lead in emphatic fashion, capping the game off with an awkward cross-court to force the error from his opponent.
The 'Baby-Faced Assassin' looked less energetic as he came out for game two, hitting the tin twice in quick succession to help the world No.10 to a 3-1 lead, but the Egyptian soon regained his form as he pushed on, hitting four consecutive points shortly after to earn a narrow 6-4 advantage.
The 'Jackal' fought back to 8-8, with the improvement in form visible in a deceptive hold before a quick backhand drive to make it 7-8.
The 32-year-old wouldn't allow ElShorbagy any more chances in the second game as he secured a 2/0 advantage with three quick-fire points.
From 4-4 in the third game, Gawad maintained a slim lead for the rest of game despite a committed response from the 30-year-old to 9-10 and the former world No.1 claimed the title with a pin-point accurate backhand drop on championship ball.
"I'm feeling great, of course, winning," said Gawad after the match. "Coming back from an injury, the toughest part is the mental side and in the last week of practice, I wasn't very satisfied with how I was pushing mentally. I tried my best to change this in the tournament and luckily it worked well.
"I tried to push as much as possible mentally and yesterday, I was up and down in the games. When I was three up in the second game I dropped mentally and lost the game so I tried my best today. Marwan is very talented in coming back and winning points quickly so today I tried my best not to give him that chance.
"I tried to push mentally and physically from the very first point. Since I woke up I knew I had to give it 100% mentally and my warming up and everything was different today. I just tried to win the first game by any means.
When asked about ElShorbagy's tiring route to the final, Gawad said: "Of course, it takes from your body. Especially playing on a traditional court is harder to win the points and it's harder to move on court for too long. For him, he had two hard matches. I had a tough match yesterday and being the first tournament since the end of November, it's hard because no matter how hard your training is, the pressure of the matches is different. It makes you get stiffer quicker and for me it was hard but tonight I tried my best."