10:25 am
13 Apr 2024

Hesham Ousts Asal in Five-Game Houston Thriller

17 Feb 2024

Mazen Hesham knocked out defending champion Mostafa Asal in a dramatic finale to quarter-finals day at the HSC Houston Open in Texas.

The Egyptian pair met in the Florida Open final a few weeks ago, with Asal winning 3/1 to claim the title, but this was a different story, as the players went toe-to-toe over close to 90 minutes of drama-filled action.

The opening game alone took close to half an hour, albeit partly due to a stoppage in play when a Asal got a nosebleed at 9-5 down.

The players returned to court and Hesham quickly wrapped up the game, but 'The Raging Bull' was soon on level terms, winning what was a somewhat scrappy second game, as both players struggled for rhythm.

World No.7 Hesham regained his advantage by winning game three when an Asal drop shot clipped the top of the tin, but he was soon pegged back once more, with Asal - ranked three places higher - hitting his stride in game four, winning it 11-1 in little more than five minutes.

With a semi-final berth against Mohamed Elshorbagy on the line, tensions grew in the decider, as both players used their reviews up early and grew frustrated with later decisions.

Struggling with cramp, Hesham went on the attack, hitting a pair of audacious nicks on the return of serve, including one at 10-9 down on match ball.

He then brought up a match ball of his own after getting a stroke decision at 10-10, and finished proceedings in style, faking a backhand volley before hitting an inch-perfect drop from the back of the court, following it up with another backhand drop - this time from the front of the court - to clinch the win.

The emotion levels were clear, as Hesham raced to the back of the court in celebration and then embraced Asal - who took his defeat with grace - and speaking after the match, the world No.7 revealed that a big win like this has been on his radar for a while.

"I've been trying to look for these wins from the beginning of the season," said Hesham. "I made a promise to myself and to my coaches as well. I told them at the beginning of the season that I just want to keep moving forward, and then hopefully in 2024 we were going to have another phase where I can challenge these guys and get to the top with them, and see who's better.

"Asal is really tough to play, you have to keep playing to the last point, like you saw today.

"All credit to him for pushing, whenever he was down and out, but I think I have done well today. Mentally, I'm really proud of myself, just to be able to pull this one through.

"I was kind of cramping a bit, I'm not going to lie. I told myself, if you're cramping, even if you're going to go for shots, aim for it and don't back down, and I think I was lucky with the last few shots."

Hesham's win followed an impressive display from Elshorbagy, who beat Miguel Rodriguez 3/0 in what was his 706th match on the PSA Tour, moving him up to third on the all-time list of men's appearances.

'The Beast' needed just 31 minutes to see off the Colombian and join Ali Farag and Karim Abdel Gawad in the semi-finals, after the two Egyptians had won earlier in the day.

Farag overcame a slow start to beat Tarek Momen 3/1, but Gawad needed all five games for the second match in a row to overcome compatriot Aly Abou Eleinen.