Farag wins classic match to reach first final
 Ali Farag (EGY) 3-2  Paul Coll (NZL) 10-12, 11-7, 11-4, 10-12, 11-7 (77m)
One thing I particularly love about my job is watching a player coming out of his chrysalid to become a complete player, adding layers to existing layers. Daryl Selby was one player I saw evolved from a sparring partner to a exhibition material. Paul Coll is another extraordinary example of how much a person can transform himself.
From a so-so junior, Paul became Mr Fit and put us all to shame. His nickname Superman came I believe from that match in Canary Wharf where he dived like 4 times in the four corners against James. But he didn’t have much of a squash game, did he.
Oh. My. Lord. Now he has. Gregory Gaultier told me in Gouna last year after playing him all the good he thought about Paul, how hard he worked, how amazing he was, and how far he believed the NZ would go. He was right.
Nour El Tayeb told me how much Ali respected Paul, as he always made his game better and better. And today, Ali really had to dig and dig and dig to contain Superman. Spiderman won – yes, that’s my nickname for Ali – but it all came down to a few errors at the far end of the match.
A few too many errors from Ali in the first game, 4, at the start of the match, gave I believe confidence to Paul. If Ali didn’t make another one from 5/5, damaged was done, Paul was in control at the front, dispatching both length – superb – and volley drop shots exquisite alike. 10/7 for Paul, Ali finding some great retrievals and attacks but finally bows 12/10 in 19m. Same amount of winners for both, 8, difference comes from errors, 4 against 2.
Ali managed to impose this length patient game in the 2nd, from 5/5, 9/5 then 11/7, 11m. Drop in the number of winners for Paul, 3, increase of errors, 4. Same for Ali, 3 winners, 3 errors. The difference comes from the strokes!
Third makes us believe that Ali has dismantled Paul, 11/4 in 10m…. And at 2/0 in the 4th, Ali looked very good indeed. But no, Paul wasn’t dismantled AT ALL!!!
That game is truly splendid. Nothing between them, it’s point for point. At 7/8, a rally with Ali retrieving a shot that I would never have thought retrievable. And in my mind, that’s when I knew Ali wouldn’t lose the match. I cannot explain, you’ll have to watch the replay.
Two match balls 10/8 for Ali, but Paul just cannot be stopped, 12/10. 10 winners 3 errors Paul, 6 winners 2 errors 1 stroke Ali.
The fifth sees something I haven’t seen often: Paul finally got tired at 5/5. He kept pushing of course, but a few errors crept in from that point on, 2 errors followed by two strokes, that’s 4 points at the business end, and Ali was able to close 11/7 in 14m.
Ali just collapsed on the floor. And wouldn’t come up. I remember matches where he cramped. I believe he was very, very very close.
The quality of the rallies, the accuracy of the drives and width, from both, the attacking skills and the retrievals. One only sees that lever of squash, of intensity, once, maybe twice a year. Hats off. To both. Chapeau.
I have a huge respect for the man….
I made too many errors at the end, and gave him too many strokes. Ali was not going to fold, he is so smart and was not going to falter. I had to take the game to him and be aggressive.
I always try and get better….
I never wanted so much to lay down and sleep right after a match… ever… the tank was empty at the end, and I just was just so tired, not enough energy. But I fed myself off with his energy, and I told myself, if I lose this match, I will lose having left everything on the court, and he did the same and that’s why we played a match that I think the audience enjoyed watching.
Paul has been pushing the top players for a long time, every time he gets on court, he has a different game plan and it’s very difficult to get into any kind of rhythm with him because as soon as you have a rhythm, he changes his strategy, and you have to keep adapting, he is such a smart player. But luckily enough I have a very smart coach too.
We talked about how he started to use the lob and how to counter attack it. Not going to reveal it all but I was able to adapt…
It is unfair to talk about it this match in just a few sentences. It is one of those matches that you are going to remember forever. Win or lose, you would have been proud to have been a part of it. I think Paul and I represented our sport very well and we did our sport proud. Also, what an occasion to do it, on semi finals day at the British Open!
And even if I’m going to die on court tomorrow, I’ll give it my 100% and see where it gets me…
It was very tough on there, neither of us wanted to lose. Even if I had lost, I wanted to give it 200%, because 100% would not have done it justice.
The British Open carries a lot of history, lots of legends are associated with it and the fact that I can at least be a part of the history, even if it just a small part of it, it makes me very proud.