Young guns Mohamed El Shorbagy and Omar Mosaad overcame veterans David Palmer and Adrian Grant, respectively, in the Motor City Open to set up an unexpected all-Egyptian final of the PSA World Tour International 50 squash event at the Birmingham Athletic Club in Bloomfield Hills in the US state of Michigan.
El Shorbagy, only 20 years old, held his own against the big 34-year-old Palmer – a former world No1 and current No16 – in a fast-paced affair that ended in an 11-5, 4-11, 11-7, 12-10 victory for the world number nine. It was the first time the two had competed against each other, and the idea of playing against such a decorated squash player left El Shorbagy in awe.
“I’m so proud to play someone like David Palmer,” El Shorbagy said of the Aussie who has won 26 career titles and been a PSA world top ten player for a whole decade. “It’s the first time I’ve ever played him, and I’ve always wanted to play him. I didn’t care about winning or losing. I was just enjoying every single second of that match.
“Playing him and beating him, that’s something that makes me proud and something I’m going to tell my kids one day,” added the UK-based Egyptian. “I played David Palmer once and beat him once. I know he was thirty four years old, but still I will say I beat David Palmer!”
For two games, the two big hitters sized each other up. Each game went quickly, one game each.
“I didn’t have a game plan in the beginning,” said El Shorbagy. “All I did know was that he has the best backhand volley in the world. So I was just trying to keep it away from him.
“The first two games we were trying to know each other’s game, and then in the third and fourth, it was tight all the way.”
Indeed, games three and four were enthralling – the best squash of the event. Two top players at the top of their games: Drives, drop shots, lunging defence, spectacular kills and subtle boasts. “It was textbook stuff and the capacity crowd at the Birmingham Athletic Club loved it,” said event spokesman AJ Hakim.
El Shorbagy, now in the fourth PSA final of his career, continued: “I was trying to be patient, not going for silly errors. I could see in his face that he was really tired, but because he has so much experience, he knows how to play tired.”
The crowd rallied behind Palmer at the end – eager to see a fifth game of this wondrous squash. But this was Egypt’s day.
Omar Mosaad, a big, 22-year-old who is ranked 15 in the world, held his ground against Grant. The 30-year-old was coming off back-to-back, five-game marathons in the previous two rounds. The strain of those two matches – along with the fact that the Englishman is still is recovering from a hip tear – worked to Mosaad’s favour, as he recorded his first win against Grant in four attempts – and an appearance in the 12th Tour final of his career.
“I remember what I do wrong,” Mosaad said of his strategy since the two last met in Spain in November. “Today, I made the tactics to win this game. He played two matches before me – difficult matches. So I tried to make the game quick. The difference between this match and the others (I lost) was that I made this game quicker, a little more volleys and I got the win.”
The final will mark the third meeting between Mosaad and El Shorbagy, with their series tied at one-all. Both encounters went the full distance – with El Shorbagy winning in Spain in 2008 and Mosaad taking the more recent encounter in Finland in 2009.
“Me and Mosaad are really good friends off court,” El Shorbagy said. “When people see us playing, they actually think we hate each other. But me and Omar are good friends and are really close from when we were really, really young. So, it’s going to be fun tomorrow.
“I’m just happy to reach the final,” says the rising Egyptian star. “Whoever’s going to win, it’s going to be a good day because it’s going to be an Egyptian.”
Omar Mosaad (EGY) bt  Adrian Grant (ENG) 11-6, 9-11, 11-6, 11-7
 Mohamed El Shorbagy (EGY) bt  David Palmer (AUS) 11-5, 4-11, 11-7, 12-10