In our previous post we had a look how the top 10 has done in 2011. Now it's time to give some well deserved credit to the most impressive up-and-coming players of the year:
#20 TAREK MOMEN (born 1988, last year-end PSA ranking: 27): very few
people discuss that the little man from Cairo is a genius. In 2006 as an
18 year old teenager he beats players of the calibre of Daryl Selby, in 2008 he beats then world #2 Gregory Gaultier (who hardly ever looses to anyone outside the top8), in 2009 he beats David Palmer
(again, very few people can pretend that) and in the meantime he is
frequenting the Faculty of Engineering at the University in Cairo!!! 2010 was
poor for his standards (well, still, wins against Iskandar, Boswell, Mohamed El Shorbagy and Pilley!) but now he has concluded his studies and it starts to show. In Qatar he beat world #1 Nick Matthew 3:0, and Matthew admitted
after the match that the result (11:9,12:10,11:8, 44m) was even flattering for him. Beating Matthew is a feat in itself, but let's add that next to Momen only Ramy Ashour has beaten Matthew 3:0 in the last
few years. The only question mark is Tarek's determination. He has proven that on a
one-day basis he can beat anybody. He is also probably the quickest man
on the circuit with Miguel Angel Rodriguez; he's got the
cheekiest backhand drop-shot on earth that he is capable of executing
any time, anywhere. If you play short on his backhand side he'll
counter-drop 8 times out of 10 and he'll still clear the ball each time
(there are sooo many 'Lets' normally with other players in this
situation...) But his concentration and determination can let him down
at times. He's got something of a school lad, that makes him
extra nice, but am not sure if that helps to become world #1,
notwithstanding all the talent he's got to get there - even if he's the
only pro player who basically omits the existence of the lob!
#21 TOM RICHARDS (born 1986, last year-end PSA ranking: 31): he might not be the kind of genius that Momen is, but he's showing constant improvements. This year he had very good wins over Laurens Jan Anjema, Hisham Ashour (twice), Ong Beng Hee and Tarek Momen, even if the last two have then avenged the loss. Someone as terminator-solid as Darwish (even though on slight decline now) still beats him 3,4 and 6 in 37 minutes. But I see him humble, and humbleness is one of the best secret weapons in long term.
#23 NICOLAS MUELLER (born 1989, last year-end PSA ranking: 37): he has shown qualities from the very first moment he stepped on court on the pro tour. This year has demonstrated also that he has serious intentions, not only style- and technique-wise, but also ranking-wise, he definitely wants to be in the top5 in the future. This year he's got the scalps of Adrian Grant (twice), Borja Golan, Iskandar and most eminently of all: Amr Shabana (even if we know Shabs is lacking inspiration in last few months). He's shown also some exceptional squash against some other greats even if he ended up losing: first game 11:2 in 5 minutes in Qatar against Darwish!? Anyone ever heard anything similar? He also gave a good run of four games to James Willstrop, who hardly lost any other game in his last 15 other matches of the year.
#24 SIMON ROSNER (born 1987, last year-end PSA ranking: 33): a few years back, Rosner looked really bad. Strange technique, no results. He now looks good, really good. It's still not textbook technique (that ultra high elbow at his backswing, funnily only him - the tallest guy - and Aamir Atlas Khan - the smallest guy on the tour - employ this technique that does not favour deception. But he still kills the ball second to none in the front and shows also delicate touch notwithstanding appearance; he's got really quick feet and very good movement for someone as tall as him; and he's not afraid of anybody. He's beaten Adrian Grant, Aamir Atlas Khan, he's had matchball against Karim Darwish in Sweden (okay, Karim coming back from serious injury, but still!), brought Ramy to 5 quality games in Paderborn and got his heart-warming share of win against Shabana (in similar fashion as Mueller, but still!) He is also keen, and when a German is keen, well, anything can happen.
#33 ALAN CLYNE (born 1986, last year-end PSA ranking: 51): some of you might be surprised that I include him in the list, but I think he deserves to be mentioned based on this year's performance, even if he has had a bad end of year with four first round losses at the last four main events (still gave David Palmer a good 5 game run in Rotterdam). But beforehand he was impressing with his mixture of strange technique, huge stamina and a great heart. He might be not the most beautiful to watch, but he is efficient and a tough nut to crack. Ask Hisham Ashour or the promising young Egyptian Karim Abdel Gawad who both have twice as many shots in the pocket but still lost to him.
#45 MARWAN EL SHORBAGY (born 1993, last year-end PSA ranking: 174): Ramy-like stellar rise, almost 130 places within one year with the scalps of Daryl Selby and Omar Mosaad (both top20 and not friendly at all when it comes to battle...). Marwan is junior world champion and obviously extreamly promising: we know his pedigree with his older (still very young) brother already in the top10 and excellent coaching background by Jonah Barrington around Bristol/UK alternated with training camps in Cairo. Some say technically he's got even more potential than his brother. To be seen remains if he's also as tough and determined as Mohamed. Anyway, if the Ashour brother's don't make both the top10 within one family (due to Hisham not being capable of making a regime longer than five weeks;) then the Shorbagy brothers could well fulfil this highly respectable and funny historical feat.