Last year in our end-of-year ranking analysis I wrote that I would expect big things from Mohamed El Shorbagy for the year 2012. And before the PSA World Championships in Doha I was just thinking, well, El Shorbagy had a pretty mediocre year for his standards, top10 stuff for sure, but nothing new, no improvements, in fact, rather the opposite, as one of his main features, his mental strength - the ability of deciding for himself almost all the tight five gamers that he gets involved in - has suffered a contrary tendency with losing this year a big deal of them.
Well, luckily, with his outstanding performance at Qatar, he has at the end of the day justified my predictions, even if he lost the final in five tight games against Ramy. All in all his whole week was just a crazy performance; that match against James Willstrop (highlights below), incredible blend of patience and attack, and he got really near to beating even King Ramy Ashour in the final, wow!
I am happy for Mohamed, but I am probably even happier for the world of squash. There are lots of guys improving (Rosner, Mueller, the younger Shorbagy: Marwan, Tom Richards, Tarek Momen, Saurav Ghosal, Karim Abdel Gawad, Abdullah Al Muzayen, etc., I'll get back to them in a separate post), but there are no new real stars, no real break-throughs in the last couple of years (in fact, it was Mohamed himself who was the last to come through in a stellar fashion about 3 years ago, when at the age of 18 he fired into the top10 with wins over Matthew, Willstrop and Lincou, but he got stuck around world #8 and without making big finals).
Now he's definitely made his second break-through, and he definitely seems to be ready for more and we look forward to follow his ascension within the top5 of the world of squash. In fact, as I said it in that article last year, we needed someone who replaces Karim Darwish's role at the top scale of squash and Mohamed seems to be made definitely from a similar blend: power, speed, steadiness, interception, deception and an above-the-average sense for the nick. Not the very best of any of them, but best or close to it when considering the whole package.