Fares Dessouky has revealed that the acid test of the red-hot form surge that saw him claim a breakthrough victory at the Black Ball Open in December will be posed by the return to the PSA World Tour of Mohamed ElShorbagy.
The former World No.1 featured in only one of the last four tournaments before the festive break which saw him knocked off top spot by compatriot Ali Farag. Yet it was the dynamic Dessouky who finished the year by posting the most impressive sequence of results in any single tournament since the tour resumed in September.
Firstly, he defeated defending Black Ball champion Karim Abdel Gawad in five games in the second round before despatching World Champion Tarek Momen in a 75-minute five-game semi-final.
But fearless Fares saved the best for last to come back from the dead to beat Farag in a performance that was not only hallmarked by Dessouky’s customary explosive flair play but a new found mental fortitude that saw the 26-year-old refuse to lose.
Now Dessouky, who resumed training last week, says there is one more box which needs to be ticked when the action resumes, if he is to confirm his Black Ball triumph was no one off and that is the scalp of the game’s biggest name.
Dessouky has just a solitary success over ElShorbagy, with that win coming in the quarter-finals of the El Gouna International in 2019.
“I have always watched Mohamed [ElShorbagy] play and I really look forward to his return and am excited about it. He has been so good for squash over the years and we have had some good battles,” Dessouky said of the World No.2.
“Funnily enough I was talking with my parents the other day and just saying how much I miss not having Mohamed playing on the tour! So yeah, it will just be great for squash to have Mohamed back.
“There is just an intensity to the way he moves, the way he hits the ball and how aggressively Mohamed plays and how hard he battles, he forces you play to your best every time and gives you nothing, he just really grabs the game by its neck, and I have total respect for him.
“I am really pleased that I have managed to beat Mohamed back at El Gouna in 2019 and we have always had tough matches and a couple of really hard five-game matches, but I think that when we do play again on the tour things will be different this time around.
“In the past Mohamed has played to defend his position as No.1 and I was always the underdog, so I played with no expectancy and no pressure and sharing a court with Mohamed again is something I am just really looking forward to.”
Something ElShorbagy has which the Alexandrian doesn’t is the tag of having reached World No.1. Dessouky’s determination to use his Black Ball victory as the launchpad to a concerted attack on the rankings summit is something that he does not shy away from.
“I play to be World No.1. This is undoubtedly my main goal and if I want to get there, I will have to beat Ali, Tarek and of course Mohamed and to do this consistently and that is the challenge that awaits me when we get back on tour.
“I started back training last week and everything I am doing is with this goal in my mind. But these guys are all in my way and it is up to me, as I did at the Black Ball, to find a way past them and of course that will not be easy.”
Yet there is another itch that Dessouky is desperate to scratch when the PSA World Tour resumes. In the semi-final of the Qatar Classic, the World No.8 admitted he ‘gave up’ against Kiwi Paul Coll, after proving at the Black Ball that he has the willpower to dig deep when the going gets tough, Dessouky is hungry for a rematch against a player he has the utmost respect for.
“I feel that there is nothing to prove. I know that what I did was wrong and that I had to pay a price for that, and I have done that, and I proved at the Black Ball that I had used all of that negativity and turned it into a positivity and a driving force to help me going into 2021.
“When I do play Paul again, what will motivate me is that I have complete respect for him, that I know he is one of the toughest competitors on the tour and that I will have to bring my best game to play against him.
“My motivation will be that every time I go on court, I will be giving everything for every minute of my match. After Qatar I think some of the other Egyptian players were not expecting the way I came back at the Black Ball, but I had a point to prove and I did that and now I have moved on.”
While Dessouky’s performances in Cairo captured the bulk of the headlines before the festive break, the progress of his younger Egyptian compatriot Mostafa Asal, who’s run to the last four included a second successive five game victory over Coll, was not lost on him.
For Fares there are both parallels between him and the 19-year-old and indeed some similar question marks to those he faced during his breakthrough years.
“I look at where [Mostafa] Asal is now and I think there are a lot of similarities to how it was for me when I was starting to breakthrough for the first time before my knee injury.
“He is an exciting player, he is passionate, and he wants it and right now he is playing with no pressure but the big test for him will be how he does when he is not playing in Egypt and when he is not playing in front of his home crowd.
“He has now had some big wins and beaten Paul Coll a couple of times and so now there will be expectancy on him going forward and it will be very interesting to see how he deals with that and that is something I look forward to seeing over the next year or so.
“But when I was coming through at the beginning, I was playing Ramy [Ashour], Greg [Gaultier], Nick [Matthew], and Mohamed [ElShorbagy] and although Asal has beaten Paul Coll, who is a very good player, it is different.
“But he is very hungry, and he comes to the court to win and I look forward to playing him.”