Mohamed Elshorbagy shines as Gregory Gaultier fails yet again
Egyptian star hands world No 1 fifth loss in a Hong Kong Open final, while Nicol David wins her 10th title in the city
Gregory Gaultier’s unenviable record of losing in the Hong Kong Open final continued as the world number one lost for the fifth time at the last hurdle yesterday, going down to rising star Mohamed Elshorbagy in an epic battle on Sunday.
Elshorbagy, 23, one of the new generation of stars from Egypt, made sure Gaultier would continue to find scaling the final hurdle as difficult as climbing the Great Pyramids when he added his name to an illustrious list of past champions here, including the great Khans from Pakistan, Jahangir and Jansher, as well as his countrymen Amr Shabana and Ramy Ashour who from 2007 to 2010 prevented the Frenchman from winning.
“[The Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Open] is a prestigious event and the biggest win of my career so far,” said Elshorbagy after his 3-2 victory. It was his second successive title in as many weeks having won the Malaysian Open last week.
In the women’s event, world number one Nicol David won a remarkable 10th straight title in Hong Kong, knocking out Egypt’s Nour El Tayeb in straight games. David has now gone unbeaten in Hong Kong for 50 games but her triumph was more straightforward and came as a bit of an anti-climax for the full house at the Hong Kong Park Sports Centre following the no-holds-barred battle between the men.
Gaultier, 31, tried desperately to come back from 2-0 down and threw his heart and soul into the tense encounter but not even a crying baby or an injury time-out – Gaultier crumbling to the floor after his opponent had accidentally stepped on him in the final game – could prevent Elshorbagy from his date with destiny and lifting a winner’s purse of HK$184,275.
“It is disappointing to lose again [in the final],” said a crushed Gaultier. “He is a great player but his physical game is a bit dangerous.”
Elshorbagy won the first game 11-9 and then spirited away the second 11-2 before Gaultier staged his comeback, winning the third and fourth 11-4, 11-8. But his attempt to become the first person to win from 2-0 down in a final in Hong Kong was stymied by the lanky Egyptian who rushed to a 6-0 lead in the decider before wrapping it up at 11-4.
“I knew it was important to have a good start in the fifth. He was coming back strongly and he made sure I knew it by telling me so. But I said ‘no’. It was a mental war out there,” Elshorbagy said.
“Beating the world number one will do a huge deal of good for my confidence but I won’t let this success go to my head.”
While it was the first Hong Kong victory for the Alexandria native, David continued her imperious winning reign in Hong Kong. The Malaysian saved two game balls in the second game to run out a 11-4, 12-10, 11-8 winner.
“Winning is always a good feeling and I can’t believe that this is my 10th title here,” said a delighted David.
It was El Tayeb’s second successive surprise WSA World Series final. The 16th seed shocked the world number two and reigning world champion from England, Laura Massaro, 3-1 in the semi-finals but found David too good for her.
“Saving those two game balls in the second game was crucial for that would have given her momentum. She is someone who just doesn’t give up,” said David.
A popular figure with Hong Kong fans, David will now turn her attention to defending her Asian Games gold medal in Incheon later this month.
“I will return home to Penang to spend some time with my family before getting back to training with the national squad. Winning gold at the Asian Games is my next target,” added David after earning HK$79,560.