If You Lose the Next Point I’m Sending You to Your Room, Young Man
El Shorbagy won the next three games in a row, and the title.
Other than the occasional mental lapse, there aren’t a lot of flaws in his game. At six foot one, he has the wingspan and speed to make one of the game’s best retrievers. His forehand is so crushing it forces a “ping” from the ball that sounds like a cry for mercy. SquashTV commentator Joey Barrington — Jonah’s son and a former professional himself — has described El Shorbagy as one of the few players who can “bully” an opponent with raw power, though his touch is supple and deceptive when he needs a drop shot.
He said that losses to Gawad, a friend and rival since childhood, have inspired a newfound dedication, but he knows that the Baby-Faced Assassin, as Gawad is now reverently known, is hardly the only player standing between him and a third ToC trophy. Another potential obstacle is El Shorbagy’s lithe and savvy younger brother, Marwan, who has rocketed up the rankings in the past two years, and is currently No. 6 in the world.
(Topic for further inquiry: what on earth is going on with squash in Egypt? Seven of the top 10 male players, and four of the top female players, are Egyptian — a level of domination that exceeds even what the Chinese have achieved in table tennis.)
Basma El Shorbagy has been an eager between-game counsel to Marwan, too. But there is a problem when her sons face each other in tournaments, which has happened five or six times. (Mohamed has won each match.) Often a nervous observer, Ms. El Shorbagy says it’s pure agony to see her only children compete against each other.
“You can’t imagine my situation in these moments, really,” she said. “Because Mohamed is No. 1, I can’t want anyone to beat him. But at the same time, I want Marwan to be No. 1. So, it’s impossible.”
If both El Shorbagys win their early rounds, they will meet in the quarterfinals. Mohamed sounds ready for his brother and everyone else he will encounter at Grand Central. In December, after his second loss to Gawad, he retreated to his training base in Bristol.
Then, of course, he called his mother.
“I told her, ‘You need to come to England now,’” he said. “‘We have a month to get ready for the second half of the season. I don’t like what’s happened in the first half. I can’t do this as an individual. We have to do it as a team.’ And couple days later, she got a plane and flew over.”
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