I feel like i haven't been writing as regularly on here as I've been busy with work and when I'm not I've been watching replays of the US Open. I'm finally all caught up and ready for the semis tonight. So today I'm going to write about the mens semifinals, the strengths and weaknesses of each player, and of course who I think will win. If you've read my post on Facebook a few days ago you would know who my pick is, but I'll get to that in a moment.
To begin with, I haven't watched all of the women's matches, so it's hard for me to assess the 4 semifinalists. Maybe I've picked the wrong women's matches to watch, but most of the ones I've seen have had exceptionally short rallies, games, and matches. There's probably a few reasons for this (the lack of experience for some on the glass court begin one), but that is the opposite of women's tennis. I know a lot of people prefer women's tennis because the rallies are longer, but at least at this tournament this doesn't appear to be the case. If women's squash is going to take off and become as popular or more popular than men's squash I think they need to consistently have longer rallies. I know a few of the guys steamroll opponents too and have quick matches as well. Even the quarterfinal match Shabana and Mosaad was disappointing and had quite short points. I'll watch the women's semis and hopefully see some good evenly matched and long points.
So on to the men. I'm going to start with Gaultier. Gaultier is so strong and fast. If Gaultier doesn't make errors he is almost impossible to beat. The best way to beat Gaultier is to let him beat himself. He will lose his focus and get upset and is prone to making some poor unforced errors. This has happened less over the last year and is why he's at #1. I also think his body is more prone to break down over a very long match because of the length and strength used for his lunging. If Gaultier ends up having to do equal work with a young Shorbagy, I like the Egyptians chances. I also feel that Gaultier is susceptible to a good attacking boast from the back of the court because he often turns his head to the front wall just before his opponent hits the ball. I don't know how he gets away with this. The nay other area I think Gaultier could improve is his use of height. He rarely lifts the ball and changes the pace. I guess with how fast he is he feels like he can always hit an attacking shot. He almost paid the price for this against Rosner. Rosner was overly aggressive and was trying to volley almost everything Gaultier hit, even guessing a number of times. Gaultier looked very fatigued at the end of this match and did not play enough lobs against an overly aggressive Rosner.
Shorbagy to me is the fittest of them all. Shorbagy can play at a relentless pace and I've rarely seen him ever ease up and show a sign of fatigue. Shorbagy in my opinion gets too close to the ball quite often but still recovers quite brilliantly. He also is probably the loosest of the 4 semifinalist, but manages to make up for it most of the time because he hits it so hard and is so fast. If Shorbagy is going to beat Gaultier tonight he's going to have to tighten it up and play at a high pace for 4 or 5 games to break down Gaultier. If he can make Gaultier do the same amount of work as he does he will beat him. Easier said than done!
Shabana has a long list of strengths. He hits the best lines as his drives are always running parallel to the side wall. He very rarely clips the sidewall on his drive before they get to the back. Besides this he can attack from everywhere on the court, he mixes the pace the best in the game, and is the 2nd best at the front of the court (behind Ashour). Shabana also has all the experience, but so does Matthew. I like Matthew to win this match though. I think Shabana has slowed down a little. We saw this against Max Lee and also at the final of the Netsuite Open against Gaultier. As much as I enjoy watching Shabana play, speed is one athletic quality that is necessary to compete against these top 3 guys and is why I think his tournament will end tonight. Sorry Shabana!
I've never enjoyed watching Nick Matthew play, but I respect his ability..and that' correct I haven't read his book. He volleys so much and has improved his short game. He will be tough for anyone to beat in this event and has had the easiest path to the semis. He is coming off knee surgery a few months ago, but came back and won the commonwealth games right after, so I don't suspect that will bother him. I still think his backhand is not as strong as some of the other players. Although Nick has improved his attacking game, he did not grow up playing this way and is why he often loses to Ramy and will have trouble if he plays Shorbagy in the final. I think Shabana will make him work for it, but I think Matthew is too quick and fit for Shabana. This won't be the case in the finals though. What Matthew has going for him is a potentially less physically demanding semifinal match. I anticipate a real war between Gaultier and Shorbagy. At the end of a tournament it doesn't always come down to the best player, but the freshest.
So I'm going to stick with my original pick and say Shorbagy will beat Matthew in the final. I don't feel too confident with this after watching how loose Shorbagy was against Waller. He will have to play much better tonight if he's going to take down the world #1. Good luck Mohamed!