James Willstrop: Elshorbagy completes meteoric rise to top

Jenny Duncalf.

Jenny Duncalf.

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THE biggest of the current events, the US Open, finished last weekend in Philadelphia.

Nicol David continued her astounding consistency by winning her third, and Mohamed Elshorbagy won his first, meaning he will top the world ranking list for the first time in November. He will be the fourth youngest world number one in history.

The 23-year-old has enjoyed a relatively quick rise over the last few years after showing serious ability as a junior. Being world number one is a crowning achievement, but to do it at such a young age makes it highly unusual considering squash players reach a peak late in their twenties or early thirties.

Mohamed is based in south west England and has been mentored from a young age by one of the greats of British sport and most recognisable names in squash, Jonah Barrington.

It’s no surprise the Egyptian displays impressive physicality, having been coached by one of the most ferocious of physical trainers. Nobody had even thought to train for squash before Jonah came along; he practically invented it, and I’d be surprised if you were to find an athlete in the annals of professional and amateur sport who trained as hard as Jonah did.

After Philadelphia, my Mulhouse squash club team-mate Mathieu Castagnet did something remarkable on his way to winning the Financiere Banque Nationale event in Montreal.

He won four world-class matches in four days, and his court time for the entire event was 6 hours and 17 minutes – over four straight days! One of the toughest aspects is playing matches consecutively. Rest days are scarce in squash and players often need to play four or five matches in as many days. World Series events can be played in a luxurious seven days.

I can only presume he will be back to his home in Marseille for some feet up time after that, and his fellow professionals will be donning their caps, grateful that they hadn’t had to go through such a schedule.

Meanwhile the Macau Open titles were won by Nicol David and Tarek Momen of Egypt. Harrogate’s Jenny Duncalf reached the semi-finals losing out to David. Leeds-based Emma Beddoes had a big win over World Championship finalist Nour El Sherbini before losing to her Yorkshire compatriot in the quarters.

The British Junior Championships take place in Manchester this weekend where Yorkshire’s juniors will, as ever, be strongly represented.

Around the corner is the feature of the year for the men, the World Championships in Qatar. Greg Gaultier was world number one at draw date, so will go into the event as the top seed.

Shorbagy will be two, followed by Nick Matthew and Ramy Ashour.

Ashour has had a bad few months with injury, sitting out several tournaments leading in, but is still in the draw at this point.

The women, meanwhile, are bound for the exotic climes of Monte Carlo next, in early November.

Pontefract are the sole Yorkshire representatives in the Premier Squash League after Chapel Allerton dropped out this year. They managed a 3-2 win over debutants Leicester, with wins from Simon Parke, Alex Hodgetts and Sarah Kippax. It was a welcome victory after losing every match last season.

Other teams in the group are Birmingham, Nottingham, a solid Duffield and a strong looking Coolhurst.

Ponte’s next match is home to Duffield tonight and tickets will be available from the club.

Darko Milanic’s departure after 32 days as Leeds United coach is only mildly surprising nowadays, considering the brainless principles that govern football and filter through its boardrooms.

From the outside, it seems merely another case of the capricious quick-fix, money-led attempt at success. Louis Van Gaal is another high-profile manager who had been under ridiculously premature pressure. After two or three games people were attempting to validate reasons for an eviction.

No-one can achieve much in 32 days and if everything was based on winning all the time no one team or athlete would ever get anywhere.

Achievement in sport comes through persistence and planning, over a longer period than 32 days. If I were to sack my coach all the times I had lost five out of six matches on the bounce, it wouldn’t be sustainable and it shows a distinct lack of faith.

Clubs, coaches, teams have to lose, they have to have bad times and they have to show faith. It isn’t possible to wave magic wands in sport.

Tony Smith’s first job in Super League rugby league was with Huddersfield and in his first season the team lost 13 matches in a row.

They were relegated, and to their credit the owners backed Tony.

He duly steered the team back up the next season by not losing a match and went on to become one of the most successful rugby league coaches in history.

It’s an example football directors might want to consider next time they are tempted into arbitrary decisions which just lead to, in the end, farce.

James Willstrop, left, on his way to a first round defeat to France's Mathieu Castagenet. Picture courtesy of PSA.

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