I arrived back from Egypt on Saturday after reaching the final of the El Gouna International world series event.
I shook hands with my opponent, Ramy Ashour, in the third game of the final after struggling with the slippery surface of the court, which had been a problem intermittently for the players all week.
The tournament strives for the wow factor. El Gouna is a man-made developed holiday city. With its mini beaches and lagoons and the countless hotels, restaurants and bars, everyone is there to have a good time and there is a positive feel about the place.
El Gouna provides the unique environment that is squash tournament and holiday destination all in one and it’s no wonder some of us players start getting a bit confused with what we are supposed to be doing.
Sometimes it’s difficult to comprehend why we are playing one of the hardest games on earth in a place like El Gouna; you would feel better disposed sunning yourself in a beach side bar sipping cocktails and ingesting the distinct aroma of fruity shisha smoke, than chasing a little black ball about in a glass box.
At the time of the event’s initial conception, the idea was to place the all-glass show court by the marina area, the epicentre of the resort so maximising exposure to holidaymakers and benefiting sponsors and investors all at once.
the organising team deserve a lot of credit for a spectacular vision and for making such an ambitious idea a reality.
Unfortunately there were problems with the conditions that interfered with the court floor’s playability, as the position of the site for the event is dramatically placed in the middle of vast expanses of sandy terrain.
With an often strong wind the dust made its way on to the court and in the end this forced me to relinquish my effort prematurely in the final.
On every big lunge i took i felt unsteady and not being able to move properly I finally conceded at 5-2 in the third. The last thing i wanted was an injury caused by a slippery floor.
All week the court needed constant cleaning and maintenance to make it nearly playable, (which for some of the week it just about was) but when court cleaners have to resort to applying fizzy pepsi to the floor to give it grip, it’s clear there is a problem.
No other squash environment ever requires this and nor should they, but then not many squash venues bid to be so glamorous and exciting and carry the risk that El Gouna does. Something has to give.
Sadly a year and a half ago I had to concede my match at the same venue in the quarter-final against Gregory Gaultier for the same reasons.
It is a pity the event was marred by conditions of the environment and the venue will surely need to be reviewed if the event is to take place again.
There is one world series event left before the beginning of summer, the British Open Championships at the O2 in London and before that the European Team Championships take place in Germany in early May.