Now that the women’s final is a wrap (full report here) , on to the Men’s Final of the Delaware Investments U.S. Open Squash Championships: World #1 Nick Matthew (England) vs. World #5 Amr Shabana (Egypt). Matthew is in his signature blue and white shirt and Shabana is in red. Nuff said.
I get into writing about the game a little late because I’m talking with a fellow fan. Sorry, it happens. So the score is already at 6-3 Shabana. Who just has such fine beautiful control of the ball. Speeding up and slowing down as he likes. They seem to be feeling each other out right now. Shabana gets a nice nick on the right wall for 8-4. Then gets in the way of the ball and gives the point to Matthew for 5-8. Tins it dramatically for 6-8. Then 7-8. Shabana! What are you doing, man? Matthew is all about control and consistency, so restrain your flash a little, huh? The videographers have a great camera angle that shows a close-up of one of the walls, so we can see the ball marks on the wall – as well as how tiiiight the ball sticks to the wall. Very cool.
9-7 now and Shabana actually heads the ball after winning the point. I like that. Low corner drop by Matthew for 8-9. Are all the games gonna be this close? Matthew hits the ball high and out of court and now it’s 10-8 Shabana. Then he tins it in the front left for 9-10, but gets the next point for game at 11-9.
Game 2 (Shabana 1-0)
Quick first point for Matthew. And a VERY nice first point for Shabana down the right wall that Matthew can’t come close to. But then Matthew flicks a switch and quickly gets the next few points, so fast I can’t type and watch at the same time. “The guy’s Gumby’ the man says next to me. “He just doesn’t make any unforced errors; it’s unbelievable.” Yeesh, it’s already 6-1 Matthew. He’s totally turned on the heat. 7-1 with a drop to the front left. “He’s in the zone,” announces the man. And then Shabana hits a ball out of court on the left wall. Finally, Matthew does make an error, tinning into the right corner. 2-8. And then 3-8 with Shabana hitting a low long left wall cross. 4-8 with another tin by Matthew. Hmmm, I guess that some of him fell out of the zone? But then 9-4 Matthew. He is not messing around. The points are flying by! 6-9. Then 7-9! It’s like they both decided to turn up the speed dial. Another video review. No let for Matthew. I totally agree; it was a very nice deep left rail and Matthew just gave up hitting it too soon. Oh these lets, guys. Please. And then it’s 10-8 and then 11-8. 2nd game to Matthew.
Game 3 (1-1)
What will follow the fastest game ever? A let of course. Called by Matthew. And another video review. I say ‘no let’ and…. I’m right! What do I win? Now Matthew is talking to the ref, but I can’t hear a word and it doesn’t seem to do much good. One love Shabana. Then 2-0. Nice cross by Matthew and he brings it to 1-2. But he puts the next ball into the tin for 3-1 Shabana. The pace has slowed quite a bit. More rails. Resting, guys? I would, after that last game. Shabana finally crosses a ball into the middle down by Matthew’s feet and he can’t pick it up. Nor the next. 5-1 Shabana. Interesting. Shabana calls for a let and Matthew asks for a video review. . . . I say Yes Let. And it’s….Yes!! I am so right. The guy next to me thinks Matthew was foolish for asking for a review. And then Shabana gets to 6-1 with a lovely low left cross court. Then 7-1. But then Shabana dramatically tins a ball he should’ve gotten and or won the rally with. Come on man. Okay, he heard me. He picks off a ball near the front of court for 8-2. Then 9-2. 10-2. 11-2. I honestly don’t know what came over him. Brilliance? Or is Matthew falling apart?
Game 4 (2-1 Shabana)
What will Matthew do this time? Not much yet. It’s already 3-0 Shabana by the time I put my camera away for a few bad shots of my own–too far away for anything good. 1-3. Then 4-1 after a tin by Matthew. Beautiful drop by Shabana for 5-1. He’s on fire. A cross drop for 6-1. This may be the fastest game yet? Another cross drop for 7-1. Matthew, what’s up?? Okay, he gets the next with a low cross court to the back right corner for 2-7. But then somehow he hits a ball over the front wall that goes high into the bleachers for 8-2 Shabana. Yikes. Close up of Matthew with his tongue out (looking…concerned? would warming up a new ball be good or bad for him at this point?) while they’re searching for the ball. But it’s found and is thrown back in the court (on the second try, to a few boos – tough crowd). Another let. Nice drop by Matthew in the front left corner. 3-8. Then Shabana quickly retaliates and gets the next for 9-3. 10-3 with a tin by Matthew. It’s match ball. This soon. A let. Match ball. A drop and a point for Matthew. Let again. 4-10. And then it’s over. With a low corner drop by Shabana. Wow. So fast. So few points again for Matthew. Last game is 11-4.
Amr Shabana is the Men’s 2011 U.S. Open Squash Champion! We may all be wondering what happened to Matthew; he’s usually so steady. And so fit. But this is Shabana’s night. Congratulations, Amr!