In the first part of an exclusive series of interviews, 2017 World Champion Mohamed ElShorbagy looks back on the rivalries that have defined his career and relive his own personal highlights reel.
After his recent 30th birthday, the British Open champion was keen to reflect on his 15 years on tour while dissecting his personal rivalries with fellow former World No.1s Nick Matthew and Greg Gaultier and reveal the mind games between the trio, both on and off the court.
Explaining just what these two greats of our game did to drive their younger rival’s own squash to new exalted levels and just how tough his wars with ‘The Wolf’ and ‘The French General’ were. Why he learned more from Matthew than any of the other great champions he has battled and what caused him to view Gaultier as a ’monster’ on the court after losing their first nine meetings in succession.
But first, 15 years after he debuted on tour as a callow 15 – year-old, could ElShorbagy have foreseen he would still have been at the top of the game after his 30th birthday?
“When I joined the PSA, the goal was to be where I am today, and I believed I could do it. I also knew that if I were going to do it would depend on many things, like keeping myself injury-free, improving my game continually, staying motivated, and that if I had all these things in check, I was confident I could get to where I am now,” he said.
“I know I have been lucky, in that for the most part I have been able to keep it going, but I am only human. I certainly have days where I don’t get it perfect on that daily basis, I’m not motivated for training as much as I should be but for the best part of my career, I would say I have done more right than wrong!”
When it comes to the rivalries that have shaped and informed ElShorbagy’s game and just how he has acquired the single-mindedness that has continued to drive him and made him the great constant in a period that has spawned three eras of great champions it is the 24 meetings with Nick Matthew that the Egyptian nods too.
“Nick was the player I learned most from. Each day I was playing Nick I knew that the minute I stepped on the court with him, well that he was going to take me to war, and I had to be ready for that every single time we played,” ‘The Beast’ said.
“I remember in the morning before I would play him my face was set and ready for battle, I just had to adopt that mentality. You knew it was never going to be easy. There were times when I played him, and he had not been playing well at the beginning of the tournament, but he got through and you still knew that once he played a big match against one of his rivals, that he would step it up big time.
“If you had to choose a guy who you needed for a big match then Nick is that guy. He just always stepped it up, took it to another level and that was why my finals with him were so good. I just knew that if I were to beat him, I would have to take him beyond his best and that meant I had to play at the absolute top of my game.