DUBAI (AFP) – Mohamed Elshorbagy, a world number one with the highest ever points average, could win the tour s flagship event rather appropriately before the world s highest building, the Burj Al Arab, this week.
The Egyptian s startling elevation in recent months has taken him to six World Series titles out of seven as he goes into the PSA World Series finals, which are being revived on Tuesday in this spectacular setting after a two-year absence.
Success here would hint that Elshorbagy is heading for greatness, for his name on the roll of honour would appear alongside that of his compatriot Amr Shabana, the most successful player of the 21st century, and Jansher Khan, the world championship record-holder from Pakistan.
However he faces two tough personal obstacles – increasing pressure and growing exhaustion. The more he wins the more is expected of him, and the more energy he expends compared with other players.
“Trying to win every tournament takes so much out of you,” the 25-year-old Alexandrian said. “I play more matches than any other player and that is tough.”
– My body was shaking –
Elshorbagy also revealed that during his British Open title defence in March “every night before I slept my body was shaking, and I thought I had a temperature.”
But he didn t. “It was just that my body was tired. It shows how much the sport takes out of you physically and mentally. I am most fragile when I ve had too many matches, and to keep pushing is not easy,” he admitted.
Three weeks ago he was “really stressed”, he says, from the pressure of trying to win the El Gouna Open final in his home country.
“I saw everyone coming to support me, and it really affected me. I remember when I finished warming up I told my mother I was really nervous, I was shaking.”
Elshorbagy overcame his physical difficulties at the British Open by improving his ability to vary the pace of his high-speed game, and his emotional crisis at El Gouna by a determination to fight to whatever last ounces of strength might remain.
The outcomes were a first ever victory over the brilliant Ramy Ashour in a best-of-five game match to win the British final, and a comeback from two games down to pip Greg Gaultier, the world champion from France, in a thrilling Red Sea showdown.
Notably though it was Gaultier who became the oldest first-time winner of the world title – at the age of 32 in November – when Elshorbagy had been a strong favourite for that too.
Here Gaultier heads Group B for the three days of round robin matches, and could become El Shorbagy s principal rival again, although Nick Matthew, the 35-year-old three-times former world champion, will be trying to snatch one of the few big titles to elude him despite recently suggesting that he might retire. The Englishman is in Group A with El Shorbagy.
The week could bring another famous double triumph for Egypt, who won both British Open titles for the first time. Not only have they two male World Series finals qualifiers but four female.
El Shorbagy s fellow Alexandrian, Nour El Sherbini, is favourite in the women s event after capturing the World Open, the British Open, and the world number one ranking at the age of only 20. She is in the same group as her compatriot Raneem El Welily, world number one herself last year.
The other women s group contains England s Laura Massaro, the world number one until the beginning of the month, and Nicol David, the legendary Malaysian who spent a record 106 months at the top.