Squash: Shabana defies years to reach world quarter-finals

DOHA (AFP) - Amr Shabana, the 35-year-old four-time former world champion, defied the years in emphatic fashion to reach the World Open quarter-finals for the 12th time in a row.

The resiliently brilliant Egyptian did that by overwhelming Max Lee, the rising Hong Kong player, by 11-6, 11-7, 11-4 with an encouragingly incisive performance in less than half an hour.

The focused and rapid success could be a significant help for the oldest man in the draw, who may consequently have a better chance of further progress, possibly at the expense of Nick Matthew, the defending world champion.

Shabana's result was all the more notable because Lee, the first Chinese player to reach the world's top 20, came within three points of beating him at last month's US Open in Philadelphia. Now though he was almost continuously outplayed.

"If you don't control the game you will be at the wrong end of it," Shabana said. "Maybe I played better today. Maybe he wasn't moving at his best, I don't know. But for me I had a game plan and stuck to it. And I felt good."

Shabana mixed the short and the long games superbly, taking Lee in short whenever he had half a chance, and striking the ball heavily and with meticulous accuracy when he wanted to send his opponent plunging to the back again.

There was an important phase as Lee reached 6-5 and then 7-6 in the second game, when the match might have changed character.

Instead Shabana produced five superb attacks and finished them all with winners, two to the front, three to the back, snuffing out the younger man's recovery.

"It's always push and pull, pull and push with an opponent, and there are certain points which are very important," said Shabana. "At the end of the second game I got a bit too excited, which is not good in squash.

"If you go overboard you stop thinking, but I managed to stay in control. Playing only 30 minutes means I saved a lot of energy. You can have one bad rally where it sucks the energy out of you, and that didn't happen. It was a good win for me."

Shabana thus remains in contention for becoming the oldest male world champion of all time, an accolade currently held by Geoff Hunt of Australia, who won his fourth world title aged 33 years and six months.

However, Matthew also began the tournament with this ambition. The 34-year-old Englishman was due for a third-round meeting with Saurav Ghosal of India, for the right to meet Shabana.

Earlier another Egyptian, the young and talented Fares Dessouki who has been tipped as a top five player of the near future, was beaten 11-8, 11-4, 6-11, 11-5 by Borja Golan, the sixth-seeded Spaniard.

This was a fine performance by the 31-year-old Galician, who almost lost to Dessouki in the China Open in September but who has improved his tactical options by developing his front court game.

"My two previous matches with him helped me learn about my game," said Golan. "I am happy with that. I think I am still improving."

He may need to improve some more however as the draw suggested he should next play the twice former world champion Ramy Ashour, another Egyptian.

Ashour was due to face Miguel Rodriguez, the 12th-seeded Colombian, for a place in the quarter-finals.

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