Egypt's former World No.1 Karim Abdel Gawad talks to RJ Mitchell and relives his recent title double glory and how he is aiming to continue his impressive form in 2019.
Karim Abdel Gawad has promised to continue to go on the attack when the PSA World Tour resumes at the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions at New York's Grand Central Station in January.
The 'Baby-faced Assassin' ended 2018 as the form player on the Men's Tour when he doubled up with back-to-back title triumphs at the Pakistan Open and the CIB Black Ball Open, in his home country of Egypt.
But it was the manner of Gawad's victory in Cairo that saw the 27-year-old take out World No.1 and reigning World Champion Mohamed ElShorbagy, World No.4 Tarek Momen and World No.2 Ali Farag en route to claiming his first PSA Platinum title since January 2017, which really confirmed he has returned to his best following a difficult 18 months.
Now, in an exclusive interview with PSA World Tour, Gawad revealed he can't wait for 2019 and has vowed to come out with all guns blazing in New York.
“My game is all about volleying, going short and attacking and I am only able to play that way when my body allows me to,” said the Egyptian.
“It was fantastic to have the physical and mental confidence in Cairo to attack and I hope that with a period of rest, recuperation and further preparation, I will be able to come back in 2019 and produce attacking squash.”
The former World Champion continued: “At the beginning of the season my coach Omar (Abdel Aziz) told me that it would take around four tournaments for me to gain the benefits of a proper summer of training and to start to produce my best form.
“It was frustrating, but steadily the results started to come and I could feel my confidence coming back, feel the sharpness in my movement improving and my ball-striking getting more accurate. When all of that happens and your game starts to come together then your belief also returns.
“The previous season was really tough as I was unable to get in the shape I needed to produce my best squash because the hernia didn't allow me to train properly. Now the feeling of being back getting to your best is exciting for sure.”
If any proof were needed that Gawad was physically capable of
challenging for the top honours again, then he showed that in Cairo as he powered to success.
The Egyptian ace's dispatch of World No.1 Elshorbagy in a tight straight sets quarter-final was punctuated with some exquisite shot-making, including a feathered forehand nick from backcourt on game ball to take a two-game lead that had the Cairo crowd in raptures.
Then the former World Champion found himself engaged in a compelling battle against World No.4 Tarek Momen, which lasted almost 90 minutes and concluded with an epic 15-13 win in the fourth game.
The recovery from that match involved Gawad requiring two physio rehab sessions, before eventually getting to sleep at 4am.
But amazingly Gawad was good to go again in the final and got the better of World No.2 Farag, after 62 minutes and four draining games to book his place at the season-ending PSA World Tour Finals and also mark him down as a contender when the PSA World Tour resumes in Grand Central Station on January 16.
“It was really tough to come through in Cairo, but I am a very proud man to have prevailed and done so in front of my home fans.
“To have beaten players of the quality of Mohamed, Tarek and Ali in successive rounds and to have been able to cope with the physical demands that placed on me has been massive for my confidence.
“Now, I'm looking forward to the Tournament of Champions and I know my game is in good order and for that I owe so much to my team of Omar (Abdel Aziz), Mahmoud (Abdel Kader) and Ahmed (Faragallah).
“They stayed with me when I was down and things were tough for me, they continued to believe and now I hope we can all look forward to 2019 with positivity.
“We have two massive tournaments in America with ToC and the PSA World Championships and my target is to be the best I can in both of these and see where that takes me.”