Egypt’s Karim Abdel Gawad opened his Manchester Open title challenge with a trademark five-game triumph as he narrowly got the better of Frenchman Lucas Serme at the National Squash Centre.
The World No.3 is traditionally a slow starter and that particular trait still looks to be part of his game despite the six-month suspension of the PSA World Tour as he surrendered the opening game to a tenacious Serme.
Just marvellous #squash from— PSA World Tour (@PSAWorldTour) September 17, 2020
LucasSerme</a> & <a href="https://twitter.com/karimabdelgawad?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">karimabdelgawad
The dive and the accuracy are on point from the Frenchman!#SquashIsBack #MCROpen #MCRActive
GLL_UK</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/Better_Mcr?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">Better_Mcr pic.twitter.com/A6ncOFua2e
The Egyptian won the next game comfortably though and followed that up with victory in the third game as he attacked with a flourish and showcased his impressive racket skills to keep Serme at bay.
But, in a true ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ performance, Gawad reverted to his casual style of play in the fourth game and was at the mercy of some accurate and consistent hitting from his opponent who levelled the scores to threaten an upset.
Gawad though often rises to the occasion when a match enters a fifth game, and it was no different here in Manchester as the momentum shifted back into the Egyptian’s favour.
A quick change of shoe momentarily slowed down his victory march towards the end of the game but he made no mistake in closing out an 10-12, 11-4, 11-8, 5-11, 11-6 win in 71 minutes to complete the longest match of the tournament so far.
Karim Abdel Gawad winning in five games
New season… same
karimabdelgawad</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SquashIsBack?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SquashIsBack</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MCROpen?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MCROpen</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MCRActive?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MCRActive</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/GLL_UK?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">GLL_UK
Better_Mcr</a> <a href="https://t.co/DjGcNYJlB9">pic.twitter.com/DjGcNYJlB9</a></p>— PSA World Tour (PSAWorldTour) September 17, 2020
“It was a very hard match, it’s always tough playing Lucas,” Gawad said following the match.
“He’s moving very well on court, he’s quick and he also has some very good shots, so it’s hard to play with him, especially after seven months or so off. Playing him in the first round is very tough.
“You always have a better pre-season than we had this time, we normally have more than two months for the pre-season, but we had less than that this time after a very long time out during the lockdown. I took almost five months off and only did some very basic stuff in my house to try and keep the flexibility and mobility in my body.
“But we haven’t done a lot of endurance and physical stuff, so it’s hard to be back but it’s very nice to compete and play tournaments. That’s what we train for and that’s our life.”
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt Lucas Serme (FRA) 3-2: 10-12, 11-4, 11-8, 5-11, 11-6 (71m)