By RJ Mitchell
Paul Coll has revealed he is relishing the prospect of a rematch with Mostafa Asal at the CIB Black Ball Open later today.
The World No.4 defeated France’s World No. 46, Victor Crouin, in straight games on Sunday and. With Asal defeating India’s Mahesh Mangaonkar in five games, the duo will do battle in the second round in a mouth-watering reprise of their 103-minute epic quarter-final at the CIB Egyptian Open, which the young Egyptian won 12-10 in a fifth game tie-break.
‘Superman’ now has a point to prove, with his coach, Rob Owen, admitting prior to this tournament that Coll had been “bullied” by Asal in a match that contained a number of collisions between the players and plenty of chatter with the officials.
While there were plenty of comments on social media both for and against Asal’s boisterous ‘tops-off’ celebration upon the moment of the biggest victory of the 19-year-old’s career, Coll says he has no problems with the celebrations.
Yet the Kiwi is determined to avoid being taken out by the Raging Bull again in what is keenly anticipated sequel to their encounter in front of the Great Pyramid of Giza.
Coll said: “Asal in the second round is probably as tricky a second-round match up as I could have drawn, but at the same time, after our match in the Egyptian Open, one I am really looking forward to.
“You have to say that he is a bit of a character, he’s passionate and he gives it everything and, in Egypt, Asal is a very hard man to beat.
“Perhaps his celebration wasn’t the smartest thing he’s ever done, but it was a very tough match, he’s stoked up in front of his home crowd and he let it all go and I don’t have a problem with any of that.
Coll recently reached a career high of World No.4 in the PSA World Rankings to become the first New Zealander to reach that status since the great Ross Norman in 1989.
The 28-year-old admitted it was a source of great pride for him to emulate Kiwi sporting icon Norman, who won perhaps the most famous squash match of them all when he ended the Jahangir Khan’s 555-match winning streak at the final of the World Championship in Toulouse in 1986.
Coll said: “I’ve had quite a long career and I remember when people first started saying they reckoned I’d make the top 20 and it blew my mind, so to break the top four and reach my highest ranking is something I am extremely proud of.
“To be the first Kiwi to achieve that since Ross Norman in ’89, who is one of New Zealand’s greatest ever sportsmen, is something I am really proud of, but it is just part of the journey towards the ultimate goal.
“Obviously, Ross became World Champion and I’d love to be able to emulate him in that respect as well, but he is a great guy and I remember he came to watch me play when I won the Channel Vas at St. George’s Hill, and I have nothing but huge respect for Ross.
“But now I have that top four ranking, I am determined not to stop there.”
Returning to the CIB Black Ball Open, the New Zealander has also been drawn in the same half of the draw as World No.1 Ali Farag, whom he pushed so closely in the final of the Qatar Classic last time out.
Coll admits that was an encounter in which he picked up a tactical tip that he is keen to test further in any rematch with Farag, saying: “The final in Qatar was the closest I have been against Ali. In the past when we have played there have maybe been one or two one-sided games in there but this time there was nothing pretty much in it over the four games.
“I have to give Ali credit in that he played the bigger points better, but I feel like it was a case of fine margins. I believe with regard to the whole tournament it was the best I’ve felt since I came back for the resumption and I was also really pleased to beat Marwan [ElShorbagy] after he’d given me a bit of a battering at the World Tour Finals.
“Going back to the final with Ali, I felt I learned an awful lot from that match and I also found something, which will stay in my back pocket, that worked for me in tactical terms and I will look forward to using that against Ali next time we meet.
“But you know when you look back at 9-9 in the fourth, I hadn’t done a whole lot wrong and Ali found a perfect long drop and then a cross court nick on match ball and when that happens you have to hold your hands up and say fair play mate.
“But Ali is a player and person I respect, and to push the World No.1 that close is something that pleased me but didn’t because ultimately I came up just short.
“Like I say, they were fine margins and I’d like to think if I can repeat that level of performance against him next time out then maybe the dice will roll differently.”
The CIB Black Ball Open is the final men’s tournament of what has been a challenging year and Coll believes that every tournament has acquired extra significance in these COVID-19 blighted times.
He said: “I think every tournament since the suspension has been lifted has been really important as, to a certain extent, we haven’t known if it could be the last one. Also, I would have to say that because there have been less tournaments, each one has had extra significance from my point of view.
“So although the Black Ball is the final one of the year and you want to do well and go out on a high, for me in respect of every one of the five tournaments we will have played since the PSA World Tour resumed, the importance has been equal.”