By RJ Mitchell
Fares Dessouky believes his victory in December’s CIB PSA Black Ball Squash Open has given him the extra confidence needed to make a strong defence of the title this time around.
The reigning champion will begin his campaign on Saturday against India’s World No.56 Ramit Tandon with an evening encounter in Cairo.
Dessouky, who is seeded at No.7, will take to the court on the back of winning his biggest title in which he defeated former World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad and reigning World Champion Tarek Momen en route to the 2020 Black Ball final before coming back from two games behind to defeat World No.1 Ali Farag in an epic 73-minute final.
Yet, as he took stock of a change of perspective which has now cast him as the hunted rather than the hunter and projected forward to a potential quarter-final rematch with Farag, Dessouky was keen to balance the pros and cons of the challenge that awaits him.
The 26-year-old said: “Of course it’s different [being champion] but I’m playing with more confidence than the last time. I know that people want to see me playing well and winning again and that’s what I’m looking forward to, but for now what I want is to play my best squash and not leave the court without giving all I have got.”
The Alexandrian’s pre-Christmas triumph firmly put to bed his capitulation in the semi-final of the Qatar Classic against Paul Coll in November when many questioned just how much he wanted it.
Now Dessouky has provided a further indication that he is not about to rest on the hard-won laurels of his greatest career triumph to date.
He said: “I had to start training earlier than anyone just to keep pushing myself on and not to think too much about the last Black Ball.
“I have been working more on my weak points and trying to add more to my game from the tactical side, but I also know that in terms of my fitness and the mental side of things there are aspects that I can improve.”
When it comes to the prospect of a rematch with Farag, Dessouky is adopting a one-game at a time strategy: “It’s a very early question to be asked as Ali has a tough draw from the first match. What I think is important is that we have to give all the players the respect.
“The standard is so high now with so many good players in squash now that you must expect the unexpected. On their day anyone can win and my target for now is just to win my first match.”
In the opposite side of the draw, Mohamed ElShorbagy will make his return to competitive action on Egyptian soil and Dessouky revealed that he has been working with the British Open champion in the build up to the tournament.
The World No.8 said: “It is such an addition to the squash and for the tournament for sure to have Mohamed back. We have trained twice, and I have seen just how hungry and ready he is to battle.
“But Mohamed is also very entertaining and enjoyable to watch and it’s just great for squash that he’s back playing this week.”