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Willstrop will again have a final against Karim Darwish - November 28, 2011
The Englishman’s impressive 11-9, 11-6, 11-3 win over Gregory Gaultier, the former world number one from France, suggested he may be capable of the rare feat on the men’s circuit of winning back-to-back top titles.
However Willstrop will again have a final against Karim Darwish, the former world number one from Egypt, who bravely saved two game points to avoid a decider in a 11-4, 11-9, 5-11, 15-13 win over his young compatriot Mohamed El Shorbagy, the former world junior champion.
Willstrop achieved his victory with a forceful accuracy which created cumulative pressure, eventually frustrating Gaultier so much that both his error ratio and his protests to the referee increased as the third game raced away from him.
“I stopped him from having opportunities to attack, tucked him up in the back corners, and played with rhythm and accuracy,” said Willstrop, who believes he is playing better than when he first rose to prominence in 2005. He now looks capable of finishing the year by equaling his career high ranking of world number two.
But Darwish too played with control and tactical maturity for two games. When he began running into trouble he was able to adapt and battle tenaciously, which just about enabled him to halt his dangerously improving friend and rival.
This change of pattern happened after El Shorbagy won his first game in five encounters against his senior compatriot, getting in front of Darwish much more frequently and taking advantage fof the resultant opportunities to hit damaging strokes both to the front and he back.
Darwish saved game points at 9-10 and 12-13 and missed match points at 11-10, and 12-11 as the match see-sawed compellingly in the fourth game. After just about tilting the outcome his way, Darwish was asked whether it had been a question showing the younger man who was still boss.
“Sometimes it’s like that,” the 30-year-old smilingly agreed. “Sometimes age can give you an advantage, and experience as well. He can give me a lot of respect, but at the end it got a bit brutal.”
However the repeat between Darwish and Willstrop should be very different from that in sticky conditions in Hong Kong nine days previously. Cool weather and storms are forecast, and a special roof will be constructed over the court to try to ensure that the final is not deluged.
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