What a fantastic run Karim Abdel Gawad has had since the 2016/2017 season started. I have always enjoyed watching him play because he has such excellent control of the ball. The "Baby Faced Assassin" is such an appropriate nickname for Gawad. He looks so relaxed and casual but if you leave the ball loose the point is over. At the start of this year's world championship tournament he was certainly one to watch but I don't think he was a favourite to win. I know I was certainly expecting Mohamed Elshorbagy or Ramy Ashour to win. Gregory Gaultier and then perhaps Nick Matthew would have been my next picks. I was wrong in those picks and should have been picking Karim Abdel Gawad. Congratulations to Karim Abdel Gawad as he is the 2016 PSA World Champion!
Gawad's road to the championship was not an easy one. He seemed to struggle with his form in the early rounds but made it through. His semi with Elshorbagy was an incredible match. You could see how much Elshorbagy wanted the match by how hard he was working. He was inserting so much pace in to the play but Gawad was able to handle it. The first 3 games were all exceptionally close with Elshorbagy taking a 2-1 lead but he put so much effort in to it. The 4th and 5th game really showed Karim Abdel Gawad's class of play. He controlled play. Elshorbagy tried to insert pace but was not able to do so with enough accuracy and the Baby Faced Assassin used the pace against him and closed out the match. Gawad had just knocked off the #1 player in the world but the Artist, Ramy Ashour was up next and Ashour had a night off for his semi with Gaultier having to pull out due to injury.
Ramy came out really strong in the 1st game and was in pretty solid control of it throughout. Gawad though responded beautifully though in the second game and took control away from Ashour. You could really see that Gawad was reading what Ashour was going to do nearly perfectly and was on to Ramy's balls so incredibly quickly. A real role reversal for Ramy having to be on the defending side so much and being attacked so consistently and with such quality. Ramy worked incredibly hard in both games 2 and 3 but came out on the losing side of both. The 4th started off very much like the 2nd and 3rd. Some incredible squash by both players but once again Gawad seemed to be in control of proceedings and Ramy was being forced to respond to and defend against Gawad's incredible play. Unfortunately Ramy had to retire due to injury but Gawad truly deserved the win. His performance in both winning his semi against Elshorbagy and in commanding play in the final really proved he was deserving of being the PSA's 2016 World Champion.
I think what amazed me the most about Gawad's play was not his ability to finish a rally. I already knew how good he was at that. The 2 aspects of the game that impressed me most were how well he read the play of the 2 best players in the world. His ability to handle the absolutely brutally tough pace of play that he faced in both his semi and final were also amazing. There are few players in the world that could physically play at that pace and not been forced on the defensive consistently. Not only did Gawad handle the intense physical pressure put on him by Elshorbagy and Ashour he was able to turn the tables on them and force them to defend.
Karim Abdel Gawad plays with the Harrow Vibe Squash Racquet. It is a great fit for his style of play being an incredible racquet for a shot maker. Its light weight, even balance and feel make it an ideal pick for someone with such as amazing hands as Karim Abdel Gawad.
If you would like to learn more about the Harrow Vibe click on the View in store link below!