Diego Elias has been cooking up a storm over the past couple of months and it really seems as though a switch has flicked in the Peruvian's head...
He's on an incredible streak at the moment and, after a string of big wins, Diego has just reached the World No.2 spot which is an incredible feat.
The next step is pretty clear and he now has a chance to reach World No.1 which makes me very excited to watch him in action over the next month.
It seemed like the perfect time to write up a blog post about Diego Elias aka the Peruvian Puma...
So, a bit of background on Diego Elias, he's 26 years old and is from Lima in Peru, he's been on the PSA World Tour for 9 years and has won 243 of his 354 matches as a professional.
He also has 15 titles under his belt from 26 final appearances, so he's got a pretty good record so far!
However, in the past, Diego seemed to be one of those players that consistently reached the later stages of tournaments but struggled to convert titles.
He also often beat players ranked higher than him, including players in the top 5 or even the top 3, but he couldn't do so consistently. It seemed as though his game was just missing something.
But, in his past few tournament appearances following the New Year, Elias seems to have stepped up his game to an incredible new level.
Elias started the year off by claiming a massive win at the J.P Morgan Tournament of Champions title for the first time in New York City, this was Diego's third platinum win ever.
Despite being seeded to come 4th, Elias defeated Mohamed ElSherbini and Tarek Momen to reach the semi-finals, then beat 1 seed Paul Coll in an 85-minute marathon match to reach the final.
He then confidently beat Marwan ElShorbagy 3-0 (11-2, 11-6, 11-4) to take the win.
Next, he won the Motor City Open, beating a very tricky Mazen Hesham 3-1 (11-3, 11-4, 6-11, 11-3) in an incredibly entertaining final. Lastly, he once again beat Marwan ElShorbagy 3-0 (11-5, 11-7, 11-2) at the Pittsburgh Open.
It's worth noting that Marwan had been playing some of the best squash I've ever seen during the first half of the season and he was looking like a real contender to take some major titles.
However, the way that Diego powered through both of their clashes with such confidence gives me second thoughts...
I watched both of the finals between the two and it honestly didn't look like Marwan could do anything to get Diego off the T, despite throwing everything he had into the ring. Whereas Diego, who makes the game of squash look easy, seemed relaxed yet confident throughout.
So, what makes Elias such an incredible player?
What makes Elias stand out from the crowd is, in my opinion, his movement. Of course, to reach the level that he has you need to have great shots and fitness, which Elias does, but his movement is almost hypnotic.
I mentioned above that he makes the game of squash look easy and I think that's the best way to describe his movement. It doesn't matter if he's on the back foot, scrambling to retrieve shots from the front, or taking his time in a length rally, he always moves smoothly with an elegant flow.
It looks completely effortless.
Another advantage that Diego Elias has is his height. It looks like he would be a nightmare to play against because he can volley almost anything. Standing at 188cm, he's certainly on the taller side and I'd love to know what his wing span is.
It looks like it would be very tough to get a drive past him to the back of the court without it being glued to the side wall and, to get a lob past him, it would have to be very very high.
So, what has been stopping Elias from reaching the top in the past? I think Diego's head often let him down in big matches.
In situations in which a decision didn't go his way, or, in a match with lots of contact where rallies are very stop-start, Diego seemed to often struggle to get his head back into the game once he'd become frustrated about something.
I wouldn't say that this was an anger issue, but, perhaps these incidents distracted him from the game at hand, and they often cost him a good few points, which leads to games, which leads to matches.
I'd like to stress that this is just my opinion, and you may disagree, which is absolutely fine!
But, what has changed for Diego to suddenly jump to this level? Again, I think the answer is mental rather than physical. He seems to have developed a relentless focus and consistency (somewhat similar to that of Paul Coll).
In those matches against Marwan, he always seemed to be playing the right shot at the right time and made very few unforced errors. He was constantly dominating the T by volleying often and would then pin Marwan in the back corners until there was a loose shot to pounce on and take into the front.
Again, I'd like to stress that those two performances against Marwan ElShorbagy were two of the most dominant finals I've ever seen.
I guess the next question is, can he make it to World No.1?
Well, there's one player who stands in his way, and that's the current World No.1 Mostafa Asal.
According to the PSA website, Elias has the chance to reach World No.1 in the week commencing March 13th if he wins the upcoming Black Ball Squash Open and Asal fails to reach the final.
Elias and Mostafa are in separate halves of the draw, meaning that they wouldn't play each other unless both of them made it to the final, which of course would mean that Elias couldn't take World No.1 even if he won against Asal in the final.
Despite looking as strong as he is at the moment, Elias doesn't have a great record against Mostafa Asal, having only won one of their seven clashes. It's usually a feisty affair when these two meet.
There is also another player who could potentially prove to be a big obstacle for Elias, and that's Ali Farag, who has been out of action due to injury since October 2022.
Elias has won just three of their nineteen clashes over the years, however, Elias did win their most recent match in the 2022 US Open... so it could be an interesting once if they do meet in the Black Ball Open!
Anyway, I would say that this situation with Elias is eerily similar to that of Paul Coll when he managed to reach the World No.1 spot. It was almost like he'd unlocked a secret. He'd figured out a way to beat the Egyptian players who had dominated the top 5 for so long.
He was consistently beating the likes of Ali Farag and Mohamed ElShorbagy and it seemed as though he was unstoppable all of a sudden.
Everyone thought he would be holding that World No.1 spot for a long time after that, however, all the other top players responded and upped their game to match Coll, and he has since slid back down the rankings to World No.4.
There is certainly a chance of a similar thing happening with Diego, but regardless, I'd love to see him reach the World No.1 spot as it would really stir the pot a bit.
It would make it very difficult to decide who actually is the best player in the world since the current top 5 are all capable of beating one another on any given day.
So, that's my two cents on Diego Elias! I'm not sure how many people would agree with my thoughts but it's certainly an interesting topic to unpack. I'm really excited to watch Diego closely as we get closer to the end of the season.
Since I wrote this article a short while back, Elias has since had an unlucky couple of results that have prevented him from reaching World No.1. One of which was an incredible match against Mohamed ElShorbagy in the semi-final of the Black Ball Open.
I still believe that he has what it takes and I think these missed opportunities to reach that top spot will serve as lessons that make him far stronger in the future.
This article was taken from our On The 'T' Newsletter, if you're interested in receiving more content like this, please feel free to sign up using the subscribe section located at the bottom left of this page (or underneath the article if you're on mobile), thanks!