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Alex Robertson
By Alex Robertson on March 19, 2024

Why Ali Farag Is Unstoppable Right Now

This week, I want to talk about men's World No.1, Ali Farag.

I definitely wouldn't say that Farag is underrated, however, I sometimes feel like the Egyptian isn't talked about enough, especially when the topic of the greatest players of all time pops up.

In my opinion, Ali is currently in the process of solidifying his status among the all-time greats, in fact, it could be strongly argued that he is already there.

So, I wanted to focus this week's newsletter on the elements of Ali's game that make him so unstoppable and why it is that his win rate just so high.

Plus, I also wanted to use it as an opportunity to highlight his incredible achievements and how ridiculously dominant he's been during his professional career, to put the argument forward that Farag is indeed one of the best players ever.

So, let's dive in...

Ali's Achievements...

So, the reason why I decided to write this article was from watching Ali's performance in the Windy City Open that just concluded on the 28th of February.

Of course, Ali took the win at this prestigious event after overcoming New Zealand's Paul Coll 3-1 in the final.

I watched most of Ali's matches in the Windy City Open and his style blew me away every single time (but more on that in the next section).

Anyway, the PSA put out a Tweet mentioning that this was Farag's fifth win in Chicago in the past six years. He won the 2019 World Champs, the 2020 Windy City Open, the 2021 World Champs, the 2023 World Champs, and now, the 2024 Windy City Open.

And these wins don't even scratch the surface of Ali's successes in his career.

Looking at his PSA profile and stats, Farag has 380 wins and 100 losses under his belt from his professional career, giving him an incredible 79.17% win rate overall. 

He's played 134 tournaments, reached 66 finals, and won 39 titles, which is absolutely ridiculous.

Farag reached World No.1 for the first time in March 2019 and has very rarely dropped below World No.2 since then (other than when he was injured last season and dropped to World No.5).

I'm not sure just how many weeks in total Farag has spent at World No.1, however, I believe it's almost 200 which is incredible.

I do know that he has held the spot for this entire season so far, and, on the 11th of December, the PSA released an article mentioning that Farag had spent a total of 187 weeks at World No.1 so far, so, if my maths is correct, it would put him at around 198 weeks overall.

Ali has won pretty much all of the major platinum events at least once in his career, and, this season alone, he's reached every final of every event he's entered, only losing out on two titles, both times to Paul Coll.

He's won the QTerminals Qatar Classic, the Tournament of Champions, the Paris Open, and the Singapore Open.

Ali is now aged 31 and I don't think he's even close to slowing down.

Looking briefly at Ali's head-to-head ratios with the other top 5 players (using the PSA's 'Head to Head' feature), it's also pretty clear to see his dominance.

He has faced World No.2, Diego Elias from Peru, 25 times and won 22 of them, he's faced World No.3, Paul Coll, 28 times and won 20 of them. He's also played World No.4, Mostafa Asal from Egypt, 19 times and won 15 of them, and, he's played World No.5, Karim Abdel Gawad from Egypt, 24 times and won 14 of them.

It's pretty apparent that Ali Farag is capable of incredible consistency overall, and he honestly seems to be stronger now than he's ever been before.

But, the question is, how is he doing it? What is Farag doing differently to the other players? And, how is he doing it so consistently?

Ali's Unstoppable Style Of Squash...

Ali's nickname on the PSA World Tour is 'Mr Fantastic', referring to the character from the movie 'The Fantastic Four' who has the superpower of elasticity.

This nickname is very appropriate for Farag as he's tall with a slim build, and, he's known for being able to retrieve every single shot. He's also great at reaching across and cutting shots off by using his long wingspan.

At a glance, Ali plays a generally pretty safe style of squash with minimal errors, however, that doesn't mean he doesn't hit the odd 'Shot of the Month' contender. In particular, his drops are sublime.

Farag also has quite a unique swing style and his movement is very fluid and efficient. Ultimately, Farag makes things look easy, and that's a very tricky thing to do in professional squash.

He seems to have the perfect concoction of every element that makes a good squash player.

So, let's dive into these elements of his game in a little more detail...

Shot Selection

Ali has superb shot selection when it comes to taking time away from his opponents and them all over the court.

His ability to control the T allows him to dictate the pace of play while keeping pressure on his opponent by taking the ball early with volleys.

This often forces weaker and weaker shots out of his opponents allowing him to chip and chip away at them until he gets the chance for a winner.

However, you can tell that Farag's shot selection is more focused on the long term rather than going for easy points.

You'll often see him force a loose shot from the other player, giving him the opportunity to take the ball in short for a winner, but, he'll instead crack it to the back of the court again straight or cross court.

This is partly to keep the rallies going longer and put even more pressure on them to pin his opponent in those back corners, however, it's also partly because Farag's game involves making very few mistakes.

He does use pace and hit hard, but perhaps not to the same calibre as the likes of Mostafa Asal or Mohamed ElShorbagy. He knows when to use pace (if he's looking to take more time away from his opponents) and when to just keep it steady to either maintain control or even wrong-foot the other player.

Ali is also very very patient with his length game. His impeccable accuracy allows him to keep the ball tight, straight, and deep to restrict his opponent's ability to volley.

This extends to his cross courts as well as Ali does a superb job of hitting them with pace and width.

One thing I've noticed about Farag's shot selection is that he plays quite a lot of cross-courts in comparison to other players on the PSA World Tour.

He doesn't often play multiple straight drives again and again, but instead, he throws in a lot of cross courts to force his opponents to have to cover both back corners of the court.

After doing this again and again, volleying and taking the ball as early as possible, he will then eventually throw in a shot to the front. His accuracy to the front is, of course, great, however, I think his ability to move his opponent from corner to corner is his superpower.

It's quite a proactive, aggressive style of play that could be seen as slightly risky, however, it's not as risky as going for winners very often.


Ali Farag's movement is almost frustrating to watch.

He seems to be able to get to every single shot before it bounces twice, however, he also makes it look effortless.

This comes from years and years of experience optimizing the most efficient, yet fast, movement patterns.

I think his tall, slim, lightweight body build helps this.

Farag seems to take quite large steps when he's moving in to retrieve the ball, however, one thing I've noticed that he does very well is walking back to the T after his shots.

It looks like he's just casually strolling back to the T, but he's still doing it fast (just as fast as he needs to). It sounds simple in theory, but, it takes so much practice to get to this level. I know if I tried to stroll back to the T, I wouldn't have a chance of getting to my opponent's next shot.

This is most apparent in Ali's game during length exchanges, he generally gets to the ball very fast using those large strides and then expends minimal energy when getting back to the T.

Of course, he doesn't do this when he's under pressure, however, since a large percentage of rallies in squash are played to the back, and, since Ali's lengths are so tight and accurate, he gives himself plenty of time to move slowly.

Ali's perfection of the 'walk back to the T motion' also allows him to conserve a lot of energy for the later stages of the match.

A point that I don't often hear mentioned about Ali's movement is that it's unbelievably excellent from a longevity perspective too.

Of course, this is good for preserving fitness during tough matches and tournaments, however, thinking even more long term, his smooth and fluid style of moving doesn't seem to be too heavily impactful on his body.

Like many players, Ali has indeed suffered injuries over the years, including an injury to his knee last season that put him out for four months, however, these sorts of injuries are generally common amongst professional sports people.

However, if we look at top players whose styles are a little more aggressive and attacking, injuries and general fatigue are much more common.

Youssef Ibrahim for example has a very heavy style of moving and does a lot of fast-paced hard-hitting while taking balls very early. This is a style that may have contributed to Ibrahim's knee injury that put him out for most of the 2022/2023 season.

However, at just 24 years old, this is quite early to be sustaining consistent injuries.

Another example is Mohamed ElShorbagy, one of my favourite players of all time. Aged 33, Mo also has an unbelievable squash record and he's still right at the top of the rankings, however, he has started to slip a little.

It could be argued that this may be down to his very attacking style of play that involves making heavy movements to take balls very very early. This is a style that is becoming harder and harder for Mo to sustain for long periods at a time.

However, maybe I'm just waffling, because you can also look at explosive players like Colombia's Miguel Rodriguez who is aged 38 and still moves in a ridiculously explosive way!

I do think my point about Farag's longevity still stands though...


Photo credit: Steve Cubbins


I briefly mentioned this in the shot selection section, however, I think it deserved its own section because Farag's volleying capabilities are unbelievable.

Farag seems to volley very frequently, an approach that does generally expend more energy in the short term, however, it also puts a lot more pressure on his opponent.

This compounds in the longer term, adding up and adding up until his opponent is physically worn out.

He does an incredible job of stepping forward onto the ball rather than just stepping laterally to chip it off of the side wall.

I think Farag's volleying is also well assisted by his short, punchy style of swing. I'll talk a little more about that in the 'Deception' section, however, it definitely plays a factor in the effectiveness of his volleying.

Ali holds his racquet quite low and has a superb wrist, giving him the ability to hold, then flick volley cross courts over at the last minute, and, as we've already established, he is superb at hitting those targets (whether he's going straight or cross court).

This strategy allows him to dominate the T and wait as long as he needs to for the right opportunity to take in short.


Now, it would be almost impossible for any player (even Ali) to literally control the T for an entire match and always be dictating rallies.

But, Ali's ability to lift the ball and get himself out of trouble is something I find so satisfying to watch. His straight and cross court lob game is unbelievable.

I can imagine him being very frustrating to play for many players on the PSA World Tour.

It seems like every time a player is making a bit of leeway in a rally against Farag, he begins lifting the ball with so much height and accuracy that it becomes very difficult for the opponent to keep control of the pressure.

Again, going back to shot selection, Ali is also a genius at knowing when the right time to begin defending or begin attacking is.

He never goes over a certain threshold of risk unless he absolutely has to, meaning he makes very few mistakes, even when under pressure.

Attitude and Mentality

This is an area in which Ali Farag shines.

First off, his attitude makes him an amazing ambassador for the sport. He is very positive and incredibly gracious in victory and defeat.

If his opponent hits a great shot, he makes sure to let them know about it after the rally, which isn't actually that common on the PSA World Tour. That's not to say it doesn't happen as I absolutely don't want to discredit any other players, however, Farag's a great example of a player that does it consistently.

In his victory speeches, he's always very honest and open about how he feels his performance was and is very complimentative toward his opponents too.

It's superb for the sport that the men's World No.1 demonstrates such great sportsmanship.

His on court mentality is also one of absolute focus and drive, no matter what the score is.

I find it pretty crazy that any human can stay at the top of a sport for a long period of time without losing that hunger to keep on winning. However, you can tell that Farag never ever loses that drive to win.

This is why you can never count Ali out of a match either, even when the sticks are down.

I watched his semi-final of the Windy City Open against Mazen Hesham which ended up being 3-2 to Farag.

Hesham put on an absolute masterclass in the games that he won, going up 1-0 and then 7-1 up in the second game too. However, there was still a part of me that thought 'Ali is still going to win this match', and he did.

Despite that scoreline, Ali's composure to not lose his head against Hesham (who can be very tricky to play due to his very deceptive, attacking style) was impeccable.

Even when Hesham went 2-1, it's impossible to count Ali out, who made some very clever tactical changes to then win the fourth and fifth games 11-2 and 11-3.

His mindset allows him to step it up to another level if he is under threat which, since he's already the World No.1, can make him almost impossible to beat.

This is what contributes to Ali's patience as well, I don't think I've ever seen him tempted to go for a risky cross court nick while out of position, or throw in a boast for no reason.

He's always 100% focused on his match plan and not making any mistakes whatsoever.


Another element of Farag's game that isn't really talked about very often is his slightly unorthodox swing style.

Farag doesn't raise his racquet up particularly high with his backswing, instead, he keeps his racquet very low and swings through the ball using a lot of wrist.

In the front corners, he moves in with his racquet very low for a very short swing which makes it very difficult to predict what shot he's going to play next.

Although he's not renowned for trickshots and deception, I think that his swing is one of the most deceptive swings on the PSA World Tour.

If he's got time in either of the front corners, he can hold and hold and hold and then flick a low hard cross court at the last second with a lot of pace from a very short wristy swing. 

Ali often uses all corners of the court from all other corners of the court too, forcing his opponents to have to cover every single corner of the court at pretty much all times.

Something that really takes a physical toll on them over the course of a match.

Of course, being at the top of the sport, Ali Farag does have that impeccable ability to guide in very accurate winners as well. His drop and counter drop game is very very good, and, since his swing is so deceptive, players never know when they're coming!

Farag's Future...

I mean, this is quite a hard thing to cover since he has already achieved so much. I don't want to go into specifics about tournaments, which ones he can win, and how many times he can do it.

Instead, I want to think more about the longevity of Ali Farag.

Given his efficient style of play, I really hope he stays injury-free for as long as possible which would allow him to play for many more years to come.

Never say never, but, I also can't see Farag losing his love for the sport any time soon either.

Of course, all players have ups and downs when it comes to their interest in the game, especially since it is literally all they do, but, I think Farag's consistent drive to win matches and events demonstrates that that hunger is not going to fade.

I think he will continue to be an amazing ambassador for squash and for Egypt, even well after he eventually retires.

Egyptian squash in general still seems to be the global powerhouse and there are a lot of upcoming players that could be coming in to perhaps threaten Ali's reign, the most likely of which being Mostafa Asal who has already attained World No.1 status at one point aged just 21.

But, I also don't see Farag's standard slipping at all.

He really hasn't shown any signs of decline in the past season or so, and, it could indeed be argued that he's now in his prime.

I'm predicting he will be at least in the top three for at least another four or five years.

More generally speaking, it's also incredible to see the sheer caliber of squash players coming out of Egypt...

Speaking of which, there's also another Egyptian squash legend who has been incredibly dominant at World No.1, and, could easily be described as the female equivalent to Ali Farag, and that's Nour El Sherbini AKA The Warrior Princess.

Since I've enjoyed writing this week's article so much, I will definitely be writing a similarly styled one on El Sherbini in the coming few weeks, so keep an eye out for that one!

This article was taken from our 'Control the Kitchen' 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!

Published by Alex Robertson March 19, 2024
Alex Robertson