I remember the first time I really watched Youssef Ibrahim play in the 2020 PSA Qatar Classic in which he managed to beat 1 seed, Mohamed ElShorbagy, 3 games to 2.
Watching that match blew my mind. Ibrahim played top 5 standard squash and managed to do so for a whole five games. That was a big statement to make, and I've been making sure to watch him play whenever possible since then.
At 22 years old, he's still pretty young, but the key thing I notice about Ibrahim is the way he carries himself on court. He's got that mentality of a top player.
Sure, he has a few slip-ups and angry moments every now and again and he still has a lot to learn, but you can see that desire and drive to win, he's got that pure determination every time he plays.
With a player that young, you'd normally see small hints of immaturity and concentration slips, but those moments are few and far between with Ibrahim.
By no means is he a tall player at 177cm (5 foot 8 inches) in height, however, he manages to put some serious power behind his shots. Weighing 74kg, I imagine a lot of that weight is muscle.
He's also a left-handed player and there's something about lefties that is just really cool to watch. It was the same with Amr Shabana. They seem to have this ability to flick a crosscourt from absolutely anywhere on the court. I'm not sure if there's any scientific reason for that, but it's really interesting to observe.
Image from PSA website
Anyway, if we look at Ibrahim's journey through the recent Manchester Open, he took out some big hitters!
In the first round, he beat Mohamed ElSherbini 3-0 (11-6, 11-7, 12-10), he then faced 2 seed, Karim Abdel Gawad, and also managed to win that match 3-0 (15-13, 11-3, 11-9).
This is an absolutely huge win, however, it's important to note that Gawad has been struggling with plantar fasciitis for some time now and he hasn't really been on top form recently. But, it should also be acknowledged that Ibrahim himself seems to be enduring ongoing knee issues.
After the match, Ibrahim said:"He’s the guy that played the best squash on tour, he’s the guy that I watched the most, and that’s a bit of an advantage because I know how he plays and he hasn’t seen me play that much. I will take that as an advantage, but we play a lot in practice as well. He’s unbelievably talented and we play a similar style, I’m left-handed but we are both very attacking."
He clearly has a lot of respect for Gawad and is very honest in his critique of the match, definitely giving off a very humble vibe.
In his next round at Manchester, Youssef took out Mohamed Abouelghar, and, again it was 3 games to 0 (11-9, 11-5, 11-3).
It was the next match that I enjoyed the most. In the semi-final, Ibrahim faced Welshman, Joel Makin. Although Makin had a bye in the first round, his past couple of weeks of squash have been absolutely brutal.
By the end of the tournament, Joel spent a total of over 450 minutes on court over the past two weeks throughout both this tournament and last week’s British Nationals (which he won).
However, being one of the fittest players on the tour, he's no stranger to brutal squash matches. Before his match with Ibrahim, Makin had an absolute monster with Mazen Hesham which he won 12-10 in the fifth.
Joel's match with Ibrahim also went the full five games, and it was an absolutely amazing one to watch. Makin ended up winning 3-2 (11-6, 7-11, 3-11, 11-4, 12-10).
Image from SquashNet website
Ibrahim's playing style was incredibly attacking, which is understandable as there's not much point rallying with Makin since he can do it forever. Ibrahim was hitting with a lot of pace, going for every different angle you can think of, and was also slamming winner after winner to the front off the volley.
His accuracy was incredible considering the pace and pressure of the game. Mistakes definitely crept in, but he managed to maintain his head focus right until the end. If you didn't know his age, you'd never guess that he was 22 from watching his squash. This is why I find him so impressive.
He also puts on a very exciting performance, you never know when he's going to go for a winner and I can imagine he's a nightmare to play against, however, from a spectator point of view, he's definitely a good thing for squash!
This match will have been a huge learning experience for the young Egyptian, who actually had a match ball by going 10-9 up in the fifth.
After the match, he wasn't angry or aggressive, but you could see he was absolutely gutted by the defeat. I imagine he'll be back even stronger next time.
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 in the top right of this page (or underneath the article if you're on mobile), thanks!