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Squash: Shabana plays down chances of a fifth world title

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Amr Shabana produced such sparkling moments of his old brilliance while reaching the third round of the World Championships that afterwards he had to play down his chances of a fifth world title.

Just when the Egyptian squash legend seemed to be running into trouble against Mathieu Castagnet, the world number 30 from France, he produced a fourth game of sublime brilliance to fashion an 11-8, 11-7, 12-14, 11-6 win.

Castagnet showed he is an improving and ambitious player by saving three match points, denying Shabana the space and time to carve out winners, and pushing through with three great drops to steal the third game.

He also led 4-3 in the fourth. "You have to forget who you are playing -- when I was young he was one of my favourite players," Castagnet said.

Shabana is still a favourite with the crowds for his sombre charisma and genius shot-making, so much so that it was easy for them to overlook the phases of the contest which were a mental and physical struggle.

"I just want to play matches," Shabana said when asked what could be expected of him. "I love to play and whatever I achieve is a bonus."

It is seven months since he last competed and at the age of 34, Shabana is no longer sure what he is capable of. "I tried to play too fast but I am happy that I was not panicking (after losing the third game).

"I had to start all over in the fourth. The way he (Castagnet) played reminded me of Thierry (Lincou, the former world champion from France) -- the way he moved and countered and recovered.

"He was a tough player and I was happy to win."

Shabana also looked a little relieved but he claimed that he was feeling fresh at the end of the 55-minute match, and that is a quality he may particularly need against his next opponent, Miguel Angel Rodriquez.

The Columbian, who beat Leo Au of Hong Kong 11-5, 11-8, 11-5, is one of the fastest movers on the tour and can impose a sequence of high-paced rallies, which led to a five-game encounter with Shabana in New York last year.

Shabana may still be good enough to earn a quarter-final place, probably against another former world champion, Nick Matthew.

The home hope gave hints that he might still be good enough to win the title back at the age of 33, overcoming Max Lee of Hong Kong, 11-7, 11-6, 11-6.

Lee gave Matthew plenty to think about, not least an aggrieved complaint that the Englishman was shouting "come on!" too loudly and that the noise was ringing in his ear.

Matthew responded by walking across and pretending to look into Lee's ear, and with a retort that "it's not the sort of thing you're inclined to whisper, is it?"

Matthew now plays the 11th-seeded Omar Mosaad, a powerfully-built Egyptian with a dangerous ability to dominate the middle of the court.

str/bc

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131029/squash-shabana-plays-down-chances-fifth-world-title