From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.32 :: NO.51 :: Dec. 19, 2009

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SQUASH / PSA SUPER SERIES

Ashour’s finest hour

The PSA Super Series championship in Mumbai was Ramy Ashour’s first platinum Series title, though in the last 12 months he had beaten Gregory Gautlier and Nick Matthew to win the Hurghada Open, at home, and the Davenport North American Open. G. Viswanath reports.

Ramy Ashour was the toast of the Thunderdome at the Azad Maidan in Mumbai. Strong and highly skilled, playing flamboyant shots is a glorious gamble for the towering 22-year-old from Cairo.

World No.1 Karim Darwish was absent because of a back injury and this left seven Egyptians in the 32-field card for the six-day Professional Squash Association (PSA) Super Series event.

Ramy used to be seen at the Otters Club, Bandra, as a beginner, nursing ambitions of scaling new heights. Six years in the professional circuit saw him climb from 300 to a phenomenal No. 2 in 2007. He flew into Mumbai for the $152,500 Punj Lloyd PSA Masters 2009 with a No. 5 ranking behind Darwish, Gregory Gautlier (France), Amr Shabana (Egypt) and Nick Matthew (England).

And on a pleasant evening, Ramy got into the act, putting it past Matthew in four games in an hour and twenty minutes. It was Ramy’s first Platinum Series title, though in the last 12 months he had beaten Gautlier and Matthew to win the Hurghada Open at home and the Davenport North American Open. He had lost his two previous finals — in the US Open and the World Open in Kuwait — to Shabana.

Ramy is one of the attractions in squash, a real crowd puller. Other notable Egyptians seen in action were Mohamed El Shorbagy, Hisham Ashour (Ramy’s elder brother), Ali Anwar Reda, Omar Mosaad and Wael El Hindi. But Ramy’s sheer aggressive style of play, showing no inhibitions to play his shots — hard and flat from different angles — has made him a joy to watch. He likes to stay in front, but Matthew kept him in the back for a while. Once Ramy took control, Matthew could only delay the inevitable.

Ramy beat Hisam, Australians Stewart Boswell and David Palmer and Amr Shabana before dealing the knock-out blow to Matthew. “It was tough. The court was a bit slippery, but we both managed to keep moving, even if it was a bit tricky at times. This was a big test of my fitness. I need to thank my fitness coach. In the beginning of the third, we both got tired, and I felt it was anybody’s match. But I got my confidence back. I regrouped one more time.

“I have great respect for Nick. He’s really improving his attacking game. So, I would like to invite him to come and train with me, in England or in Egypt, it doesn’t matter… This is an open invitation. This is my first Super Series PSA win of the year, I’m so happy. Win or lose, I just want to play well. I want to thank my sponsor, Ziad Al Turki, for the support he’s been giving all these years, and of course, the man who has made it possible for us to be here, Mr. Punj. And to the crowd who have been fantastic all week,” said a delighted Ramy after receiving the cup.

“I was disappointed with my performance, my movement to the front was not good enough. All credit to Ramy who was 80% responsible for it; his racquet skills, his movement, his shots, but I still lost 20% of it. I like a continuous game and asking for the court to be wiped was not a tactical move! Certainly not against Ramy who’s got the shots. I didn’t feel this was a good match quality-wise, it was exciting, but certainly not a great match,” said Matthew.

Saurav Ghosal began his campaign in style, defeating the Australian, Cameron Pilley, in four games. It was his biggest pro career win. But he lost to Shabana in the second round. Ritwik Bhattacharya, involved in the organisation of the event, went down to Alister Walker of England in the first round.

The biggest upset though was caused by Englishman David Selby who ousted the No. 1 seed Gautlier in the first round.

THE RESULTS

Final: Ramy Ashour bt Nick Matthew 11-6, 9-11,11-9,11-9; Semifinals: bt Amr Shabana 11-9, 5-11, 12-10, 11-7; Quarterfinals: bt David Palmer 11-8, 16-18, 9-11, 11-4, 11-8; Second round: bt Stewart Boswell 11-9, 11-7, 11-7; First Round: bt Hisham Ashour 11-13,11-6,11-8,11-3.

Nick Matthew in the semifinal bt Peter Barker 13-11, 11-6, 11-5; Quarter-finals: bt Thierry Lincou 11-8, 11-7,11-4; Second round: bt Adrian Grant 11-3, 11-5, 11-7; First Round: bt Renan Lavigne 11-9, 11-5, 11-7.



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