Ali Farag beats former college rival in Bellevue
By SEAN REUTHE
Three-time World Champion Ramy Ashour marked his return from a two-month injury lay off with a 3-0 victory over Switzerland’s Nicolas Mueller to reach the quarter-final stage of the Pacific Market International Bellevue Squash Classic, PSA M100 tournament.
The enigmatic 29-year-old has been out of action with a hamstring strain sustained during his Allam British Open semi-final fixture in March, but he recovered from a slow start to beat Mueller 11-8, 11-7, 11-8 in 32 minutes, despite struggling with illness before the match.
“I just wanted to play well. He’s very quick with his hands, so I was trying to contain him,” Ashour said.
“It worked sometimes, sometimes it didn’t, but it went my way in the end and I’m glad it did. I remember last time we played in Switzerland, it was one of the toughest times. It was in five [games], it was a full house and it was an electrifying atmosphere.
“I had that in the back of my head and that’s why I was prepared. I had some complications earlier, but I was prepared. Other than that, I’m excited to be back in Bellevue.”
Ashour will clash with World No.5 Marwan ElShorbagy in an all-Egyptian quarter-final fixture after ElShorbagy overcame Malaysia’s Nafiizwan Adnan by a 3-1 margin.
Both players played well in patches, with ElShorbagy prevailing on an opening game tie-break, only to see Adnan fight back to restore parity after the World No.26 triumphed in game two.
However, the momentum shifted back in ElShorbagy’s favour in the third game as the Bristol-based 23-year-old began to reassert his control on proceedings, eventually coming through to prevail 13-11, 7-11, 11-6, 11-8.
“I’ve got a big match tomorrow against Ramy, he’s a great player, so I’m looking forward to that match,” ElShorbagy said.
“I always enjoy going on court with Ramy, he’s a great ambassador for our sport. It’s a shame that he keeps getting injured, but just having him here is amazing for us.
“I’m really happy to go on court with him. I’ll just try and make the most of it. I’ve grown up watching him, so the fact that I will be on court with him is huge for me. I’m excited for the match against him.”
World No.8 Ali Farag was the third Egyptian victor on day two at the Boys and Girls Club Hidden Valley Field House courtesy of a comfortable win over tournament wildcard Dylan Cunningham.
The pair – separated by 145 places in the World Rankings – were both prolific players on the Collegiate Squash Association circuit prior to their professional carers and traded points at the beginning of all three games, before Harvard-graduate Farag’s class eventually told as he took the win in straight games.
“I’m very happy to see lots of collegiate players turning pro, it shows just how great our sport is,” said Farag.
“We’ve all got good degrees that we could do a lot things with, but we play this sport because of how great it is and hopefully that brings the sport up a notch.”
Australian No.1 Ryan Cuskelly was the only non-Egyptian winner after the World No.14 saw off South Africa’s Stephen Coppinger, recovering from a game down to win 3-1 and set up a quarter-final meeting with Farag.
The Bellevue Classic has a $150,000 prize purse on offer – a record amount for a 16-man main draw squash tournament – thanks to the efforts of both title sponsor Pacific Market International and multinational technology giants Microsoft.
Coverage from the quarter-finals begins at 17:00 local time (PDT) and will be shown live on SQUASHTV (Rest of World) and Eurosport Player (Europe Only).
PSA M150 Men’s Pacific Market International Bellevue Classic 2017, Boys & Girls Club Hidden Valley Field House, Bellevue, Washington, USA.
First Round (Bottom Half):
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt [WC] Dylan Cunningham (USA) 3-0: 11-4, 11-5, 11-4 (24m)
 Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) bt Stephen Coppinger (RSA) 3-1: 6-11, 11-8, 11-5, 11-8 (49m)
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt [Q] Nicolas Mueller (SUI) 3-0: 11-8, 11-7, 11-8 (32m)
 Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) bt [Q] Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS) 3-1: 13-11, 7-11, 11-6, 11-8 (44m)
Quarter-Finals (To Be Played May 18):
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v  Tarek Momen (EGY)
Borja Golan (ESP) v  James Willstrop (ENG)
 Ali Farag (EGY) v  Ryan Cuskelly (AUS)
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) v  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY)
Pictures courtesy of PSA