Ramy needs PSA points but he says ‘Fitness is my priority’
By ELLIE MAWSON and MIKE HEGARTY
Three-time World Champion Ramy Ashour is hoping to make his first PSA World Series appearance of the 2017-18 season at this month’s Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Open as the Egyptian maverick targets a successful defence of his title.
Ashour has won the long-running tournament on three occasions, with his victory over World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad in the final of last year’s Hong Kong Open bringing to an end a 16-month wait for a World Series title.
A multitude of hamstring and knee injuries have prevented Ashour, a clear fans’ favourite, from becoming a regular figure on the Tour over the past three years and he followed up a title win in September’s J.P. Morgan China Open with withdrawals from both the U.S. Open and Qatar Classic, citing internal illness.
Those withdrawals mean that Ashour currently resides outside of the top eight on the PSA World Series Standings – with the top eight qualifying for a coveted place at June’s PSA World Series Finals – but the 30-year-old says that his fitness is the number one priority ahead of Hong Kong.
“Being mentally and physically healthy is more important than anything,” said Ashour. “I want to play again because I love my sport and I love and respect the people on social media and around the world who always support me in my ups and downs.
“I want to play and win for them because that will be my thank you to them.
“[Winning last year was] super special, it’s amazing [that there was a 16-month gap] as I never count. I enjoy winning, it’s addictive, but you can always play better squash and there is always more to come.”
Crucially, Ashour’s points haul from last year’s Hong Kong triumph will disappear after this month’s event so he needs another solid run to maintain his place in the top 12.
Ashour will take on local favourite and tournament wildcard Leo Au in round one, with a win likely to see him pitted against World No.4 Ali Farag in a blockbuster round two clash. World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad is on the same side of the draw, while the top half of the draw features heavyweights such as World No.1 Gregory Gaultier and two-time winner Mohamed ElShorbagy.
The women’s event, meanwhile, sees reigning champion Nouran Gohar and World No.1 Nour El Sherbini seeded to meet in the quarter-finals, while Raneem El Welily, Camille Serme, Laura Massaro and 10-time winner Nicol David are also in attendance.
The qualifying stages of the 2017 Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Open take place between November 12-13 at the Hong Kong Football Club. The main draw will be staged at the Hong Kong Squash Centre between November 14-16 before moving to the glass court erected at the arena in Hong Kong Park Sports Centre on November 17-19.
Action from every round of the tournament will be shown live on SQUASHTV (rest of world) and Eurosport Player (Europe only), while the semi-finals and finals will be shown live on mainstream broadcast channels around the world, including BT Sport, beIN Sports, Fox Sports Australia and Astro.
Tickets can be purchased by completing and sending a booking form via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by fax to 852-28690118
The booking form can be downloaded here: www.hksquashopen.com/ticket.php
For more information, please visit the tournament website: www.hksquashopen.com/home.php
2017 Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Open.
Men’s First Round Draw:
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v Gregoire Marche (FRA)
Paul Coll (NZL) v [Qualifier]
Zahed Mohamed (EGY) v [Qualifier]
Omar Abdel Meguid (EGY) v  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY)
 James Willstrop (ENG) v Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY)
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) v Simon Rösner (GER)
Omar Mosaad (EGY) v [Qualifier]
Max Lee (HKG) v  Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY)
 Ali Farag (EGY) v [Qualifier]
Ramy Ashour (EGY) v [WC] Leo Au (HKG)
Saurav Ghosal (IND) v [Qualifier]
[Qualifier] v  Fares Dessouky (EGY)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) v Alan Clyne (SCO)
Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) v [Qualifier]
Cameron Pilley (AUS) v [Qualifier]
Cesar Salazar (MEX) v  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY)
Women’s First Round Draw:
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v [Qualifier]
Donna Urquhart (AUS) v  Victoria Lust (ENG)
 Joshna Chinappa (IND) v [Qualifier]
[WC] Liu Tsz-Ling (HKG) v  Nouran Gohar (EGY)
 Alison Waters (ENG) v Heba El Torky (EGY)
[Qualifier] v  Tesni Evans (WAL)
 Olivia Blatchford (USA) v Millie Tomlinson (ENG)
[Qualifier] v  Laura Massaro (ENG)
 Camille Serme (FRA) v [Qualifier]
Joey Chan (HKG) v  Emily Whitlock (ENG)
 Annie Au (HKG) v [Qualifier]
[Qualifier] v  Nicol David (MAS)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) v Salma Hany Ibrahim (EGY)
[Qualifier] v  Joelle King (NZL)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) v Dipika Pallikal Karthik (IND)
Fiona Moverley (ENG) v  Raneem El Welily (EGY)
Pictures by PATRICK LAUSON and PSA