Pictures by Patricia Lyons
MATTHEW MEETS RAMY IN AMERICAN DREAM FINAL
PSA NORTH AMERICAN OPEN
Semi-finals, Westwood Club, Richmond, Virginia, USA.
(1) Nick Matthew (England) beat (4) Amr Shabana (Egypt) 11-8, 5-11, 11-6, 11-5 (40 mins)
(2) Ramy Ashour (Egypt) beat (3) James Willstrop (England) 11-8, 12-10, 5-11, 11-6 (45 mins)
World champion Nick Matthew meets Ramy Ashour in the final of the $115,000 North American Open for a third year running after the top two seeds stormed through their semi-finals at the Westwood Club in Richmond, Virginia.
The two matches were both England-Egypt affairs, with Matthew overcoming Amr Shabana in just 40 minutes and Ashour taking five minutes longer to beat James Willstrop.
Matthew played tight, controlled squash to win the opening game but Shabana responded in spectacular style to take the second with a succession of dazzling winners.
However, Matthew regained control to dominate the third and fourth games to book his place in the final.
Matthew said: “Amr was unplayable in that second game and you have to try to restrict his shot-making opportunities or he will destroy you. It feels great to be in another Richmond final. I’m feeling good and looking forward to it.”
Ashour and Willstrop received a standing ovation from the enthusiastic Richmond crowd after an incredible display of shot-making.
Willstrop played some superb squash in patches but No.2 seed Ashour was in extravagant, outrageous form with sensational winners from all over the court.
Ashour edged the first game but Willstrop wasted game ball in the second, allowing Ashour to hit back and take the game on a tiebreak.
Willstrop tightened up in the third game and played immaculate squash to win 11-5. However, Ashour got off to a flying start in the fourth and although Willstrop clawed his way back to 5-7 with some fine shots the Egyptian genius closed out the match in spectacular style.
Two weeks ago Ashour joined the demonstrations on the streets of Cairo but he clearly was unperturbed by any disruption to his training schedule. He said: “That inspired me so much I didn’t worry about any gap in training.
“I love playing here in Richmond for such a knowledgeable crowd. They inspire me, too.
“James is always a difficult opponent. He is so skilful and we always have great matches, so I’m pleased to win and pleased that the crowd enjoyed it as much as I did.”
Ashour’s meeting with Matthew is a repeat of their showdown in the final of the first World Series event of the year, the Tournament of Champions in New York, which the Egyptian won.
Ashour won the NAO title two years ago but was forced to concede in last year’s final because of injury.
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As a treat for viewers in the USA, the North American Open final will be broadcast live on ESPN3.com
Saturday, February 26: 5:00pm
Follow the live action blog on the official tournament website: www.naosquash.com