By ALAN THATCHER
PSA World Series: Allam British Open, London, England.
Results – 2nd round (top half of draw):
 James Willstrop (ENG) bt Alister Walker (BOT) 9-11, 11-7, 11-7, 11-5 (79m)
 Mohamed El Shorbagy (EGY) bt Adrian Grant (ENG) 12-10, 11-4, 11-8 (37m)
 Amr Shabana (EGY) bt Olli Tuominen (FIN) 12-10, 11-4, 11-4 (32m)
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt Borja Golan (ESP) 7-11, 3-11, 11-9, 11-1, 11-6 (49m)
Egyptian squash superstar Ramy Ashour survived a massive scare as he fought back from two games down to beat Spanish No.1 Borja Golan in the Allam British Open.
Ashour, the 24-year-old No.4 seed from Cairo, admitted that his head was all over the place at the start of the match at London’s O2 Arena.
He recovered from a perilous position and suddenly transformed his game into an attacking whirlwind to reach the quarter-finals of this $150,000 PSA World Tour event.
He said: “Mentally and physically I was two paces behind Borja. Footwork, movement, racket preparation – everything, he was so much better than me. That’s the first time I have played him and he played incredibly well at the start.
“I can’t explain what goes on inside my head. I know it’s something I should work on to find a solution.
“Sometimes I am just too nice. You walk on court, shake hands and smile at your opponent and it’s difficult to find the right motivation. You lose concentration and you just can’t seem to find your way out.
“It helped when Egyptian coach Amir Wagih came to my corner. Maybe I should ask him to help me out more often.
“My brother Hisham often talks to me between games but sometimes we argue and fight because I find it so difficult to absorb information. My head is so crowded. But today, when Amir was talking, I was listening.”
Ashour was so out of sorts, and Golan looking so in control of the match, that the Egyptian was on the brink of a shock defeat, but from 6-6 in the third game he tightened up his game. He won that 11-9 and his game was transformed with a spell of electrifying squash as he produced a succession of astonishing winners to win the fourth 11-1.
Golan looked broken and the drop shots that were earlier so reliable began to find a magnetic attraction to the tin. Ashour continued to conjure up more outrageous shots as he closed out the fifth 11-6.
He will need to be mentally alert throughout his quarter-final against fellow Egyptian Amr Shabana on Friday.
In contrast to Ashour, four-time world champion Shabana looked calm, controlled and confident as he overcame Finnish No.1 Olli Tuominen in straight games.
Top seed James Willstrop won a physical 79-minute battle against former England team-mate Alister Walker, who now represents his home nation of Botswana. The first game included 31 refereeing decisions and Walker later received a conduct warning for pushing after a succession of collisions and mid-court blocks.
Willstrop, the 28-year-old world No.1 from Leeds, won 9-11, 11-7, 11-7, 11-5 and now meets Mohamed El Shorbagy. The 21-year-old Egyptian No.7 seed saw off Londoner Adrian Grant in straight games and immediately caught a train back to Bristol for a university exam on his tournament rest day today.
Willstrop could scarcely conceal his frustration during the post-match interview. He said: “Alister could have got through to those balls and hit them but no doubt he thought differently. It was not really a great match. People don’t want to be seeing that stuff. It was quite scrappy squash. Maybe on a hotter court there is more free-flowing squash. I don’t know.”