Allam British Open, O2 Arena, London.
(4) Ramy Ashour (Egy) bt (1) James Willstrop (Eng) 8-11, 11-6, 11-6, 11-8 (59m)
(3) Nick Matthew (Eng) bt (6) Peter Barker (Eng) 11-5, 11-8, 11-6 (45m)
(1) Nicol David (Mas) bt (3) Laura Massaro (Eng) 11-5, 11-8, 11-4 (39m)
(16) Nour El Sherbini (Egy) bt (5) Raneem El Weleily (Egy) 14-12, 7-11, 11-4, 11-9 (40m)
By ALAN THATCHER at the O2 Arena, London
World squash champion Nick Matthew meets Egyptian superstar Ramy Ashour in the final of the Allam British Open after two contrasting men’s semi-finals in front of a sell-out 1,000-strong crowd at London’s O2 Arena.
Matthew outclassed England team-mate Peter Barker in straight games but Ashour fought back after losing the opening game to overwhelm top seed James Willstrop.
Ashour prevented an all-English final with a dazzling display of racket skills. He conjured up magical winners from all over the court, finding the right-hand nick with a succession of blinding volley kills. His match-winning point came from this source but it was mainly his phenomenal court coverage that wore down Willstrop.
Ashour, looking more focused than at any time this week, dived all over the court to retrieve many of Willstrop’s best shots.
The sell-out crowd roared and gasped in disbelief as the 24-year-old Egyptian chased down every ball.
Ashour said: “After the first game I was not very well in the head. I keep talking to myself between games to clear the demons out of my head. But I was happy with the way I played and it’s great to play in front of such a big crowd.
“All the players would like to thank Dr Allam for stepping in to sponsor the British Open and it is wonderful to have an Egyptian sponsor for such an important tournament. It makes me feel very proud.
“James is world No.1 at the moment and deserves to be there. I am just trying to get close to him. I enjoyed myself today but it’s not just about the shorts. It’s about the movement, the footwork and the positioning that sets them up.
“The final should be a great match and I hope some of the crowd will be cheering for me.”
Matthew looked much too sharp for Barker, who had won an 89-minute battle against No.2 seed Gregory Gaultier late the night before. Matthew is expecting a massive confrontation in the final as her bids to overturn a recent losing sequence against the Egyptian.
The 31-year-old from Sheffield said: “Ramy is the form player in the world at the moment. He was up and down earlier in the week but he is on top of his game right now and I am expecting the same in the final.
“I knew Peter had endured a tough match the night before and I was determined to make a good start and not let him get into a rhythm.
“This game is tough mentally and physically. I watched a little bit of the match between Ramy and James while I was warming up and it looked brutally tough.”
Malaysia’s world champion Nicol David meets 16-year-old Egyptian Nour El Sherbini in the women’s final. David beat England’s No.3 seed Laura Massaro and El Sherbini overcame fellow Egyptian Raneem El Weleily.
Top seed Nicol David, the dominant player in women’s squash for the past seven years, beat England’s Laura Massaro to reach the final of the Allam British Open.
The Malaysian won 11-5, 11-8, 11-4 and now meets 16-year Egyptian Nour El Sherbini in tomorrow’s final at London’s O2 Arena.
World junior champion El Sherbini became the first Egyptian female to reach a British Open final after beating compatriot Raneem El Weleily in four games.
Massaro, from Preston, has the consolation of reaching No.2 in the next world rankings.
David said: “I played a good game a fed off the big crowd. Even though they were cheering for England they fired me up to play well.
“Laura will take advantage if I am not on top of things. She kept coming back and in the second game I had to hang in there.”
Looking ahead to the final against rising star El Sherbini, David added: “She is an amazing young player. This is the British Open final in a spectacular venue so it will be a big battle. I’m looking forward to it.”
The men’s final starts 4pm Sunday (UK time) with the women’s final between Malaysia’s top seed Nicol David and 16-year-old Egyptian Nour El Sherbini starting at 2pm.