Fans and fellow pros left drooling as Ashour turns on Chicago magic
RAMY ASHOUR and James Willstrop served up a master class of scintillating squash in Chicago last night that will go straight into the sport’s Hall of Fame.
Egyptian maestro Ashour was back to his sublime best at the Windy City Open as he edged an enthralling 76-minute quarter-final classic against England’s Willstrop 3-1.
Ashour had to call on his entire arsenal of shots to overcome the world number five 8-11, 11-8, 11-8, 11-8 in front of an enthralled crowd at the University Club of Chicago.
The quality, intensity and sheer drama of the match left the audience spellbound and drew praise from fellow professionals, mesmerised by the theatre,
Indian PSA star Saurav Ghosal was enthralled. “That match between James & Ramy has got to be one of the best matches I’ve ever seen! Everything was inch perfect! Unreal quality all around.”
And Marwan Elshorbagy Tweeted: “I can’t believe what I just saw. Best rally ever from @james_willstrop still shocked!”
Ashour added his own assessment, “Playing James is never easy,” he said. “When you play such an accurate and sharp player you have to be 100 per cent at your best and today James was playing some immaculate squash.
“He really came out firing and took the first game and I had to really dig in. I felt like I started to find my rhythm in the second game and I’m very proud that I was able to dig in and do what it took to win the match.”
The Cairo-based player, who has been plagued by injury in recent months, will now face Willstrop’s long-time domestic rival and current world number one Nick Matthew in the semi-finals in a repeat of the recent Swedish Open final.
“Playing Nick in the semi-final will be very tough,” he said.
“He’s an incredibly tough player and you have to push yourself beyond your limits to beat him. I have a lot of respect for his professionalism and he motivates me a lot and it’s always great to play him so I’m really looking forward to it.”
Sunday’s second semi-final will see world number four Mohamed Elshorbagy take on French world number two Gregory Gaultier after they came through their respective quarter-finals against India’s Ghosal and Germany’s Simon Rosner.
Gaultier was given a stern test by the German national champion, coming from one game down to secure his victory and set up a repeat of January’s Tournament of Champions semi-final when the Frenchman won an emotional encounter that saw him move to No.1 in the World Rankings, a position he has since vacated.
“In the first game Simon was playing really well and at a really fast pace and I struggled a little to find my length and he took advantage of that,” said Gaultier.
“It was a really tough match but I’m glad I have got through as I really had to up my play and take the ball earlier and try to move him around the court more.
“I’m happy with how I played and I’m feeling good at the moment. Mohamed is in great form and I’m going to have to be at my best to beat him so it should be a good match.”
 Nick Matthew (ENG) 3-0  Peter Barker (ENG) 11-2, 11-6, 11-3 [44 mins]
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) 3-1  James Willstrop (ENG) 8-11, 11-8, 11-8, 11-8 [76 mins]
 Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) 3-0 Saurav Ghosal (IND) 11-6, 13-11, 11-7 [52 mins]
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 3-1 Simon Rosner (GER) 6-11, 11-7, 11-8, 11-9 [75 mins]
 Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) v  Gregory Gaultier (FRA)
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) v  Nick Matthew (ENG)