PSA NORTH AMERICAN OPEN SQUASH CHAMPIONSHIPS
At the Westwood Club, Richmond, Virginia
(1) Nick Matthew (England) beat David Palmer (Australia) 8-9 retd (23 mins)
(4) Amr Shabana (Eypt) beat Azlan Iskandar (Malaysia) 11-7, 6-11, 12-10, 12-10 (48 mins)
(3) James Willstrop (England) beat (7) Peter Barker (England) 7-11, 11-4, 11-4, 11-5 (49 mins)
(2) Ramy Ashour (Egypt) beat (6) Gregory Gaultier (France) 11-5, 9-11, 11-4, 6-11, 11-8 (68 mins)
Matthew marches into Richmond semi-finals as injury KOs Palmer
England’s world champion Nick Matthew was given a walkover into the semi-finals of the $115,000 North American Open when his Australian opponent David Palmer was forced to retire through injury.
Matthew, the Sheffield-based world No.1, was trailing 8-9 in a tense and physical opening game when the two players collided in mid-court as Palmer tried to chase a ball into the back left corner.
After lengthy treatment to a twisted ankle, the 34-year-old veteran announced that he could not continue play in this World Series Tour event, the second of the year, at the Westwood Club in Richmond, Virginia.
Palmer said: “I have another tournament coming up soon and it would be silly to risk it. The ankle swelled up really badly. It’s a shame because Nick and I were both playing well and it was shaping up to be a great match.”
Top seed Matthew, the reigning NAO champion, meets Amr Shabana in the semi-finals after the No.4 seed overcame Malaysian Azlan Iskander in a wonderful match full of attacking squash.
It was so tight that Shabana needed to squeeze home in two tiebreaks before winning 11-7, 6-11, 12-10, 12-10 in 48 minutes of brilliant shot-making and phenomenal retrieving.
No.3 seed James Willstrop maintained his unbeaten record against England team-mate Peter Barker. In their 12th PSA Tour meeting, Willstrop recovered after losing the first game to win 7-11, 11-4, 11-4, 11-5 in 49 minutes.
It was a stylish, measured performance and No.3 seed Willstrop will need a repeat performance in the semi-finals against Ramy Ashour.
The Egyptian genius overcame Gregory Gaultier in a spectacular finale to the evening.
Gaultier played superbly but Ashour’s speed around the court and a succession of deadly crosscourt kill shots proved the decisive factors. At times, Ashour’s skill transcended genius.
After clinching a 68-minute victory, with a scoreline of 11-5, 9-11, 11-4, 6-11, 11-8, Ashour acknowledged the contribution of his opponent. He said: “Greg has been out of action with an injury for a long time since the World Open and he is back playing better than he was before.
“That’s why I needed to be so fast, just to get the ball back. He was playing incredible squash and I am very happy and relieved to be through to the semi-finals against James. That should be another great match.”
The Richmond crowd gave Gaultier a three-minute ovation after a blinding rally in which he saved a match ball, and then rose as one to give both players a richly deserved standing ovation as they left the court.
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