Tuesday, April 23, 2024

NAO: Monday first round



Rising England star Tom Richards played some of the best squash of his career to beat Egyptian firebrand Hisham Ashour in the first round of the North American Open at the Westwood Club in Richmond, Virginia.

Now he aims to produce a similar performance against Hisham’s brother Ramy, the former world champion who is the No.2 seed in this star-studded $115,000-dollar PSA World Series event.

Richards triumphed 9-11, 15-13, 11-8, 11-7 in 56 minutes of non-stop attacking squash and both players deserved the ovation from an enthusiastic audience.

It was a similar story in the following match as Ramy overcame Swiss underdog Nicolas Mueller, the world No.36 from Zurich, in four games of extravagant shot-making and breathtaking retrieving.

A shock looked on the cards as Mueller took advantage of a string of errors from his opponent to win the opening game 14-12 on a tiebreak, but Ashour responded in dazzling style, winning the next two games 11-5 with an array of winners from all over the court. He then had to hold his nerve as Mueller fought back in the fourth and forced the game to another tiebreak. This time Ramy edged home 12-10.

Richards is looking forward to meeting the Egyptian maestro and said: “Confidence is 80 per cent of what this game is all about. I feel that I am now producing the type of squash that will help me do well against the top players.

“I knew what to expect from Hisham and definitely came with a solid game plan in mind and I am pleased that it worked. It was a great game to play in and I was pleased to hang in at times when Hisham was going for everything. We all know he can hit nicks from anywhere in the court.”

Ramy was full of admiration for his Swiss opponent and said: “Nic is improving all the time and one day I am sure I will be playing him in finals of events like this instead of the first round.

“I often take a while to get my concentration going in the first round but I was very pleased to get through a very difficult match. I love coming here to Richmond. It’s a fantastic tournament and I have been in the last two finals, so I hope I can reach another one.”

Former world No.1 Gregory Gaultier made an impressive return to the PSA tour after an injury suffered in last year’s World Open kept him off court for eight weeks.

He overcame battling Australian Aaron Frankcomb in straight games and said: “I am so pleased to be back playing. After my injury in the World Open I was out for two months and I got fed up with sitting on the sofa putting on weight. I was playing very well at the time I got injured and there was some great competition between the top five or six players.”

Gaultier was striking the ball with pace and precision and his immaculate line and length gave Frankcomb few openings.

Leading English players James Willstrop and Peter Barker joined compatriots Jonathan Kemp, Alister Walker and world champion Nick Matthew in the second round after victories.

Willstrop overcame Frenchman Yann Perrin in a scrappy affair while Barker simply overpowered Egyptian Omar Abdel Aziz.

Both face qualifers in the second round, Willstrop meets Martin Knight from New Zealand while Barker tackles Malaysia’s Nafizwan Adnan, who overcame the volatile Italian Stephane Galifi in a physical battle.

Galifi received several conduct warnings and was reported after the match by referee Wendy Danzey for unsporting behaviour.


North American Open, Westwood Club, Richmond, Virginia

First round results:

(6) Peter Barker (Eng) bt Omar Abdel Aziz (Egy) 11-2, 11-6, 11-4 (29 mins)

(3) James Willstrop (Eng) bt  (Q) Yann Perrin (Fra) 12-10, 11-6, 11-8 (37 mins)

(Q) Martin Knight (NZ) bt (Q) Mathieu Castagnet (Fra) 11-7, 2-11, 11-7, 11-7 (55 mins)

(Q) Nafizwan Adnan (Malaysia) bt (Q) Stephane Galifi (Italy) 6-11, 11-8, 11-5, 6-11, 13-11 (93 mins)

(5) Gregory Gaultier (Fra) bt (Q) Aaron Frankcomb (Aus) 11-4, 11-6, 11-4 (41 mins)

Tom Richards (Eng) bt  Hisham Ashour (Egy) 9-11, 15-13, 11-8, 11-7 (56 mins)

(2) Ramy Ashour (Egypt) bt Nicolas Mueller (Swi) 12-14, 11-5, 11-5, 12-10 (43 mins)

Olli Tuominen (Fin) bt Mohammed Abbas (Egy) 11-8, 10-12, 11-2, 11-9 (43 mins)



5pm Azlan Iskander  (Mas) v Simon Rosner (Ger)

6pm (4) Amr Shabana (Egypt) v Jonathan Kemp (Eng)

7pm: (1) Nick Matthew (Eng) v Shahier Razik (Can)

8pm: David Palmer (Aus) v Alister Walker (Eng)


5pm: (6) Peter Barker (Eng) v (Q) Nafizwan Adnan (Mas)

6pm: (3) James Willstrop (Eng) v (Q) Martin Knight (NZ)

7pm: (2) Ramy Ashour v Tom Richards (Eng)

8pm: Gregory Gaultier (Fra) v Olli Tuominen (Fin)

Follow the live action blog on the official tournament website: www.naosquash.com

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