Saturday, March 2, 2024

NAO: Willstrop back on top

Amr Shabana retired injured against James Willstrop. Picture ANDREW PREZIOSO
DAVENPORT North American Open, presented by Brown’s Jaguar

This is a PSA World Series Gold event.
(1) James Willstrop v (6) Amr Shabana 11-5, 2-0 (12m)
England’s top seed James Willstrop reached the semi-finals of the Davenport North Americaan Open when his opponent, Egypt’s Amr Shabana, was forced to withdraw because of injury.
The four-times world champion was trailing by one game and was 2-0 down at the start of the second when a painful knee injury was too much to bear.
He declined a call for a doctor at courtside, but quickly put ice on his troubled knee.
By reaching the last four, Willstrop earned enough ranking points to regain the world #1 position from his great English rival, Nick Matthew, the world champion from Sheffield.
Willstrop meets French ace Gregory Gaultier in the semi-finals, a re-run of the 2008 final which Willstrop won. Gaultier overcame young Egyptian qualifier Karim Abdel Gawad in straight games.
(3) Gregory Gaultier (France) beat Karim Abdel Gawad (Egypt) 11-6, 11-2, 11-9 (39m)
Gregory Gaultier is the first man into the semi-finals with a straight-games win over his young Egyptian opponent. Gaultier wins in style, rarely troubled by his young opponent as he wins 11-6, 11-2, 11-6 in 39 minutes.
Afterwards he said: “I am feeeling good this week. When you are well looked after, and feeling relaxed, and nothing is going on to upset your brain, then you can play well.
“This is a very important tournament because all of the top players appear to be fit and playing strongly at the same time. It’s good to have Ramy back. His brother Hisham told me he was going crazy at not being able to play.”
(4) Ramy Ashour (Egypt) v (5) Karim Darwish (Egypt) 12-10, 8-11, 11-5, 11-3 (56m)  .
Ramy Ashour confirmed his return to peak fitness with a devastating victory over fellow Egyptian Karim Darwish. After two hard games, Ashour wore down his opponent and powered through the third and fourth, making Darwish look demoralised at the end.
Ashour’s shot selection was often impossible to guess, even for someone like Darwish, who has spent as much time on court with him as anyone.
Afterwards, Ashour said: “It’s never easy to beat Karim. We had breakfast together aand spent a lot of timee together during the day, but as soon as reached the club we know that we have a job to do and try to be as professional as possible.
“I thought Karim (Abdel Gawad) played very well earlier this evening. This is a very special time for Egyptian squash, with so many good young players coming through. You have to stay on your toes.”
(2) Nick Matthew (England) beat Simon Rosner (Germany) 11-7, 11-6, 9-11, 11-6 (63m)
Reigning champion Nick Matthew faces Ramy Ashour in the semi-finals, a rematch of the past three NAO finals, after beating battling German Simon Rosner in four hard games.
Matthew looked a lot sharper as he dominated the opening two games and seemed set to wrap things up quickly as he led 8-4 in the third, but Rosner recovered to win a succession of breathtaking rallies. He won the game 11-9 but the effort clearly took its toll as Matthew raced to a 4-0 lead in the fourth. Rosner mounted another determined fight to claw his way back to 3-4, but then made mistakes which allowed Matthew to pull clear.
England’s world champion clinched the match 11-6 to set up a showdown with Ashour, who has looked in commanding form all this week.
Matthew said: “I felt I started well in those first two games but I need to step up another notch against Ramy. He is playing very well this week. It will be strange playing him in the semis after meeting him in the past three finals.”

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