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PSA: Matthew targets Manchester final

Who's in front: Ramy or Nick?

Matthew targets ManchesterFinal

England’s world number one Nick Matthew will be looking for his tenth career win over Egypt’s Amr Shabana when he takes on the four-time world champion in tomorrow’s (Saturday) semi-finals of the ROWE British Grand Prix Squash Championship in Manchester.

But while Shabana eased past Londoner Adrian Grant in straight games to reach the last four, Yorkshireman Matthew was fully tested by England team-mate Peter Barker in a late quarter-final on Thursday before prevailing in a 78-minute four-game marathon.

“One of the best matches I’ve ever played was against him in New York in January,” Matthew told event on the eve of his fourth PSA World Tour clash with Shabana this year. “I won 12-10 in the fifth – but it could have gone either way.

“His record speaks for itself: You don’t win four world titles without having something special,” added the 31-year-old from Sheffield.

The Egyptian is returning to top form after an injury layoff.

“Not many people would have been able to cruise through an event like this the way he has after not playing a tournament for six months,” continued the event favourite.

But Matthew is also at the top of his game after winning two gold medals in last year’s Commonwealth Games and going on to become the first Englishman ever to become world champion.

“One of the best wins of my career was against Amr in last year’s World Open semi-finals – it was a massive confidence-booster which helped me go on to win the title.”

Matthew and Shabana will meet in the second ROWE British Grand Prix semi-final at the National Squash Centre in Manchester at 4.00pm on Saturday (23 September) – the final taking place the following day at 3.00pm.

Darwish & Ashour Set Up All-Egyptian Semi-final

23 September 2011

RESULTS: PSA World Series ROWE British Grand Prix, Manchester, England

Quarter-finals (lower half of draw):
[3] Karim Darwish (EGY) bt Omar Mosaad (EGY) 11-6, 11-9, 11-7 (57m)
[2] Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt [6] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 12-10, 11-7, 11-9 (69m)

Karim Darwish and title-holder Ramy Ashour will meet in an all-Egyptian semi-final of the ROWE British Grand Prixafter prevailing in today’s second day of quarter-final action in the PSA World Series squash event in its second year at the National Squash Centre in Manchester.

The ROWE British Grand Prix – Manchester 2011, the fourth of nine PSA World Series championships in 2011 – and the biggest squash event to be staged in the UK this year – has attracted a star-studded field featuring 16 of the world’s top 20 players, including six former world number ones.

Cheered on by the capacity crowd surrounding the ASB all-glass court, defending champion Ashour faced FrenchmanGregory Gaultier, the sixth seed, in a high quality encounter.

Underdog Gaultier took the lead various times in the opening game – and had two game-balls from 10-8. But gifted world No2 Ashour refused to submit, winning four points in a row to take the game after 27 minutes.

With both players producing a dazzling array of winners, Ashour edged ahead from four-all in the second to open up a two-game lead. And, after recovering from a ‘lost ball’ at 5-3 in the third, the Egyptian surged ahead to clinch his second match ball, winning 12-10, 11-7, 11-9 after 69 minutes.

“The first game was the longest ever,” the exuberant Ashour told the event website www.britishsquashgrandprix.comafterwards. “We both kept hanging in there. I gave a big push – but it could have been anybody’s game.

“Winning the first game always gives you a boost,” added the 23-year-old from Cairo. “Greg was hitting nicks all over the place. Hisham told me to be patient – and I tried to be as patient as I could. There were some crucial points for both of us.

“Karim and I play each other a lot – we know each other’s games. It’s always a physical and mental battle. I just hope I can play well and stay injury-free.”

In the first quarter-final, former world number one Karim Darwish took on fellow countryman Omar Mosaad, the second young opponent he has faced from his home city of Cairo who is rapidly making a mark on the PSA World Tour.

The unseeded 23-year-old Omar Mosaad took his place in the last eight – only the second World Series quarter-final of his career – after a significant upset over experienced Frenchman Thierry Lincou, the former world champion who was seeded eight.

And after Darwish led through most of the first game, it was underdog Mosaad who took the early upper hand in the second, forging a 7-4 lead.

The third seed reeled off five points in a row to put himself back into contention and after Mosaad saved one game ball it was soon 2/0 to Darwish.

The senior Egyptian romped to a 5-0 lead in the third before Mosaad replied, but Darwish held off his tall opponent’s advances to close out the match 11-6, 11-9, 11-7 after 57 minutes to earn his first World Series semi-final berth this year.

“I tried to be patient on court today. I didn’t make a lot of mistakes,” said Darwish.

“I had to move him around the court, he’s a big guy. He’s a very tough opponent, he played really well.”

When asked what he thought of the fact that he might meet a third successive compatriot in the semi-finals, Darwish responded: “There are a lot of Egyptians in all events today. If I want to reach a final, I’m sure to need to beat an Egyptian.”

Darwish agreed that his win in the decider of the World Team Championship final had given his game a boost: “It’s especially significant in this position in the rankings where you really need to be confident. It’s 80% in the head – you have to be really confident.”

Matthew beats Barker as
Shabana halts Grant’s run

World No.1 Nick Matthew was fully tested by England team-mate Peter Barker in the quarter-finals of the ROWE British Grand Prix before finally emerging triumphant after 78 minutes to earn his anticipated place in the last four of the PSA World Series squash event in its second year at the National Squash Centre in Manchester.

The Yorkshire favourite will meet Egypt’s former World No.1 Amr Shabana, who denied the crowd an all-English semi-final when beat Londoner Adrian Grant.

It was favourite Matthew, the double Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist who provided the most drama in the final match of day – coasting to victory in the first game and leading up to 8-6 in the second. It was then that left-hander Barker, the world No7, began to assert his authority on the match – picking up four points in a row to reach game-ball.

But Matthew fought back – the advantage seesawing between the pair as Barker battled to save three game-balls against him before the Englishman finally clinched the game 15-13. Barker, however, was not to be outdone, and led almost all the way through the third before reducing the deficit. A more-determined-than-ever Matthew returned for the fourth to build up a 9-2 lead.

Barker continued to try and deny his close friend an easy conclusion, but after two match-balls the favourite clinched his 11-5, 15-13, 8-11, 11-7 victory. “He’s one of my best friends off-court, so it’s always difficult to play him,” said Matthew after his marathon win. “It hinged on crucial points – and we had one or two of those in the second game,” added the 31-year-old. “Then he came back in the third. But I knew Peter was coming in fresh. “I was really good in the first game and a half and made very few errors.”

Earlier, Cairo star Amr Shabana ended Adrian Grant’s impressive run in the World Series event. Grant, returning to form after a hip injury, produced a blistering display in the previous round to upset England No.2 James Willstrop, the runner-up in 2010.

But the 30-year-old former World No.9 couldn’t match the inspired play of the Egyptian who boasts 26 PSA World Tour titles including four World Open crowns. Shabana, too, is making a determined bid to return to the top of the world rankings, a position he held for 33 months until the end of 2008. The charismatic left-hander led for most of the match, recording an 11-5, 11-6, 12-10 victory after 46 minutes – a win which takes the world No5 into his seventh successive PSA World Series semi-final.

When asked by compere Sue Wright, the former England international, to comment on the fact that the first game seemed tough, Shabana responded: “The whole match was tough. Adrian clearly had a game-plan and stuck to it. I was happy to get away in three.”

When reminded by Wright that, despite his major title successes all over the globe, he had yet to win a tournament in England, Shabana said: “I did win a British Junior Open plate title a few years ago – but it is time for another one!” The Prince of Cairo had much praise for his opponent: “Since his injury, he’s much faster and much stronger. I had to play my best squash to beat him.”

Shabana admitted that he thought his career was ending after problem with both knees in 2009 and a slipped disc the year after. “I thought about what I could do next, but hard work and determination got me back to where I am now. “I’m in a semi-final – I must be playing well!”

ROWE British Grand Prix, Manchester, EnglandQuarter-Finals (top half of draw):[1] Nick Matthew (ENG) bt [7] Peter Barker (ENG) 11-5, 15-13, 8-11, 11-7 (78m)[5] Amr Shabana (EGY) bt Adrian Grant (ENG) 11-5, 11-6, 12-10 (46m)

Remaining Quarter-Final Matches:7.00pm [3] Karim Darwish (EGY) v Omar Mosaad (EGY)8.00pm [2] Ramy Ashour (EGY) v [6] Gregory Gaultier (FRA)


Saturday semi-final line-up:

2.00pm [2] Ramy Ashour (EGY) v [3] Karim Darwish (EGY)
4.00pm [1] Nick Matthew (ENG) v [5] Amr Shabana (EGY)


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