Stars so close to British Open shocks
By NATHAN CLARKE in Hull
The opening day of action at the 2016 Allam British Open saw the high-profile trio of three-time World Champion Ramy Ashour, current World Champion Gregory Gaultier and Women’s World No.6 Omneya Abdel Kawy narrowly avoid crashing out of the prestigious PSA World Series tournament, dubbed the ‘Wimbledon of Squash’, at the very first hurdle.
Inside Hull’s Airco Arena 2013 British Open winner Ashour, the maverick Egyptian who was making his competitive comeback following a four-month injury enforced absence, found himself 2-0 down to Mexican qualifier Cesar Salazar and facing an ignominious exit before he managed to finally assert himself on proceedings and show glimpses of the form that saw him become the most dominant force in squash during 2012.
Ashour fell behind 11-1, 11-6 before finding his range and rhythm to canter through the last three games and remind his world tour competitors that he can still be a force to be reckoned with.
“I was just happy and grateful that I was moving and playing,” he said.
“I think with my injuries I am trying too hard and training too much – I was always thinking more is better but I realise now that was wrong. I’m getting smarter with my training now and I’m just grateful that I’m here and able to hit the ball.
“At the moment I have no aim, no goal. I’m just trying to forget about what I want, or what I would like.”
Ashour’s come-from-behind victory was mirrored by current World Champion Gaultier – who was also making his first appearance since suffering an ankle-injury during January’s Tournament of Champion – as he twice overturned game deficits against Australian Cameron Pilley to reach the second round.
The Frenchman was unconvincing as he trailed 1-2 in games before he managed to spark into life and take the last two games 11-2, 11-7.
“Obviously I am pleased to win and come through,” said Gaultier. “I didn’t know what to expect and I did the best I could with the preparation time I had which wasn’t idea. I was in great form in January and it was very hard to start over again after the injury.
“Today wasn’t the best squash but I just did what I could. At 2-1 down I was telling the coaches that I just wanted to go back to France but they found the right words to motivate me and thankfully it worked.
“I’m happy to still be in the tournament and hopefully I can play better in the next round.”
In the women’s draw there were impressive first round wins for title favourites Nour El Sherbini and five-time winner Nicol David, who both came through 3-0 over Nicolette Fernandes and Mayar Hany, respectively, while Kawy matched the feats of compatriot Ashour by coming from two-games down to defeat Welsh qualifier Tesni Evans.
A serial semi-finalist on the PSA World Tour, Kawy started sluggishly and the impressive Evans took advantage to win the opening two games. But then Kawy showed why she has consistently been one of the top ranking players on tour for the past decade as she fought back to win three games in a row to keep her competition alive, although she did require six match ball opportunities.
Evans put up a fierce fight throughout and was desperately close to a sensational victory in the fifth before the Egyptian scraped home 15-13.
“I knew I have won from being 2-0 down before so I kept talking positively to myself and I knew that I could win,” said Kawy.
“In the fifth game the points were all crucial and I’m just really thankful that I came through it. She made a few mistakes and I was pushing myself to hang in there and work as hard as I could to win those points.”
Former World No.2 Jenny Duncalf suffered the most high profile first round upset on day one as she fell to qualifier Liu Tsz-Ling of Hong Kong – the 24-year-old who ranks over 20 places below Duncalf on the World Rankings.
“It’s like I’m in a dream,” said Liu afterwards. “I’ve never played her before and I knew that it would be a hard match. I didn’t think much about winning or losing, I just stuck to playing my game.”
2016 Allam British Open, Hull, England.
Results – Men’s First Round (Bottom Half):
 Nick Matthew (ENG) bt [Q] Adrian Waller (ENG) 3-0: 11-7, 11-4, 11-8 (43m)
Ali Farag (EGY) bt [WC] Tom Richards (ENG) 3-0: 11-6, 11-6, 11-5 (40m)
Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) bt [Q] Paul Coll (NZL) 3-1: 12-10, 13-11, 9-11, 12-10 (88m)
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt [Q] Cesar Salazar (MEX) 3-2: 1-11, 6-11, 11-8, 11-8, 11-3 (51m)
 Simon Rösner (GER) bt Max Lee (HKG) 3-1: 10-12, 11-8, 11-9, 11-8 (67m)
Chris Simpson (ENG) bt [Q] Zahed Mohamed (EGY) 3-2: 11-5, 12-14, 11-9, 9-11, 11-7 (84m)
Stephen Coppinger (RSA) bt [Q] Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS) 3-1: 11-3, 11-13, 11-3, 11-5 (54m)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt Cameron Pilley (AUS) 3-2: 8-11, 11-6, 7-11, 11-2, 11-7 (76m)
First Round (Top Half) To Be Played March 22:
 Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) v [Q] Nicolas Mueller (SUI)
James Willstrop (ENG) v Tarek Momen (EGY)
Daryl Selby (ENG) v [Q] Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY)
[Q] Raphael Kandra (GER) v  Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL)
 Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) v Saurav Ghosal (IND)
Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) v Borja Golan (ESP)
Mazen Hesham (EGY) v Fares Dessouki (EGY)
Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v  Omar Mosaad (EGY)
Women’s First Round (Bottom Half):
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt Nicolette Fernandes (GUY) 3-0: 11-3, 11-7, 11-6 (32m)
[Q] Liu Tsz-Ling (HKG) bt  Jenny Duncalf (ENG) 3-1: 13-11, 11-8, 4-11, 11-7 (35m)
 Alison Waters (ENG) bt Rachael Grinham (AUS) 3-0: 11-4, 11-5, 11-6 (22m)
 Amanda Sobhy (USA) bt [Q] Coline Aumard (FRA) 3-0: 11-7, 11-7, 11-4 (29m)
 Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY) bt [Q] Tesni Evans (WAL) 3-2: 9-11, 7-11, 11-8, 11-7, 15-13 (61m)
Joey Chan (HKG) bt  Low Wee Wern (MAS) 3-1: 11-5, 11-9, 10-12, 10-8 retired (54m)
Donna Urquhart (AUS) bt  Joshna Chinappa (IND) 3-1: 12-10, 7-11, 11-9, 11-5 (40m)
 Nicol David (MAS) bt [Q] Mayar Hany (EGY) 3-0: 11-8, 11-9, 11-0 (26m)
First Round (Top Half) To Be Played March 22
 Laura Massaro (ENG) v [Q] Olivia Blatchford (USA)
Line Hansen (DEN) v  Delia Arnold (MAS)
 Emily Whitlock (ENG) v Victoria Lust (ENG)
[WC] Fiona Moverley (ENG) v  Camille Serme (FRA)
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) v Heba El Torky (EGY)
[Q] Sarah Campion (ENG) v  Annie Au (HKG)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) v [Q] Mariam Metwally (EGY)
[Q] Nele Gillis (BEL) v  Raneem El Welily (EGY)
Pictures by STEVE LINE (www.squashpics.com) courtesy of PSA