Resurgent Ramy meets Nick Matthew in San Francisco final
By NATHAN CLARKE in San Francisco
The 2014 Squash World Champion Ramy Ashour signalled his return to the upper echelons of the sport following a five-month injury absence courtesy of a magnificent victory over Gregory Gaultier last night in the semi-finals of the 2015 NetSuite Open, PSA M100 tournament.
In front of a capacity crowd outside the stunning San Francisco Ferry Building, Ashour, who beat Gaultier in the title decider in 2013, unloaded his entire arsenal of outrageous shots in a back-and-forth encounter in which he made the World No.3 appear average at times.
The victory sees Ashour, who has only competed at three events during an injury-blighted 12 months, secure a place in his 54th PSA World Tour final where he’ll be hoping to claim title number 37 against England’s World No.2 and top seed Nick Matthew.
“It’s amazing to be back in San Fran – there’s a great energy from the crowd here and it’s good to be here and be performing well,” said Ashour.
“To play against someone like Greg takes a lot out of you – he’s a top athlete and it’s not easy to play him – and it’s the same against all the top ten players so I’m just happy with my result today and hopefully I can do the same with Nick tomorrow.
“We both know each other’s games and it won’t be an easy match – but I’m certain it will be an entertaining match and a really tough battle. I’m going to give it 100 per cent and may the better player win.”
The 27-year-old Ashour shot out of the blocks against 2014 champion Gaultier, hitting winners for fun as he completely outclassed the former World No.1 in the opening game but it was role reversal in the second, as the Frenchman enjoyed the better of proceedings to level the scores and set the scene for what followed.
The 32-year-old from Aix-en-Provence continued to enjoy the upper hand during the third game before a nervy tie-break ensued which Gaultier took– but only after squandering several game-ball opportunities.
The ebb and flow continued in the fourth as Ashour raced into a 6-0 lead and a lung-bursting rally to go 7-0 ahead, which had the on-looking crowd watching in disbelief, appeared to break Gaultier’s resolve both mentally and physically.
From then on it was the man know as ‘The Artist’ who dominated proceedings – eventually taking the match 11-4, 5-11, 10-12, 11-2, 11-3.
“We both played well and pushed each other to the limits. We have great respect for each other on and off court and it’s a fair rivalry between us and there’ll be more battles to come for sure,” added Ashour.
Matthew booked his place in the final courtesy of a composed and professional 3-1 victory over World No.4 Miguel Angel Rodriguez. Matthew started at a ferocious pace, winning the opening game 11-2.
Rodriguez appeared to be struggling to match Matthew’s accuracy but fought back to win a tight second game 11-9.
However, Matthew soon got back into his stride and powered through the third and fourth games with comfortable margins to reach a mouthwatering final against his old rival Ashour.
Two different cultures, two different styles, and two phenomenal squash players. It should be a fantastic final here in San Francisco.
2015 NetSuite Open PSA M100, San Francisco, USA
Semi-finals (played September 28, 2015):
 Nick Matthew (ENG) bt  Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) 3-1: 11-2, 9-11, 11-6, 11-5 (49m)
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt  Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 3-2: 11-4, 5-11, 10-12, 11-2, 11-3 (59m)
Draw – NetSuite Open PSA M100 Final:
 Nick Matthew (ENG) v  Ramy Ashour (EGY)
Pictures by STEVE LINE (www.squashpics.com) courtesy of Netsuite Open and PSA