World champion begins his defence in style, and no sign of injury
By NATHAN CLARKE in Seattle
Defending PSA Men’s World Squash Champion Ramy Ashour began his bid to win back-to-back titles by comfortably seeing of the challenge of fellow maverick Egyptian Mazen Hesham in straight-games at the Maydenbauer Centre in Bellevue, Washington yesterday (Nov 16).
After stunning the squash world to lift the 2014 crown in what was his first tournament following a six-month injury lay-off the 28-year-old, who has been absent on the PSA World Tour since retiring during his second round match at the Delaware investments U.S. Open in October, gave his fans reason to believe that lightning could strike twice as he got off to the perfect start.
The three-time World Champion took just 26 minutes to get past Hesham, one of the most dangerous attacking talents on the Tour, and showed no signs of suffering any issues with his notoriously troublesome hamstring as he set up a second round encounter with compatriot Mohamed Abouelghar, the Egyptian national champion.
“I’m happy with the way I played today I just need to try and play like that for the rest of the week,” said Ashour.
“I enjoyed the match today. I think he’s a very good player and I think he is going to be one of the best one day. We’re very similar, he does a lot of quick stuff and it’s refreshing to see someone like that.
“I didn’t feel any pain in the hamstring today so it’s a blessing for me to be moving and lunging freely.”
Elsewhere on the second day of first round action in the most prestigious tournament in squash, there were impressive victories for former World Junior Champions Diego Elias and Karim El Hammamy in their maiden bouts at the senior tournament.
El Hammamy showed impressive hunger and desire to come through a 108-minute battle with Englishman Declan James while 18-year-old Peruvian Elias, one of only four men including Ashour to win the World Junior title twice, put in one of the most impressive performances of the round to dispatch seasoned campaigner Adrian Grant.
“It my first time in the World Championship and I couldn’t have asked for a better start,” said Elias.
“It was a good match and to win 3-0 gives me a lot of confidence going into the next round. I’m very happy to be in the last 32 and I’m very excited.
“I played some of my best squash today and I’ve been training for this for a long time. I’m happy with how I played. He’s very experienced and I knew he would be tough. I had some nerves and I knew he would have experience and he made it very tough but I’m very, very happy to win.”
Number two seed Nick Matthew, the three-time World Champion from England, also made a successful start to his campaign by downing Australian number one Cameron Pilley 3-1.
Despite dropping out of last week’s Qatar Classic, PSA World Series event due to injury, ’The Wolf’ was in top form from the get-go and the 35-year-old utilised his incredible fitness around to court to make some stunning retrievals as Pilley sought to use his renowned powerful drives to open up the court for himself. Matthew went on to pull away at the business end of games one and two to open up a commanding lead after Pilley found the tin with a number of drops.
Both players then traded blow for blow in an electrifying third game which ultimately saw World No.19 Pilley claw a game back after a consistent display and impressive physical prowess enabled him to unsettle Matthew’s rhythm.
Undeterred, Matthew redoubled his efforts in the fourth and pushed up the court in order to snuff out any openings for his opponent. However, Pilley matched Matthew point for point for much of the final stages of the encounter and pushed the Englishman to the limit in an engaging contest. After falling behind, Matthew mounted a superb fightback to complete a testing 11-8, 11-6, 8-11, 11-9 victory in 67 minutes.
“I missed out on Qatar because of a stomach injury so I’ve had plenty of time to build up to this match,” said Matthew.
“That can sometimes be a tricky thing because you’ve got a lot of time to think about one person and sometimes you can think about that person more than you think about your own game and that’s what I found on there today.
“He’s always been a tricky opponent for me throughout my career. If you see the head-to-head results then there have been two or three wins for him there and they’ve always been around four games and gone to tie-breaks.
“I’m just happy to get through the first round having missed Qatar. It was a potential banana skin. He’s a top 20 player and very dangerous so I’m just happy to emerge from that one with the win.”
Matthew goes on to face Egyptian qualifier Karim El Hammamy after the 20-year-old bested Declan James in their first round match-up, a marathon affair that lasted 108 minutes.
Meanwhile, Pilley’s defeat coupled with Ryan Cuskelly’s loss at the hands of Saurav Ghosal means that there will no Australian representation in the second round of the World Championship for the first time since the event began in 1976.
Matthew is joined in the second round by fellow Englishmen James Willstrop, Daryl Selby and Tom Richards, while 12 out of 15 Egyptians made it through.
2015 Men’s World Championship, Bellevue, Washington, USA:
Results – First Round (Bottom Half):
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt Mazen Hesham (EGY) 3-0: 11-5, 11-9, 11-7 (26m)
Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) bt [Q] Shawn Delierre (CAN) 3-1: 11-6, 5-11, 11-3, 11-7 (36m)
Cesar Salazar (MEX) bt [Q] Mohamed Reda (EGY) 3-2: 13-11, 11-6, 7-11, 4-11, 11-8 (72m)
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt [Q] Andrew Wagih Shoukry (EGY) 3-0: 11-6, 11-4, 16-14 (35m)
 Borja Golan (ESP) bt Alister Walker (BOT) 3-1: 8-11, 11-9, 11-7, 11-7 (61m)
Paul Coll (NZL) bt Shaun Le Roux (RSA) 3-1: 11-9, 10-12, 11-7, 11-1 (59m)
Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS) bt [Q] Charles Sharpes (ENG) 3-0: 11-5, 11-8, 11-9 (48m)
 Omar Mosaad (EGY) bt [Q] Farhan Zaman (PAK) 3-1: 11-8, 7-11, 11-1, 11-2 (42m)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) bt [Q] Joe Lee (ENG) 3-2: 8-11, 9-11, 12-10, 11-9, 11-9 (87m)
Diego Elias (PER) bt Adrian Grant (ENG) 3-0: 11-7, 11-5, 11-9 (33m)
Gregoire Marche (FRA) bt [Q] Henrik Mustonen (FIN) 3-0: 3-0: 11-6, 11-7, 11-5 (37m)
 Stephen Coppinger (RSA) bt Chris Simpson (ENG) 3-0: 11-9, 11-7, 11-4 (54m)
 Marwan Elshorbagy (EGY) bt Leo Au (HKG) 3-0: 12-10, 11-9, 13-11 (69m)
Daryl Selby (ENG) bt Zahed Mohamed (EGY) 3-1: 11-8, 11-6, 4-11, 11-8 (65m)
[Q] Karim El Hammamy (EGY) bt Declan James (ENG) 3-2: 12-10, 15-13, 3-11, 5-11, 11-4 (108m)
 Nick Matthew (ENG) bt Cameron Pilley (AUS) 3-1: 11-8, 11-6, 8-11, 11-9 (67m)
Draw – 2015 Men’s World Championship, Second Round
 Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) v Tom Richards (ENG)
James Willstrop (ENG) v  Saurav Ghosal (IND)
 Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) v [Q] Todd Harrity (USA)
Campbell Grayson (NZL) v  Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL)
 Simon Rösner (GER) v Nicolas Mueller (SUI)
Ali Farag (EGY) v  Max Lee (HKG)
Karim Ali Fathi (EGY) v Fares Dessouki (EGY)
Omar Abdel Meguid (EGY) v  Gregory Gaultier (FRA)
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) v Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY)
Cesar Salazar (MEX) v  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY)
 Borja Golan (ESP) v Paul Coll (NZL)
Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS) v  Omar Mosaad (EGY)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) v Diego Elias (PER)
Gregoire Marche (FRA) v  Stephen Coppinger (RSA)
 Marwan Elshorbagy (EGY) v Daryl Selby (ENG)
[Q] Karim El Hammamy (EGY) v  Nick Matthew (ENG)
Pictures by STEVE LINE (www.squashpics.com) courtesy of PSA