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US OPEN: Ashour and Matthew meet after marathon victories

Ramy Ashour celebrates victory after his battle with Peter Barker. Pictures by STEVE CUBBINS courtesy of

Delaware Investments U.S. Open 2012, Day Seven

Wed 10th Oct, Quarterfinals, Bottom Half:

[4] Laura Massaro (Eng) bt [5] Madeline Perry (Irl) 11-6, 11-9, 11-7 (44m)
[2] Raneem El Weleily (Egy) bt Kasey Brown (Aus) 11-8, 11-13, 12-10, 11-9 (47m)

[2] Nick Matthew (Eng) bt [7] Amr Shabana (Egy) 11-6, 4-11, 10-12, 11-9, 11-9 (92m)
[4] Ramy Ashour (Egy) bt [6] Peter Barker (Eng) 10-12, 11-5, 11-6, 7-11, 13-11 (75m)

World champion Nick Matthew meets Egyptian Ramy Ashour in the men’s semi-finals after two massive England-Egypt quarter-final battles at Drexel.And there will be another England-Egypt clash in the women’s last four after important wins for Laura Massaro and Raneem El Weleily.  STEVE CUBBINS reports.

Massaro wins British battle in Philly

Defending champion Laura Massaro maintained her impressive record in Philadelphia with a straight-game win over British rival Madeline Perry that was far from straightforward.

Perry, the 35-year-old from Northern Ireland, started well as she opened up a 3-0 lead in the first, but Massaro quickly closed that down to 3-all, and they traded points to reach 5-all. Perry took the next on a stroke but that was her last of the game as six unanswered points from Massaro put her in the lead.

Laura Massaro drives past Madeline Perry

The second was close all the way but again it was the Englishwoman who finished stronger, at 9-all finishing the game with two crisp dropshots off Perry boasts that she read well.

It looked all over for Perry as she fell 6-0 down in the third, but the pace and strength of hitting increased as she worked her way back to one point adrift at 7-8. Again though Massaro found the finishing touches with three points in a row, finishing with a flashing crosscourt beyond the despairing racket of Perry.

“I felt it was really close in the middle of the games,” said Massaro. “I had to try and stay focused and managed to get a run of points at the end of the first two.

“I started the thurd really well, keeping it off her volley, but I think I relaxed a bit thinking it was almost over and she fought back really well. I had to scrap for it in the end so I’m really pleased to come away with a 3-0 win.”

Raneem squeezes into semi

The second women’s semifinal was played at a much faster pace than the first, as it was bound to be with Raneem El Weleily displaying her usual range of shots and Kasey Brown as determined as ever in chasing them down, applying her own pressure and winners too when the Egyptian world number three allowed her to.

The match was characterised by swings of fortune and score throughout.

Raneem El Weleily makes Kasey Brown suffer

El Weleily opened up a lead in the first game, saw it eroded as Brown plugged away, then pulled clear from 7-all to take the lead. The lead changed hands several time in the second with Brown leading 6-3, El Weleily getting to gameball 10-9 first, but the Australian reasserting to take it 13-11.

Similar swings in the third game – El Weleily ahead, Brown recovering to earn a single game ball, El Weleily taking the last three points to regain the lead 12-10. The fourth was virtually an instant replay with Raneem losing a lead but managing to claim the last two points and with it a place in the semifinal.

“That was just so up and down,” said a relieved winner, “I could so easily have won or lost all of those games. She was playing well but I never think about what my opponent is doing, it’s always in my head and I sometimes think I’m fighting myself.

“It’s great to be in the semifinal, but now I need to clear my head and make sure I’m more consistent in the next match and not give away leads like I did tonight.”

Matthew dethrones Shabana in a Classic

In a repeat of last year’s U.S. OPen final, second seed Nick Matthew reversed last year’s result against Amr Shabana to prevail in an five-game thriller full of fabulous squash, changes of fortune, thrills and spills that delighted the crowd at Drexel University.

Long story short, Matthew looked impressive as he took the first, always leading for an 11-6 advantage, but Shabana struck back to take the next two games 11-4 and 12-10, coming from behind in the third to take the lead on extra points.

The defending champion, seeded seven but looking as fit and fresh as he ever has, established a 7-4 lead in the fourth, but this time it was the English world champion’s turn to fight back, taking seven of the next nine points to level the match 11-9.

Nick Matthew squeezes home against a resurgent Amr Shabana

The expected fireworks in the fifth took a while to materialise as Matthew stormed into a 6-1 lead, subduing his opponent and the crowd. Shabana struck back with some brilliant winners, and levelled at 9-all. Matthew moved to match ball on a stroke, then probably wished he hadn’t wasted his video appeal on the first point of the game as he received a let from which he might have expected more.

A fabulous last rally saw both players covering all four corners of the court, Matthew finally leaving Shabana stranded at the front as he punched the ball deep for the winning point. Shabana’s racket made its own way to the back corner in vain pursuit as the players embraced in mutual respect and the crowd rose in appreciation.

“I really don’t know how I did that,” said Matthew after the 92-minute encounter, “the last few points are a bit of a blur, I expected him to get up and and chase that last ball down, he’d been playing so well!

“I knew he would come out strong, the shape he looks to be in has been the talk of the tour, so it wasn’t a surprise that he played so well – hopefully he’ll carry on and move up the rankings so that I don’t have to meet him in the quarter-finals any more!

“At 2-1 and 7-4 I was down and out, but one of the things I pride myself on is being able to work out what needs doing if things aren’t going the way you’d like, and I was able to do that tonight.

“I had a lead in the fifth, but it always felt like I needed one more point to be really safe, Shabs and Ramy can switch the momentum of a match with a single shot, and sure enough he came back and nearly snatched it.

“I was lucky to win that in the end. I’ll take a little time to go through what went wtong and what went right, then think about preparing for the semifinal – I just hope the others have a long one too!

Ashour scrapes into semis

Matthew got his wish for a long match when Ramy Ashour and Peter Barker contested the third Egypt v England quarterfinal, and it was Ashour who prevailed in a nailbiting 13-11 in the fifth finish after 75 minutes.

Barker, aiming for a hat-trick of English wins, took the first game 12-10 aided by numerous unforced errors from Ashour, who was trying to ensure that at least one Egyptian went through from the four who started the quarterfinals.

He took the second and third games 11-5, 11-6 with Barker now struggling to contain his opponent’s mobility and shotmaking.

Ashour held a slender advantage for the majority of the fourth game, but Barker kept plugging away and the Egyptian errors returned with a vengeance as Barker went from 5-7 down to level the match 11-7.

The decider was close all the way, but only from 7-all did the tension really arrive, and how.

Ramy dived in vain for a dropshot, Barker fell after a collision at the front of the court, Ramy found the tin with his favourite backhand volley then buried a winner deep into the back corner, Peter scored with Ramy’s own favourite shot then volleyed into the tin, Ramy punted the ball down the middle for a stroke and it was match ball to the Englishman.

Another Ashour drive drive too deep, a Barker volley into the tin and it was match ball to Ramy, who then received a no let which became a let on video appeal. Ramy got another let which Barker appealed on, that became a no let and it was 11-all.

A chopped volley into the nick brought up a second match ball for Ramy, and at the end of a long rally Barker aimed for the nick but his volley clipped the tin and it was all over after 75 minutes, the last 15 of which were pure drama and tension.

“You try to be entertaining and sometimes it doesn’t work so you have to revert to a basic game,” explained the winner. “I’m really proud of how I managed to win that. He played so well, but at times it looked as though there was something wrong with him, I think he was trying to fool me, and it broke my concentration, but to win such a match gives me a lot of confidence.

“I just didn’t want to go home, that’s the thing,” concluded Ramy.


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