Thursday, December 7, 2023

Willstrop’s World Open Analysis

Ramy Ashour battles his way past Mohamed El Shorbagy in the Doha final. Picture by STEVE LINE from

James Willstrop continues his Blog in the Huffington Post with a look back at the World Championship in Qatar.

Ramy Ashour won the last and most prestigious tournament of the year, the World Championships in Doha, Qatar last Friday evening under tense circumstances. His opponent was Mohamed El Shorbagy who put my title aspirations to bed on Thursday in the semis in a frenetic five game encounter, making sure of an Egyptian winner of the highest accolade in squash.

21-year-old double world junior champion and current world number six El Shorbagy fought with me for nearly two hours, after which most experts practically dismissed any thoughts of a win the following night. Facing the fresher legs of an in form Ashour, already a winner of the title in 2008, it looked like a daunting prospect, yet proved to be anything but.

Shorbagy romped home in the first game 11-2, and Ashour, undoubtedly feeling the mental pinch, looked edgy. After the older Egyptian recovered to take the next two, the fourth game lifted the whole occasion to another stratosphere. A packed crowd went absolutely mad at 9-9 in the fourth when the two produced the most outrageous rally. A piece of advice to people reading this: go on YouTube or and find this rally. Already and without thinking I would put it in the best ten I have ever seen, and I have quite a library to access. When squash players combine together to weave such magic entertainment, squash is as exciting a spectacle there is.

Lead commentator on psasquashtv Joey Barrington incredulously mused mid rally that it “was like something out of a comic book” and immediately after claimed that co-commentator Paul Johnson had ended up rather dubiously in his lap such was his amazement at what had unfolded.

Shorbagy nicked the fourth 11-9, and despite clocking up 180 minutes of squash within 24 hours, the young man found himself within a game of becoming world champion against an unsteady and tight Ashour, who hadn’t found his range. Shorbagy even held an 8-7 lead in the fifth before Ashour managed, to his relief, to close out a highly exciting and unpredictable finale.

English hopes were extinguished in the semi finals where Nick Matthew lost in four to the champion. Peter Barker and Daryl Selby made the last 16.

It’s now the turn of the girls, who fight for their World title in Grand Cayman this week. Hold on to your hats for arguably the most competitive women’s event in years. Watch it live on

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