Englishman Nick Matthew celebrated a long-awaited victory over Egypt’s world number one Ramy Ashour in the final of the $93,750 North American Open in Richmond to win the second PSA Super Series 2010 squash event of the year at the University of Richmond in Virginia.
The 29-year-old from Sheffield, beaten by Ashour in their last four meetings, fought back from 9-7 down in the first game and 7-4 behind in the second to break the heart of the defending North American Open champion.
Ashour seemed to be playing the kind of free-flowing squash that is his trademark, though Matthew kept pegging him back, using his straight volley drop to force Ashour to reach uncomfortably into the front corners.
“It wasn’t obvious that Ashour was injured, though maybe because he doesn’t play traditional physical, length-based squash,” said an event spokesman. “He attacks into the front corners, especially crosscourt, and his wins are predicated upon when he can force the loose shot and how far forward he can get to reduce the risk of playing a winning shot.”
After dropping the first, the second game was make-or-break for Ashour; win it and he might have gone on to dominate the match. This wasn’t to be: Matthew would not let his opponent break free, forcing Ashour deeper and deeper in the court, eventually getting the error.
Matthew’s steely resolve and physicality means that he is incredibly hard to break down when he is in a rhythm, and also hard to dominate in more random conditions due to his insistence on making his opponent play one more shot to finish the rally.
Matthew’s two-game lead proved to be unassailable. Ashour tried for a few points in the third, though it was a half-hearted effort. He knew he couldn’t summon the effort required to come back and win, especially while carrying a niggling injury.
Matthew fully deserved his 11-9, 16-14, 5-4 (ret.) victory. He laboured through a couple of average matches during the tournament, finding his volley drops and short game in the semi-finals and finals. The interest now lies in a potential rivalry for the top spot on the PSA world rankings – this win pushes the steely Yorkshireman closer to that goal, one which he is yet to achieve.
Ashour praised Matthew at the post-match presentations and refused to make any excuses for his injury: “He played a terrific match and was a lot better than I was,” said the 22-year-old top seed.
“It was one of the biggest matches I’ve ever played in my life. It’s good to have each other at the top – pushing each other all the time.”
New champion Matthew found it difficult to be too celebratory under the circumstances: “It’s a strange feeling right now – you feel you should be happy and celebrating. It’s never nice to win like that.
“But all credit to Ramy – you could see he wasn’t moving well. But to come through as far as he did was amazing – I don’t think anyone else in the world would have been able to do that,” Matthew added.
“It’s very tough playing Ramy – you want to keep him at the back because at the front he’s lethal. But you also have to attack or you’re never going to win a point.
“I got a bit lucky at the end of the second – but that win was crucial. If it had gone one-all, then maybe he would have got his confidence back.”
Both Ashour and Matthew praised the tournament organisers, led by Gus Cook: “Gus and his team have done a great job – the tournament has a real community feel,” concluded the new North American Open champion.
The triumph gives Matthew the 12th PSA World Tour title of his career, and the fourth Super Series crown. It also takes the world number two to top of the PSA Super Series 2010 rankings with 140 points, sharing number one position with compatriot James Willstrop. Ashour is in third place, with fellow Egyptian Amr Shabana fourth.
Final: Nick Matthew (ENG) bt  Ramy Ashour (EGY) 11-9, 16-14, 5-4 ret. (48m)
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt  Amr Shabana (EGY) 12-14, 13-11, 7-11, 11-7, 11-8 (76m)
 Nick Matthew (ENG) bt  James Willstrop (ENG) 11-8, 11-9, 12-10 (62m)
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt  Thierry Lincou (FRA) 8-11, 12-10, 11-9, 11-8 (49m)
 Amr Shabana (EGY) bt  Olli Tuominen (FIN) 11-3, 11-7, 11-8 (32m)
 James Willstrop (ENG) bt  Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 11-6, 12-10, 11-3 (53m)
 Nick Matthew (ENG) bt  Adrian Grant (ENG) 11-9, 5-11, 11-4, 11-7 (67m)
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt  Aamir Atlas Khan (PAK) 11-4, 11-4, 10-12, 11-4
 Thierry Lincou (FRA) bt  Peter Barker (ENG) 11-8, 11-7, 11-9
 Amr Shabana (EGY) bt  Wael El Hindi (EGY) 11-5, 11-7, 3-5 ret. (32m)
 Olli Tuominen (FIN) bt  David Palmer (AUS) 11-9, 6-11, 11-4, 4-11, 11-8 (67m)
 James Willstrop (ENG) bt  Alister Walker (ENG) 11-6, 11-5, 11-6 (40m)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt  Joey Barrington (ENG) 11-7, 11-3, 11-3 (32m)
 Adrian Grant (ENG) bt  Karim Darwish (EGY) 6-11, 6-11, 5-0 ret. (35m)
 Nick Matthew (ENG) bt [Q] Mohammed Abbas (EGY) 11-13, 11-9, 11-3, 11-7 (54m)
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt Stephen Coppinger (RSA) 11-7, 6-11, 9-11, 11-3, 11-5 (53m)
 Aamir Atlas Khan (PAK) bt [Q] Steve Finitsis (AUS) 11-5, 2-11, 11-4, 13-11 (37m)
 Peter Barker (ENG) bt [Q] David Phillips (CAN) 11-9, 7-11, 11-7, 14-12 (50m)
 Thierry Lincou (FRA) bt Farhan Mehboob (PAK) 11-5, 11-6, 11-4 (27m)
 Amr Shabana (EGY) bt [Q] Zac Alexander (AUS) 12-10, 11-6, 11-9 (33m)
 Wael El Hindi (EGY) bt [Q] Cesar Salazar (MEX) 11-3, 11-2, 7-11, 11-8 (34m)
 David Palmer (AUS) bt Shahier Razik (CAN) 13-11, 11-8, 11-2 (39m)
 Olli Tuominen (FIN) bt [Q] Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) 11-9, 11-9, 7-11, 11-5 (53m)
 Alister Walker (ENG) bt [Q] Nicolas Mueller (SUI) 11-9, 11-4, 11-8 (34m)
 James Willstrop (ENG) bt Aaron Frankcomb (AUS) 11-4, 11-4, 11-8 (36m)
 Joey Barrington (ENG) bt Rafael F Alarcon (BRA) 10-12, 11-5, 11-7, 9-11, 11-6 (85m)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt [Q] Yasir Butt (PAK) 11-6, 11-9, 11-6 (38m)
 Adrian Grant (ENG) bt Simon Rosner (GER) 11-9, 11-9, 6-11, 10-12, 11-6 (70m)
 Karim Darwish (EGY) bt Amr Swelim (ITA) 11-6, 11-5, 11-2 (27m)
[Q] Mohammed Abbas (EGY) bt  Julian Illingworth (USA) 8-11, 11-7, 11-7, 11-6 (45m)
 Nick Matthew (ENG) bt Esteban Casarino (PAR) 11-3, 11-3, 11-8 (33m)