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Darwish Wins El Gouna International Title

Karim Darwish claimed his first 2010 PSA Super Series squash title after upsetting favourite Ramy Ashour in an all-Egyptian final of the inaugural El Gouna International Open in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of El Gouna.

The dream final of the $142,500 PSA Super Series event – the seventh of the year – failed to live up to expectations when Ashour, the world number one from Cairo bidding to win his third Super Series crown in a row, sustained an injury early in the second game.

Third seed Darwish came from 10-7 down to take a high-quality first game 16-14, then held a slender 4-3 advantage in the second when the favourite went forward for a ball and slipped.

Clearly suffering, Ashour took a three-minute injury break – which was more than doubled while the court was rigorously swept.

On his return, Ashour’s movement was clearly restricted as Darwish reeled off seven quick points to take the second game and raced ahead in the third.

But, with the score standing at 16-14, 11-3, 5-1, Ashour offered his hand to Darwish to concede the match.

“I was really focussing in the first and second games,” Darwish told www.squashsite.co.uk afterwards. “I had a feeling I was going to make it tonight, all my shots were sharp and I was feeling confident.

“It’s a real pity it had to finish like that, I feel sorry for Ramy,” added the 29-year-old world No5 from Cairo. “I hope he recovers in time for the other tournaments coming up.

“I’m really happy to win this tournament – it’s an important one for me. Thanks to all the sponsors, particularly Orascom Developments, and my own sponsors.

“And to Amr Mansi, he’s done a great job putting on a big tournament like this for his first one.”

The victory, the 18th PSA World Tour title of his career, sees Darwish move up to fourth place in the latest 2010 PSA Super Series Rankings.

Ashour has extended his lead at the top of the list to 125 points ahead of second-placed Englishman Nick Matthew. England’s James Willstrop, a quarter-finalist in El Gouna, holds onto third place, while Frenchman Gregory Gaultier slips to fifth. Whilst the line-up of the all-important top eight is unchanged, France’s Thierry Lincou strengthens his status by rising to sixth-equal, sharing 180 points with Egypt’s Amr Shabana.

The PSA Super Series Tour immediately reconvenes in Kuwait, where the $172,500 HH Sheikh Saad Abdullah Al-Sabah Trophy, The Patriarch Amir, Kuwait Open gets underway on Thursday.

[3] Karim Darwish (EGY) bt [1] Ramy Ashour (EGY) 16-14, 11-3, 5-1 ret. (52m)

El Gouna International Celebrates All-Egyptian Climax

The inaugural El Gouna International Open will climax in a dream all-Egyptian final after favourite Ramy Ashour and third seed Karim Darwish prevailed in the semi-finals of the $142,500 PSA Super Series squash event – the seventh of the year – at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of El Gouna.

Ashour, the world number one from Cairo, was taken the full distance by Frenchman Gregory Gaultier in the opening semi – and ultimately prevailed 11-8, 9-11, 11-5, 8-11, 11-2 in 96 minutes in the second longest match of his career.

It was a tense, high-quality, encounter in which the Egyptian was 6-3 up in the third when the pair collided. Fourth seed Gaultier fell to the floor, clutching his leg for a couple of minutes before being escorted off the court by the match referee.

After a 13-minute break the battle continued, but Ashour immediately put in two drops, both of which found Gaultier’s movement out, and the local hero quickly finished the game.

“It’s a shame there was that accident,” Gaultier told www.squashsite.co.uk afterwards. “We were both playing well and it broke the rhythm of the match.”

The world No6 from Aix-en-Provence came out for the fourth with renewed purpose, however, and duly levelled the match.

“That’s the fourth or fifth time we’ve had a great match like that,” said Ashour later. “It’s always good squash with me and Greg.

“It was a mental and a physical game, there were a lot of crucial points in the middle and I was nervous at times. I was quite lucky to win the third.

“I knew that I had to push from the start of the fifth, and I’m pleased with how I did that,” added the 23-year-old. “It feels great to make the final, thanks to my coaches, my brother and to all the crowd who supported me!”

Ashour’s national rival Karim Darwish, the world No5 who is also from Cairo, then reserved his place in the final with an 11-6, 9-11, 11-8, 11-5 win over surprise opponent Thierry Lincou, the No7 seed from France who upset third seed Amr Shabana in the previous round.

“It’s great to be in the final – but Thierry’s so strong, mentally and physically,” said Darwish after the pair’s 14th career meeting which brought the head-to-head tally to seven wins apiece!

“He played a hard 3/2 yesterday, yet he was playing so well today,” added Darwish of the 34-year-old Tour veteran from Marseille.

“I had to focus from the first point. I knew that if I left any openings he would take them. I managed to win some important points at crucial stages which made a big difference.”

Lincou was pleased with his performance: “I thought I played well, but I just missed a bit of energy – I was at maybe 90%, but you have to be 100% to beat someone like Karim.”

Ashour is celebrating the 29th PSA Tour final of his career – and his seventh this year – while 29-year-old Darwish is marking his 31st Tour climax. Ashour is one win away from his third successive Super Series title success, while Darwish is seeking his first title in the 2010 PSA Super Series.

Ashour boasts an 8/5 career lead over Darwish on the PSA Tour – and won their most recent clash in the Hong Kong Open semi-finals in August. But it was Darwish who triumphed in the pair’s last Tour meeting on home soil, winning in straight games in Cairo in May to reach the final of the Sky Open.

[1] Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt [4] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 11-8, 9-11, 11-5, 8-11, 11-2 (96m)
[3] Karim Darwish (EGY) bt [7] Thierry Lincou (FRA) 11-6, 9-11, 11-8, 11-5 (56m)

Lincou Licks Shabana For Last Four Berth In El Gouna

Veteran Frenchman Thierry Lincou celebrated his 20th Tour meeting with career-long rival Amr Shabana in the quarter-finals of the El Gouna International Open by recording his longest ever win over the Egyptian to reach the last four of the inaugural $142,500 PSA Super Series squash event at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of El Gouna.

Though the 34-year-old from Marseille had won their previous encounter, in last year’s Super Series Finals in England, Lincou went into the match 7-12 down in the their head-to-head Tour tally since September 2003.

In a clash described by an observer as “probably the best match of the tournament so far”, seventh seed Lincou recovered from losing the first game, then survived a tie-break in the third before moving on to secure his 9-11, 11-6, 12-10, 5-11, 11-4 upset in 69 minutes over the second-seeded reigning World Open champion.

“I just tried to stay focused on my width and length,” explained former world number one Lincou to www.squashsite.co.ukafterwards. “Because on this court – especially against Shabana – you don’t get forgiven for anything loose.

“It took me a lot of energy to stay patient, but at the same time I was trying to stay in front of him. It was just mental at the end, I just needed to give it a hard push to the finish.

“It’s very pleasing to reach a Platinum semi-final, it’s what I’m working and training for, keeping the faith!”

Lincou, now in his second Super Series semi of the year, will face another Egyptian Karim Darwish after the third seed from Cairo defeated Australia’s 13th seed Cameron Pilley 11-6, 11-9, 11-4.

But an earlier eagerly-awaited match between European rivals Gregory Gaultier and James Willstrop failed to live up to expectations when Willstrop, the fifth seed from England, was forced to concede the match midway through the second game as a result of slippery conditions on the court floor.

Both had found the court slippery during practice during the day – but had expected the night-time conditions to improve things.

Willstrop looked subdued throughout the match, not risking chasing anything that might require a stretch. At 9-0 down in the second, the Yorkshireman offered his hand.

“I know people may say I’m always complaining about this,” said Willstrop. “But it’s not as if I have problems on many courts. We train all year to play good matches against the other top guys in settings like this, and to be honest it’s disgusting that anyone should have to concede for risk of injury because of something like this.

“I’ve played on courts all over the world, I certainly don’t want to come off, but it’s just not worth the risk.”

Gaultier, the fourth seed from Aix-en-Provence, agreed that the court conditions had affected the match: “I feel really bad about taking a match like that. I could feel it was a bit slippy too, but it was affecting James more than me. There was no match – we played maybe two proper points.

“We played a great match just the other day, I was looking forward to another one. It’s not what anyone wants.”

Gaultier will now face favourite Ramy Ashour, the world number one from Egypt who raced to an 11-4, 11-8, 11-2 victory over unseeded compatriot Omar Mosaad.

[1] Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt Omar Mosaad (EGY) 11-4, 11-8, 11-2 (37m)
[4] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt [5] James Willstrop (ENG) 11-4, 9-0 ret. (28m)
[3] Karim Darwish (EGY) bt [13] Cameron Pilley (AUS) 11-6, 11-9, 11-4 (43m)
[7] Thierry Lincou (FRA) bt [2] Amr Shabana (EGY) 9-11, 11-6, 12-10, 5-11, 11-4 (69m)

Pilley Powers Through To El Gouna Quarters

Australia’s Cameron Pilley pulled off the only upset on the second day of second round action in the El Gouna International Open when he defeated England’s sixth seed Peter Barker to reach the quarter-finals of the inaugural $142,500 PSA Super Series squash event at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of El Gouna.

Fresh from winning two Commonwealth Games medals in Delhi, Pilley recovered from a game down to beat Barker, the world No8 from London, 6-11, 11-4, 11-6, 11-2 in 62 minutes on the all-glass court at El Gouna.

The win in the seventh 2010 PSA Super Series event takes the 27-year-old 13th seed from New South Wales into his first Super Series quarter-final of the year.

“The first was a bit frustrating,” the Netherlands-based world No16 told www.squashsite.co.uk afterwards. “I gave him too many opportunities to put the ball away, so I had to change my tactics. I started hitting it straighter and volleying more, and I was finding the corners, front and back. I kept that going for three games and I won!”

Pilley will now meet one of four Egyptians who will line up in the quarter-finals. Karim Darwish, the third seed from Cairo, also had to come from behind in his second round match – recovering from a game down to beat Malaysia’s 12th seed Mohd Azlan Iskandar 8-11, 11-8, 11-3, 11-1.

“Azlan’s one of the fittest guys on the circuit,” said the former world number one afterwards. “He played better than me in the first game, but I knew that if I could keep working him to the corners it would work to my advantage. I’m more used to these conditions.”

Long-standing Tour rivalry between two former world number ones will add a further chapter when Egypt’s reigning world champion Amr Shabana takes on France’s former world champion Thierry Lincou for a place in the El Gouna semis.

Seventh seed Lincou ended qualifier Chris Ryder‘s hopes, beating the 30-year-old Englishman 12-10, 11-5, 11-3 in just under an hour.

“It was my first match on this court – it always takes a little while to get used to new conditions,” explained 34-year-old Lincou, the world No7 who is celebrating his sixth successive Super Series quarter-final appearance.

Second seed Shabana caused the second Malaysian downfall of the day when he beat 15th seed Ong Beng Hee 11-6, 11-6, 11-8.

“I knew I had to be positive against Bengy,” said the 31-year-old from Cairo. “And today was a day when being positive was good for me.

“He gets more into it as the game goes on, unlike some who start strongly and then fade, so I had to be very focused at the end of the match, I didn’t want to be on there for five games.”

2nd round (lower half of draw):
[13] Cameron Pilley (AUS) bt [6] Peter Barker (ENG) 6-11, 11-4, 11-6, 11-2 (62m)
[3] Karim Darwish (EGY) bt [12] Mohd Azlan Iskandar (MAS) 8-11, 11-8, 11-3, 11-1 (41m)
[7] Thierry Lincou (FRA) bt [Q] Chris Ryder (ENG) 12-10, 11-5, 11-3 (50m)
[2] Amr Shabana (EGY) bt [15] Ong Beng Hee (MAS) 11-6, 11-6, 11-8 (35m)

Ramy Survives Slippery Start In El Gouna

Egypt’s world number one Ramy Ashour survived the opening match of the El Gouna International Open on the first day of action in the inaugural $142,500 PSA Super Series squash event on an all-glass court in El Gouna.

But an unusually humid evening caused excessively slippery conditions on the court – and the second round clash had to be halted for more than half an hour, midway through the first game, while the wind played its part in helping to restore the court to a playable condition.

After early action in Alexandria, the 2010 El Gouna International Open – the seventh 2010 PSA Super Series event and the second this year to be staged in Egypt – is now being staged in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of El Gouna, through to the grand final on Sunday (24 October).

Top seed Ashour was facing Karim Abdel Gawad, a 19-year-old qualifier from Cairo – and recovered from the break to beat his young compatriot 11-8, 11-6, 11-7 in 48 minutes of playing time.

“That’s happened to me twice before,” Ashour told www.squashsite.co.uk when asked to comment about the interruption. “The first time I was completely lost, but now I know how to deal with it. In the end the court was fine, we both played well and it was a good match.”

Teenager Gawad revelled in his glass court debut: “I’ve wanted to play on a court like this in an event like this against the best in the world since I was eight!”

In the quarter-finals, Ashour will face his third fellow countryman in the event after unseeded Egyptian Omar Mosaad battled for 95 minutes to overcome fellow non-seed Farhan Mehboob, a 21-year-old Pakistani ranked nine places lower, 12-10, 9-11, 11-6, 5-11, 11-6.

“I’m very happy to win today,” said Mosaad, the 22-year-old world No22. “The first time in my life in the quarters of such a big event.

“Farhan is very good, very fast and fast hands. I was lucky to win the first, but then I was leading the second and lost. There was a lot of stopping in the third and the fourth, in the fifth I just had to start again and focus.”

Frenchman Gregory Gaultier stopped the Egyptian march through to the last eight when he beat 19-year-old Alexandrian Mohamed El Shorbagy. But the No4 seed dropped the opening game to ninth seed El Shorbagy before taking control to close out the match 11-13, 11-6, 11-5, 12-10.

“I was prepared to play tomorrow,” said the relieved former world number one from Aix-en-Provence after his 78-minute victory.

“There were problems with the floor, and I got on an hour and a half late after warming up twenty times. I didn’t realise it until after we started, but my legs felt heavy, my fitness wasn’t there, so I just had to dig in.”

In the final match of the day, England’s James Willstrop – one of a number of players who flew straight to Egypt following ten days of Commonwealth Games action in Delhi – despatched Egypt’s Mohd Ali Anwar Reda 11-6, 11-3, 11-8.

2nd round (top half of draw):
[1] Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt [Q] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) 11-8, 11-6, 11-7 (48m)
Omar Mosaad (EGY) bt Farhan Mehboob (PAK) 12-10, 9-11, 11-6, 5-11, 11-6 (95m)
[4] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt [9] Mohamed El Shorbagy (EGY) 11-13, 11-6, 11-5, 12-10 (78m)
[5] James Willstrop (ENG) bt Mohd Ali Anwar Reda (EGY) 11-6, 11-3, 11-8 (36m)

Outstanding 2nd round line-up:
[6] Peter Barker (ENG) v [13] Cameron Pilley (AUS)
[3] Karim Darwish (EGY) v [12] Mohd Azlan Iskandar (MAS)
[7] Thierry Lincou (FRA) v [Q] Chris Ryder (ENG)
[2] Amr Shabana (EGY) v [15] Ong Beng Hee (MAS)

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