Shabana Shines In Saudi Showdown
29 Oct 2007
Amr Shabana conquered Egyptian compatriot Ramy Ashour in the final of the Saudi International to not only win the biggest cheque in the history of squash but also ensure that he extends his grip on the world number one ranking into a 20th successive month.
The climax of the PSA Super Series Platinum event in the Saudi Arabian city of Al-Khobar provided the dream finale between top seed Shabana, one of the sport's most skilful racquet 'technicians', and second seed Ramy Ashour, the 20-year-old 'new kid on the block' who has already picked up five PSA Tour titles this year - and for whom victory would have led to his attaining the world number one ranking for the first time!
Shabana, in his first Tour final since March, romped to a two-game lead - the pressure appearing to affect Ashour more than his experienced opponent.
But Ramy took heart in the third after Shabana hit two unnecessary tins. Ramy led 5-0 and 7-1, by which time Shabana let the game go to focus on the fourth.
The top seed was back on court early for the fourth, keen to get back on top. But Ramy too was up for it now. Level up to five-all, Shabana pulled ahead 7-5 - but then Ramy took over the lead 8-7.
At match-ball, Shabana is about to celebrate after hitting a winner, when the referee shouts 'let'. At the second time of asking, it's a 'no let' - and the defending champion raises his arms in delight.
"Oh man, what a big match, so much at stake," Shabana told the official website www.atcosquash.com after collecting his record cheque for $31,172.
"You have to keep it simple as you can against Ramy, or he's going to eat you up. The first two games were good, I played simple, steady squash and contained him. I could see in his eyes as he came out he was up for the third, but I mixed it up too much and he played too good.
"It meant a lot when I got to match ball. I've been thinking a lot about getting to match ball in a big tournament, thinking about it for some time, it's been a long time for me. I knew I had to push, really push then, it might not come again," explained Shabana, who now boasts 17 PSA Tour titles.
"It's going to be so hard playing Ramy over the next few years, but I'm really pleased to win this one again, it's massive. I'm not thinking about three for now, two is enough!"
Ramy responded: "He played much better than me. I played well, but he was better. I was a bit loose in the first and second, I couldn't feel the shots, but I came back well in the third.
"In the fourth he had that mental toughness. I got close but he forced me to push myself as hard as I could and in the end he was that bit tougher and he played better than me."
Event promoter Ziad Al-Turki expressed his delight at the success of the tournament: "Amr Shabana won it again, he's a deserving champion - and for the second time in three years the final decided who would be number one.
"Overall it was a great event. It would have been nice to see Ramy win, but the future is his."