Illingworth Becomes New American Hero In Richmond

27 Feb 08

The final match on the second day of first round action in the 2008 Davenport Professional Squash Championship brought the $77,500 PSA Super Series event at the University of Richmond to life as unseeded US player Julian Illingworth delivered a stunning display of creative intelligent squash that deservedly brought him a shock four-game victory over Egypt's 14th seed Hisham Mohd Ashour, ranked 17 places above him.

Illingworth, in the view of some observers, played the match of his life to earn a place in the second round where he will now meet his opponent's younger brother Ramy Ashour, the world number two.

Illingworth started full of confidence and took the game to the very talented Ashour. More surprisingly he outplayed Ashour, a master shot maker, at the front of the court - which is where most Egyptians excel. While Illingworth was hitting sublime winners, Ashour, in his usual impetuous search for winners, was making errors - five in all. This was quality squash and the 24-year-old from Portland looked thoroughly at home. Illingworth won the first game 11-7, and showed great poise in saving two game balls in the second to force an extended tie-break which he won 15-13 after much suspense.

It all fell apart for the American in the third game, after some strange bounces in the back corner made him miss-hit, and he lost the game 11-4 in under five minutes. The fourth started badly with Ashour taking a quick 3-0 lead but Illingworth settled down to regain his form to gradually claw his way back in. There were some stunning rallies with both players stretched to their fullest. It was Illingworth's concentration and cool demeanour that won the day and he took the game to clinch the match 11-7, 11-10 (5-3), 4-11, 11-7 in 51 minutes - thus becoming the only unseeded player to reach the second round.

Egyptian glamour boy Wael El Hindi took on the young Australian Aaron Frankcomb. Although the score shows a straight games victory for the UK-based eighth seed, it wasn't that straightforward. Frankcomb displayed a fine all-round game and, if there had been any justice, should have taken the second game which he led most of the way. He showed that he could attack with the best of them and reaped the dividends of El Hindi's lackadaisical attitude when he thought he had the match won. Frankcomb held game ball at 10-9 but El Hindi hit a perfect length to force a tiebreak and the impetuous Australian put a drop shot into the tin to give El Hindi game ball. The Egyptian made no mistake with a fine forehand slam to length to win 12-10.

In the third game El Hindi was a little more circumspect in his approach to the game while Frankcomb took his foot off the pedal to allow his opponent to cruise home 11-3 to end the 38-minute encounter.

"I was happy that I was going forward well and with my general play, but I was disappointed in the way I went down in the third game," said Frankcomb, who is ranked 48 in the world.

Young Saurav Ghosal of India, ranked 49, gave the world number eight Karim Darwish a real fright by taking the first two games in just 21 minutes. This perilous situation was a very real wake-up call for the Egyptian who finally got going in the third game and corrected the situation by taking the next three games fairly easily.

"I was asleep," admitted Darwish, winner of last week's Oregon Open in Portland. "He started very quickly and played well. I got up at nine o'clock this morning which is really not early enough for a one o'clock game," he said with obvious relief in his voice.

Darwish will not be able to sleep for a game, or even a point, in the next round when he meets Alex Gough. The 37-year-old world number 20 took no chances when playing qualifier Tom Richards of England. The Welshman won the first two games but had to fight hard in the third as Richards, who has just returned to action after eight months out due to injury, showed his potential and speed. Qualifier Richards had climbed to 54 in the world before the injury and is now ranked 121, but his play suggested he is mended and should soon start climbing back up.

Gough, fresh from his efforts in the British National championships said that he didn't take the result for granted. "I haven't played for a week, while Richards has been through qualifying and would be played in, so I had to be careful. I'm just please to have won in three," he said.

Canadian team-mates Shahier Razik and Shawn Delierre were drawn to play each other, their eighth meeting with Razik ahead 5-2 on the head-to-head.

DeLierre was far from motivated in the first two games but picked his game up in the third to force a tie break, fighting to save three match balls before finally going down. Razik will now play El Hindi in the second round which will be played at a very different pace with a much higher level of commitment.

Former British champion Lee Beachill produced one of the most efficient performances of the day in despatching young Frenchman Yann Perrin in 27 minutes. Beachill had been operated on for a double hernia in December, but he looked good as new as he went for the jugular with every shot, at a pace that the Frenchman could not live with. Beachill now plays fellow Englishman James Willstrop who took a little longer to beat Welshman Jethro Binns in straight games.

1st round (top half of draw):
[1] Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt [Q] David Phillips (CAN) 11-5, 11-7, 11-9 (28m)
Julian Illingworth (USA) bt [14] Hisham Mohd Ashour (EGY) 11-7, 11-10 (5-3), 4-11, 11-7 (51m)
[6] Karim Darwish (EGY) bt Saurav Ghosal (IND) 6-11, 10-11 (1-3), 11-7, 11-6, 11-4 (55m)
[12] Alex Gough (WAL) bt [Q] Tom Richards (ENG) 11-6, 11-9, 11-10 (2-0) (43m)
[4] James Willstrop (ENG) bt [Q] Jethro Binns (WAL) 11-7, 11-8, 11-6 (30m)
[9] Lee Beachill (ENG) bt [Q] Yann Perrin (FRA) 11-8, 11-2, 11-5 (27m)
[8] Wael El Hindi (EGY) bt Aaron Frankcomb (AUS) 11-7, 11-10 (2-0), 11-3 (38m)
[13] Shahier Razik (CAN) bt Shawn Delierre (CAN) 11-2, 11-6, 11-10 (2-0) (38m)