England's Willstrop & Massaro Make The Hong Kong Headlines
16 Oct 2009
England internationals James Willstrop and Laura Massaro recorded breakthrough wins in today's quarter-finals of the Cathay Pacific Gale Well Hong Kong Open to earn unexpected places in the semi-finals of the established international squash event first staged in 1985.
Eighth seed Willstrop, still fighting back to top form after a layoff following ankle surgery, recovered from a game down to beat Egypt's world champion Ramy Ashour 6-11, 11-8, 11-8, 12-10 in 47 minutes to reach the last four of the men's $145,000 PSA Tour Super Series Platinum event for the third time in four years.
It was only the 26-year-old Yorkshireman's second win over the fourth-ranked player in the world in seven meetings - and followed a marathon 90-minute first round win, and 49-minutes last sixteen success for Willstrop in the previous 48 hours.
"It's good to be able to play such a game after two hard matches - I'm not sure that 18 months ago I would have been able to do it," conceded Willstrop to www.squashsite.co.uk afterwards.
"But it's only the quarters, I'm only in the semis - and I came here to win. But you can't get a win over Ramy and not recognise it's a good day!"
The former world number two from Leeds now lines up against long-time European rival Gregory Gaultier.
Second-seeded Frenchman Gaultier took exactly an hour to overcome compatriot Thierry Lincou - champion of the event in 2004 - 11-5, 4-11, 11-6, 11-4 to get one step closer to his third final appearance in a row.
The other men's semi-final is the eagerly-awaited all-Egyptian clash predicted by the seedings - featuring top seed Karim Darwish, the world number one who has never before progressed beyond the quarter-finals, and third seed Amr Shabana, the former world number one who has his sights on a fourth successive crown.
Darwish ended Mohd Azlan Iskandar's run - but it took the 28-year-old from Cairo five games and 71 minutes to overcome the unseeded Malaysian 11-7, 11-13, 11-8, 6-11, 11-7.
Shabana also faced an unseeded opponent - and dropped the first game to English outsider Daryl Selby before coming back to win 8-11, 11-8, 11-6, 11-8 in 56 minutes.
"Daryl is so hard to read, which means that you are not standing on the ball the way you would like to, and you see the ball a bit too late. I've been watching him play for years, I was very wary of him, and really had to push," explained the world number three.
"He is such a dangerous player. I like his technique, he hits the ball very flat, and every time I would open the court, I just didn't know what he was going to do!"
Laura Massaro, also the eighth seed in the women's $74,000 women's WISPA Gold event, took on fourth seed Alison Waters, the England team-mate whom she had only beaten once before in nine meetings over the past six years.
After taking the first two games, Massaro squandered the next two to allow her opponent to draw level. But, spurred on by her sports psychologist husband Danny Massaro, the Lancashire lass battled back to win 11-7, 11-8, 4-11, 8-11, 11-3 in 52 minutes.
"I felt good from the start, found my rhythm and everything was coming quite easily. I've been trying to relax and enjoy it more while I'm playing, and I felt very relaxed at the start of the match.
"Danny fired me up after the fourth - he told me I'd been two-nil up, did I think I could win and did I really want it. I said 'yes', expecting some more advice - but he just said 'go for it then,' and left me to it!" explained the 25-year-old from Preston.
"I've been on the wrong end of some tough 3/1 and 3/2 matches against Ali, so it's good to get one back. It's great to be in the semis, and I'm really looking forward to playing on the glass court in the Plaza."
Australia's Rachael Grinham was expecting to meet her younger sister Natalie Grinham in the other women's semi-final. Third seed Rachael beat Ireland's Madeline Perry to earn her place in the last four - but illness caused second seeded Natalie to pull out of the event after the first round, leaving France's 14th seed Camille Serme and Egypt's 6th seed Omneya Abdel Kawy to fight for the last semi-final berth.
It was the higher-ranked Kawy who prevailed, winning 11-3, 11-6, 14-12 in 27 minutes to set up her 22nd career clash with Grinham senior, with the Australian currently heading their head-to-head standings 16-5.
 Karim Darwish (EGY) bt Mohd Azlan Iskandar (MAS) 11-7, 11-13, 11-8, 6-11, 11-7 (71m)
 Amr Shabana (EGY) bt Daryl Selby (ENG) 8-11, 11-8, 11-6, 11-8 (56m)
 James Willstrop (ENG) bt  Ramy Ashour (EGY) 6-11, 11-8, 11-8, 12-10 (47m)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt  Thierry Lincou (FRA) 11-5, 4-11, 11-6, 11-4 (60m)
 Nicol David (MAS) bt  Jenny Duncalf (ENG) 11-2, 11-6, 11-8 (34m)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) bt  Alison Waters (ENG) 11-7, 11-8, 4-11, 8-11, 11-3 (52m)
 Rachael Grinham (AUS) bt  Madeline Perry (IRL) 11-9, 8-11, 11-9, 11-9 (46m)
 Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY) bt  Camille Serme (FRA) 11-3, 11-6, 14-12 (27m)