English Trio Home in On British Open Crown
18 May 2012
Londoner Peter Barker's shock five-game dismissal of No2 seed Gregory Gaultier in tonight's quarter-finals of the Allam British Open means that three Englishmen will contest the semi-finals of the PSA World Series squash event at the O2 Arena in London for only the second time in the professional era of the sport's most historic championship.
Sixth seed Barker fought back from 2/1 down to topple former champion Gaultier, the world number two, 11-8, 2-11, 7-11, 11-9, 11-6 in a physical encounter lasting 89 minutes.
The local hero went into the match as the underdog, having won only one of their ten career meetings since 2005.
"I pulled out everything I had today," said Barker afterwards. "Fortunately it was just about enough.
"I'll enjoy today then prepare as I did today - I'm not ready to go home yet," insisted the 28-year-old left-hander.
World number one Willstrop beat Egyptian Mohamed El Shorbagy, the No7 seed, and world champion Matthew overcame eighth-seeded Dutchman Laurens Jan Anjema after losing the opening game.
The 6ft 4in top seed Willstrop won 11-4, 11-7, 11-9 in 45 minutes of compelling, intelligent squash as he contained and ultimately subdued his hard-hitting opponent, weathering a fierce storm towards the end of the third game.
Matthew began sluggishly against another powerful adversary but from 5-5 in the second game took control to dominate the rest of the match.
Anjema hit some outrageous kills in the opening game and Matthew made some unaccustomed mistakes, especially, on the volley.
But as the match wore on the 31-year-old from Sheffield, who is bidding for a historic third British Open title, produced tight, error-free squash to book a semi-final clash with Londoner Barker, who was roared home by a vociferous local crowd savouring the prospect of seeing three English players in the semi-finals.
The same trio also reached the last four in 2009, the last time the Open was held.
After opening up a two-game lead, Ashour lost the third and fourth games in a total time of 12 minutes and admitted: "I have so many crazy things going on in my head. I am not quite sane."
Regarding his lapses in concentration, Ashour added: "I think it has always been like that between us. You can only play well against Shabana in patches and for a 20-minute spell he got in a place that was unbelievable. When he is in that zone he can beat anyone in the world in 20 minutes. It was surreal.
"You have to play the right shots at the right time and there is a lot of mental stuff going on. Playing him it is more mental squash than physical squash."
Willstrop said: "Ramy is a very exciting player and to play him in the semi-finals of the British Open is an enthralling proposition. He makes squash great to watch and we all know what he can do with a racket."
Official event website: www.britishopensquash.net
For all the latest Tour news: www.psaworldtour.com
 James Willstrop (ENG) bt  Mohamed El Shorbagy (EGY) 11-4, 11-7, 11-9 (45m)
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt  Amr Shabana (EGY) 11-8, 12-10, 5-11, 1-11, 11-4 (45m)
 Nick Matthew (ENG) bt  Laurens Jan Anjema (NED) 4-11, 11-6, 11-5, 11-5 (60m)
 Peter Barker (ENG) bt  Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 11-8, 2-11, 7-11, 11-9, 11-6 (89m)