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14 Apr 2024

Ramy Ashour Takes Tournament of Champions Title

17 Jan 2008

Top seed Ramy Ashour capped his return to the PSA Tour after a two-month injury hiatus in commanding fashion, defeating fourth seed James Willstrop in three games in the much anticipated final of the Bear Stearns Tournament of Champions at Grand Central Terminal in New York.

The victory in the PSA Super Series squash event may very well mark the beginning of a long reign at the top of the game for the prodigiously-talented 20-year-old Egyptian whose instinctive shot-making, easy movement and raw talent was on full display for a demonstrably appreciative crowd that filled every seat in the venue as well as standing five deep at the front wall. In addition there were overflow spectators watching the action on closed circuit TV screens.

Under the massive chandeliers in the majestic tournament venue in the historic Grand Central Terminal, the two players traded jabs in the opening game, testing each other's strengths, shot-making and focus. Tied at six-all, the Cairo-based favourite took command of the game, surging ahead to 10-6 before closing out the game at 11-7.

The second game was a seesaw affair, with the lead exchanging hands several times, but the squash was always of the highest calibre. Both players - talented shot-makers who understand how to use the length, width and height of the court to full advantage - were consistently looking for the openings that that would win the point. Tied at ten-all, it was again Ashour who fashioned two consecutive winners to take the game.

Undeterred, the 24-year-old Englishman looked likely to extend the match when he opened up an 8-4 lead by keeping the ball straight and deep and only shooting when he had a crystal clear opening. But Ashour just heightened the velocity of his racquet swing to ratchet up the pace, hitting the ball quickly to put his opponent off balance, and throwing in the occasional rolling nick to run off seven of the succeeding eight points, winning the match decider on a Willstrop tin.

"I felt like I played really well tonight and I was close in each of the games - but Ramy's just amazing, with all his pace and speed," said Willstrop after his 11-7, 11-10 (3-1), 11-9 defeat in 40 minutes. "He really keeps the pressure on."

The young Egyptian champion was elated. "It is unbelievable to win here," said Ashour. "Last year, when I lost to Shabana in the semi-finals, I was depressed big time. I really wanted to win here. And it wasn't an easy week, getting used to my new Head racquet and still playing with an injury.

"I just decided to be confident tonight - I had to be, because James is an attacking payer and when he plays his game he's brilliant," continued the world No2 in his rapid fire verbal commentary that almost matches the pace at which he plays his squash matches!

Asked about his ability to conjure rolling nick winners at crucial times in the match, Ashour - now winner of seven PSA Tour titles - replied: "Deep inside I see myself winning and I just go for my shots. I don't think about it; it's instinctive. I just hope I can continue for a long time."

[1] Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt [4] James Willstrop (ENG) 11-7, 11-10 (3-1), 11-9 (40m)