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17 Apr 2024

Darwish Despatches Ashour In Davenport Duel

29 Feb 2008

Young Egyptian star Ramy Ashour, the 20-year-old world No2 from Cairo, finally ran out of legs and was beaten in an engrossing five-game match by fellow countryman Karim Darwish in the quarter-finals of the 2008 Davenport Professional Squash Championship, played at the University of Richmond in Virginia, USA.

Top seed Ashour has played almost non-stop for the last 22 days - tournaments and exhibitions - and this match for a place in the semi-finals of the $77,500 PSA Super Series event finally sapped his energy, his accuracy - and his will. Darwish played well, slowing the pace down to take control in the first game, but Ashour forced himself back into competition mode and the winners started sparking off his racket as he effortlessly took the next two.

The fourth game was a disaster when, at 4-4, Ashour committed a string of six unforced errors to put Darwish at game ball - and the 26-year-old sixth seed made no mistake in taking the game to force a decider.

Darwish led from the beginning of the fifth and it was obvious that Ashour simply could not summon up the energy to attain his normal standard. Darwish ran out the surprising 11-4, 6-11, 4-11, 11-5, 11-8 winner after 59 suspenseful minutes.

The former world junior champion will now meet James Willstrop, the world number six and also a one-time world junior champion. The Englishman came through to win a match marked by drama and controversy as Wael El Hindi of Egypt became enraged by the referee's decision in the third game to penalise him a point for dangerous play.

El Hindi had swung his racket, deliberately missing the ball, to demonstrate that - had he hit it - the ball would have struck his opponent. "It was an inexplicable decision and although El Hindi had won the first game - showing superb style - and lost the second, he threw the third away 0-11 and despite recovering some composure, could not get back on track and lost the fourth 11-4," said a spokesman for the event.

"I was full of rage, I thought I would burst," said the eighth seed from Giza after the match. "I thought the referee was disrespectful in the way he spoke to me. For the last few months I have been playing good squash but I was so angry it affected my movement."

John White of Scotland, the seventh seed, took on the second round giant-killer Olli Tuominen and gave him a lesson in fast, accurate racket work. White was in sizzling form and effortlessly slotted in the winners while all the Finn could do was chase shadows. It was a short, sharp 11-9, 11-7, 11-6 execution - taking just 30 minutes - a performance that White judged later was nine-and-a-half on a scale of one-to-ten!

When the US-based 34-year-old was asked what he was thinking during one very long rally, he replied: "He was doing all the running, I was just standing there hitting the ball, so I was quite happy."

After the all-Egyptian match there was the all-French match as Thierry Lincou tried to get revenge over Gregory Gaultier, who had beaten him in the British Open last year. It was a ding-dong battle which kept the spectators in their seats to the last point. Second seed Gaultier seemed to have it all under control as he took the first two games, but Lincou, the fifth seed, knew how to subdue the tricky Gaultier, slowing the ball down and using the lob. It paid off as the new ten times French National champion took the next two games, forcing a deciding fifth game.

Gaultier opened up a lead - but it wasn't easy; the rallies were long and there was a real battle in the front corners as they traded counter drops. However, Gaultier maintained his supremacy to take the game and emerge the 11-5, 11-9, 6-11, 7-11, 11-3 victor after 54 minutes.

"I knew Thierry still had yesterday's hard games in his legs, so I was making him work. He came back very well when he slowed the game, but I think he finally got tired," Gaultier said between gasps of breath after the match. He will now meet John White in the semi-finals.

Quarter-finals:
[6] Karim Darwish (EGY) bt [1] Ramy Ashour (EGY) 11-4, 6-11, 4-11, 11-5, 11-8 (59m)
[4] James Willstrop (ENG) bt [8] Wael El Hindi (EGY) 6-11, 11-5, 11-0, 11-4 (56m)
[7] John White (SCO) bt [11] Olli Tuominen (FIN) 11-9, 11-7, 11-6 (30m)
[2] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt [5] Thierry Lincou (FRA) 11-5, 11-9, 6-11, 7-11, 11-3 (54m)