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13 Jun 2024

Willstrop Celebrates Maiden Ashour Win In Super Series Finals Opener

15 Mar 2009

England's number one squash player James Willstrop wowed the capacity crowd at Queen's Club in London in the final match of the opening day of the ATCO Super Series Finals by defeating his Egyptian nemesis Ramy Ashour, the reigning world champion, for the first time.

At times, 25-year-old Yorkshireman Willstrop and Ashour, 21, played at a near suicidal pace as two of the sport's most entertaining stars battled for glory in the flagship $110,000 PSA Tour event.

Willstrop dug deep after losing the first game to claim victory 7-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-8 in a duel lasting 53 minutes. The sole Briton competing in the event clinched victory with a series of pulsating winners in the fourth game to which Ashour had no answer.

Afterwards, Willstrop, who has struggled for form recently, paid tribute to fellow English and world top 10 player Nick Matthew for providing the inspiration to get back to winning ways: "Tonight's win is down to the many hours and days working with those closest to me. I've learnt so much from Nick Matthew who kept the faith coming back from injury."

Ashour, who hails from Cairo, had won all of the pair's previous three encounters on the Professional Squash Association Tour.

The Super Series Finals involves the top eight players who have qualified from last year's Super Series events - split into two groups of four with the top player from each group playing in Tuesday's prestigious final.

Earlier, French duo Thierry Lincou and Gregory Gaultier got their own bids for glory off to a flying start.

Lincou destroyed an out of sorts Amr Shabana 11-3, 11-9, 11-5 in just 37 minutes, while defending champion Gaultier defeated reigning British Open champion David Palmer 11-7, 3-11, 11-6, 11-2.

Lincou, 32, had far too much court craft and speed for Egyptian Shabana, who is on the road back from a knee injury.

In the event's opening match, 26-year-old Gaultier had too much pace and quickness of reaction for his Australian opponent in a match interrupted by a number of disputes over refereeing decisions.

In the day's other encounter, a titanic struggle between fellow Egyptians Karim Darwish and Wael El Hindi saw Darwish, the world number one, narrowly sneak home 11-6, 11-7, 5-11, 8-11, 11-5.

This year's Super Series Finals is being played in front of sell-out crowds at The Queen's Club in London - better known for hosting the Artois Tennis Championships - for the first time.

The choice of venue, together with a powerful visual setting and intimate lighting, mark a spectacular attempt by Squash to present a stunning new image for the 21st century.

The dramatic makeover for the game coincides with a bid by squash to be included in the 2016 Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) meets in June to consider the bids of seven sports, including squash, vying for up to two places on the roster of events for the Games. A final decision is due to be made in October at the same session which will decide whether Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo, Chicago or Madrid should host the 2016 Olympics.

After clinching victory against Shabana, Thierry Lincou said: "It is fantastic to see so much innovation coming into squash at these championships. The next step is to get our sport into the Olympics."

1st pool round:
ATCO Group
[4] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt [6] David Palmer (AUS) 11-7, 3-11, 11-6, 11-2 (66m)
[1] Karim Darwish (EGY) bt [8] Wael El Hindi (EGY) 11-6, 11-7, 5-11, 8-11, 11-5 (78m)
Prince Group
[7] Thierry Lincou (FRA) bt [2] Amr Shabana (EGY) 11-3, 11-9, 11-5 (37m)
[5] James Willstrop (ENG) bt [3] Ramy Ashour (EGY) 7-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-8 (53m)