9:17 pm
20 May 2024

Ashour & Shabana To Contest All-Egyptian Kuwait World Open Final

5 Nov 2009

Defending champion Ramy Ashour and former champion Amr Shabana will meet in the second successive all-Egyptian world final after successes in the semi-finals of the Kuwait Men's World Open 2009 on the all-glass court at Green Island Resort.

Third seed Ashour upset France's world number one Gregory Gaultier in the second semi-final of the premier event on the Professional Squash Association (PSA) World Tour.

For the second time in the evening, the packed crowd were able to get firmly behind an Egyptian player - in this case cheering every single winning shot from the 22-year-old from Cairo.

Ashour, the world number five, raced to a first game win - but second seed Gaultier, only five days into his new reign as world number one, fought back in the second to take a 9-4 lead.

But the gifted young Egyptian battled back, producing a succession of winners to get back to 8-9 - when Gaultier lunged to retrieve a shot and slipped to the floor with his legs stretched apart, screaming in pain.

After a short break for treatment, the 26-year-old was back on court, seemingly fully recovered. Ashour soon wrapped up the game to move 2/0 ahead.

Gaultier led 5-2 and 9-8 in the third - but Ashour's wizardry took him to match-ball at 10-9. A Gaultier shot near the back of the court struck his opponent full on - giving the Frenchman a stroke.

But Ashour's response was to return Gaultier's serve straight into the nick - and then win a sensational final rally to close out the match 11-5, 11-9, 12-10 in 51 minutes.

"I was on my form from the start," said an exuberant Ashour afterwards. "I really wanted to win this - I was really keen to reach the final.

"I try to enjoy every shot I play," added the Egyptian star.

Gaultier put the reason for his defeat firmly in the lap of the match officials: "It was unbelievable, such a one-sided referee. There was not one 'no let' for me. It was so unfair," declared the defeated second seed.

"I'm really disappointed.

"I was feeling slow in the first game - which was not the best start."

Gaultier shrugged off any concerns about his slip near the end of the second game: "I don't think I've damaged anything, I just slipped.

"I don't want to think about this tournament anymore - I want to focus on the next tournament," concluded the Frenchman.

Earlier Amr Shabana celebrated his fourth appearance in a World Open final after beating Englishman James Willstrop in four games.

Spurred on by a packed Kuwaiti crowd in the unique outdoor venue, third seed Shabana had to be at his utmost best to topple the tall 11th seed who had earlier removed both top seed Karim Darwish, also from Egypt, and former champion Thierry Lincou to reach the last four against expectation.

At 2/1 down, Willstrop was 7-8 down in the fourth when denied a crucial let. This took his opponent to 9-7 - but two rallies later the Yorkshireman had pulled back to nine-all.

A stroke against the Englishman gave Shabana match ball - and, after a punishing rally, the 30-year-old converted it to claim a mighty 11-5, 11-9, 6-11, 11-9 victory in 80 minutes.

"It was an unbelievable match - it was a privilege to have played James today," Shabana told the jubilant Green Island crowd. "It's a dream to be in the World Open final - the best 64 players in the world are in this event - it's an amazing feeling."

Later, the world champion in 2003, 2005 and 2007, continued the tribute to his opponent: "I have tremendous respect for James - he has to be up there amongst the top three Englishmen of all-time. He's a very talented player.

"It's hard to play James - he covers the court well for a big guy, and gives you access to the ball."

When asked how crucial it was to win the fourth game - in which Willstrop twice led, at 5-4 and 7-6 - world number two Shabana replied: "I was tremendously keen for it not to go to five games. I could see he was not giving up. It took all my patience."

The focus for tomorrow will be a Gala Dinner, followed by the World Open final on Saturday.

"It's good to have a rest day now - so that I can be fresh for the final."

Asked about how different this might feel from his previous three finals, the former world number from Giza said: "I can't think about the history - I just want to be world champion."

A deflated Willstrop confirmed that the no-let decision towards the end of the fourth game had been a bitter blow: "That was a crucial stage of the match - which took him to 9-7. In fact, it was massively crucial - his game picked up, he could see the finishing line.

"But all credit to him. This is when he performs - at the World Open.

"It was brilliant squash - a really good game. I can't give any more than that," the world number six from Leeds continued.

"From two down, I'm quite confident in myself.

"He had a little weak spell in the third - but he responded so well in the fourth.

"Overall I performed well. And that's what I wanted to do. I've got to look at it as a success. Hopefully it can be a bit of a step up.

"I did NOT want to lose this match - I'm desperately disappointed," Willstrop concluded.

[4] Amr Shabana (EGY) bt [11] James Willstrop (ENG) 11-5, 11-9, 6-11, 11-9 (80m)
[3] Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt [2] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 11-5, 11-9, 12-10 (51m)