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18 May 2024

Former Champions Ashour & Gaultier Escape First Round Exits At British Open

22 Mar 2016

The opening day of action at the 2016 Allam British Open saw former champions Ramy Ashour and Gregory Gaultier narrowly avoid crashing out of the prestigious PSA World Series tournament at the first hurdle.

2013 winner Ashour, the three-time world champion from Egypt making his competitive comeback following a four-month injury enforced absence, found himself 2/0 down to Mexican qualifier Cesar Salazar at the Airco Arena in Hull. The maverick 28-year-old managed to finally assert himself and show glimpses of the form that saw him become the most dominant force in squash during 2012.

From 1-11, 6-11 down, Ashour found his range and rhythm to canter through the last three games and remind his world tour competitors that he can still be a force to be reckoned with.

"I was just happy and grateful that I was moving and playing," he said.

"I think with my injuries I am trying too hard and training too much - I was always thinking more is better but I realise now that was wrong. I'm getting smarter with my training now and I'm just grateful that I'm here and able to hit the ball.

"At the moment I have no aim, no goal. I'm just trying to forget about what I want, or what I would like."

Ashour's come-from-behind victory was mirrored by current World Champion Gaultier - who was also making his first appearance since suffering an ankle injury during January's Tournament of Champions. The Frenchman twice overturned game deficits against Australian Cameron Pilley to reach the second round.

Gaultier, the 2014 British Open champion, was unconvincing as he trailed 1/2 in games before he managed to spark into life and take the last two games 11-2, 11-7.

"Obviously I am pleased to win and come through," said Gaultier. "I didn't know what to expect and I did the best I could with the preparation time I had which wasn't ideal. I was in great form in January and it was very hard to start over again after the injury.

"Today wasn't the best squash but I just did what I could. At 2/1 down I was telling the coaches that I just wanted to go back to France but they found the right words to motivate me and thankfully it worked.

"I'm happy to still be in the tournament and hopefully I can play better in the next round."

In the women's draw there were impressive first round wins for title favourites Nour El Sherbini and five-time winner Nicol David, who both came through 3/0 - over Nicolette Fernandes and Mayar Hany, respectively.

However, and world No.6 Omneya Abdel Kawy matched the feats of compatriot Ashour by fighting back from two games down to defeat Welsh qualifier Tesni Evans.

A serial semi-finalist on the PSA World Tour Kawy started sluggishly and looked out of sorts during the opening two games before she showed why she has consistently been one of the top ranking players on tour for the past decade as she fought back to win three games in a row to keep her competition alive, although she did require six match ball opportunities.

"I knew I have won from being 2/0 down before so I kept talking positively to myself and I knew that I could win," said Kawy.

"In the fifth game the points were all crucial and I'm just really thankful that I came through it. She made a few mistakes and I was pushing myself to hang in there and work as hard as I could to win those points."

England's former world No.2 Jenny Duncalf suffered the most high-profile first round upset on day one as she fell to qualifier Liu Tsz-Ling of Hong Kong - the 24-year-old who ranks more than 20 places below Duncalf.

"It's like I'm in a dream," said Liu, from Hong Kong, afterwards.

"I've never played her before and I knew that it would be a hard match. I didn't think much about winning or losing, I just stuck to playing my game."

British Open image courtesy of www.squashpics.com