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18 May 2024

British Open Debutant Farag Flays Three-Time Champion Matthew

24 Mar 2016

Appearing in the championship for the first time, Egypt's world No.14 Ali Farag stunned the crowd at the 2016 Allam British Open in Hull when he despatched England's three-time champion Nick Matthew, the world No.3, in the second round of the prestigious PSA World Series event to deny the home favourite an appearance in the quarter-finals for the first time since 2003.

Matthew was 2/1 up in an engaging, tightly-contested affair before his movement slowed considerably towards the end of the fourth after sustaining an ankle injury. Farag moved on to level things up and, despite battling bravely, a clearly-struggling Matthew was unable to match him in the final game as the 23-year-old from Cairo wrapped up a 4-11, 13-11, 10-12, 11-7, 11-4 victory to set up a quarter-final meeting with compatriot Ramy Ashour.

"I knew he wasn't at his best towards the end of the fourth but I am glad it didn't get into my head and I was able to carry on playing my game," said Harvard University graduate Farag.

"I can't put it into words how good it feels to get through to the quarter-final. I don't want to be satisfied yet, I want to keep progressing until the following round until I win it. It might not happen this year but maybe the year after and I will definitely come every year and do my best to win it.

"There isn't a game plan against the likes of Ramy, Nick or Greg [Gaultier], you just need to keep it towards the back as much as possible then when you have any opportunities you have to take them. Hopefully that will work."

Ashour, the British Open champion in 2013, came back from the brink of elimination after saving a match ball against Australian No.2 and sparring partner Ryan Cuskelly in a dramatic 106-minute encounter which was the second longest match of the Egyptian maverick's career.

'The Artist' had gone two games up only to see his lead shattered by a resurgent Cuskelly, who refocused after an injury forced him off court for a short period during the third, before going 9-3 up in the deciding fifth game.

In a remarkable display of tenacity and skill, Ashour battled back and overturned a match ball for Cuskelly at 11-10 to bring an end to a thrilling encounter by an 11-5, 11-9, 6-11, 9-11, 13-11 scoreline.

"Every match I am just pushing myself," said Ashour after maintaining his incredible record of never having been beaten from 2/0 up.

"Today I was a bit hesitant so in the next match I will be all the way in. The match was scary in patches but it was definitely better than last time [against Cesar Salazar in round one]. I felt a lot freer on court and I didn't think about my body as much.

"He played amazingly so all credit to him. If it wasn't for my comeback at the end he could have got it. I'm trying to keep things as simple as I can, I'm not trying to think too much."

Elsewhere in the men's draw, World Champion Gregory Gaultier and Germany's Simon Rösner also advanced after respective victories against Stephen Coppinger and Chris Simpson. Gaultier and Rösner will now go head-to-head in the next round for a place in the last four.

The Women's event saw five-time winner Nicol David cement her place in the quarter-final thanks to a routine win over Australia's Donna Urquhart.

Malaysian icon David was on the front foot from the off and exhibited some majestic shots throughout an 11-4, 11-7, 11-6 win to progress to the next round after just 27 minutes on court.

"All the girls are stepping up their games in each round which is exciting for the tour at the moment as we are all pushing each other but I'm really pleased with how I played today," said David.

"I felt like I was feeling the court better and I know I always have to play good squash on the day, and I'm happy to win 3/0 and have this amount of recovery. I came into this tournament as number two seed and the underdog so I will give it my all and see where it takes me."

Egyptian duo Nour El Sherbini and Omneya Abdel Kawy also won against Hong Kong pair Liu Tsz-Ling and Joey Chan, respectively, while US No.1 Amanda Sobhy took out England's Alison Waters in an impressive three-game salvo to reach the quarter-finals for the first time in her career.

British Open image courtesy of www.squashpics.com