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14th Sep 2011, Symphony Hall, Boston, USA

Ashour Maintains Reign Over
World Champions Challenge
Colleen Turner reports

Ramy Ashour (EGY, #2) bt Nick Matthew (ENG, #1)
             9-11, 11-2, 11-2 (24m)

There's a reason Nick Matthew and Ramy Ashour are only separated by 50 points in the September PSA rankings. They are that well matched. Though an hour long break between matches took its toll on Matthew's play.

Matthew came out strong in game one of the final World Champions Challenge Showdown@Symphony. He quickly and methodically went up 7-2, but Ashour was not going to go down without a fight. He answered with his own run, knotting it at 9-9 with a volley that included fancy footwork and an impressive racquet flip. But Matthew held on to take the first game, 11-9.

Up 1-love in the match, Matthew appeared not to come out for the second game, losing in short order, 2-11. Ashour was relentless, grabbing 9 points before relinquishing half of Matthew's measly two points.

Tied 1-1, the final game of the match and the evening, once again saw Ashour dispatch Matthew quickly and with no mercy. The final score was in the young Egyptian’s favor, 11-2, giving him the victory and his second World Champions Challenge title.

Showdown@Symphony proved to be a fun and exciting evening, further advancing squash in the Boston community.

It was a full house at Symphony Hall with the biggest winner being SquashBusters, Showdown's official charity, netting $3k thanks to presenting sponsor, First Republic Bank.

Matthew Powers Past Former Champ;
Ashour Rams into the Finals


Nick Matthew (ENG, #1) bt Jonathon Power (CAN)
           8-11, 11-4, 1-0 (20m)

Ramy Ashour (EGY, #2) bt Peter Nicol (ENG)
           11-9, 11-10 (sudden death for match), (23m)

It was more like a rock concert when Jonathon Power and Nick Matthew entered Symphony Hall. The Black Eyed Peas crooned "tonight’s going to be a good night" and the storied players did not disappoint.

The pre-game interview with emcee Chef Ming Tsai had Matthew exhibiting a small case of jitters. "I'm a little nervous," he shared, going on to say he feared Power's claims of not being as strong a player as he once was might have been a bit of reverse psychology.

Power quipped, "It's not reverse psychology, it's just psychology."

Thirty-eight-year-old Jonathon Power surged to a victory in game one of the Showdown@Symphony II semifinals, but there is a reason Nick Matthew is the world's best. It might have only been a 20-minute match, but it was a good 20 minutes. Neck-and-neck for most of the game, a shot to the tin by Matthew let Power creep up 5-3. A few well-placed strokes and a painful down shot by Power gave Matthew the points to bring it within one.

With Matthew down 5-7, a no let from the ref gave the crowd a glimpse of vintage, verbal Power. His arguments were sound, but, yet again, didn't change the call. An especially pretty drop shot put Power up 8-6, and though Matthew grabbed two more points, Power took the first game 11-8. Seven unanswered points in game two let Matthew win easily 11-4.

By virtue of winning the first game, Power had the choice: best of three or sudden death for the tie-breaker. And never one to shy away from a challenge, Power went with sudden death. A 14-tap volley ended with a let in Power's favor. This was followed by another intense volley, but not surprisingly, Matthew won the point taking the match 2-1 and advancing to the finals.

The second semifinal match pitted world no. 2 Ramy Ashour (EGY) against veteran player Peter Nicol (ENG). Nicol shot up 2-love in the first game before Ashour launched an ace that took the crowd's breath away.

These were the opening salvos that defined two distinct playing styles. Ashour played his usual aggressive, athletic and acrobatic game. Nicol offered his signature reflective, resourceful and resilient gambit. To say the least, it made for good squash. Nicol was up 7-4, but six unanswered points advanced the tireless Eqyptian to 10-7.

Ashour offered up two more points, but ultimately took the first game, 11-9.

The second game was fast-paced and after grabbing a quick three points and bringing the score to 5-2, Nicol joked, "You want me all the way over there?" when the ref noted it was his serve, “from the left.” Given his hint at fatigue, you would think he was done, but the durable Nicol moved the score to 10-5, before Ashour rammed home six quick points to take the game and match 11-10 in 23 minutes.

Post match, Ashour declared of Nicol, "He still plays very well."

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