Magnificent Shabana takes US Open
Alan Thatcher in Chicago
overcame a phenomenal fightback from top seed Ramy Ashour
to win the Aon US Open final in Chicago.
Shabana raced through the opening two games with some
astonishing winners to delight a sell-out crowd around the
glass court set up in the open air off Chicago's Michigan
Avenue, known as the Magnificent Mile.
Number two seed Shabana was certainly in magnificent form
and a quick finish seemed on the cards as he won the second
11-2. Shabana opened up a 4-0 lead in the third game but
Ashour began to work his way into the match, taking control
from 4-6 down to win 11-7.
Despite that confidence booster, the 21-year-old world
champion made a slow start to the fourth game and Shabana
won the first five points and maintained that lead to stand
within three points of the title at 8-3.
However, Ashour stepped up the pace and produced a
succession of blinding winners as the crowd roared their
encouragement. Shabana held match ball at 10-7 but Ashour
won five points in a row to force the tiebreak and lead
12-11. Shabana levelled at 12-12 but Ashour maintained his
push to clinch the game 14-12.
The crowd, boosted by hundreds of spectators enjoying a free
view of the action through the front wall, were delighted
that the match was heading for a fifth game. Ashour led 3-1
at the start of the final game but Shabana regained control
to lead 9-5. Ashour won the next two points and then
sportingly conceded that a backhand drop shot was down as
Shabana screamed at the referee.
That gesture gave Shabana match ball at 10-7 and although
Ashour claimed one more point the 30-year-old closed out an
entertaining contest in 57 minutes of spellbinding squash.
Shabana said: "Ramy is such a great player and as a world
champion at 21 years old he seems to have been around for
"He came back very strongly to win the third and fourth
games and I was pleased to win the fifth game.
"The players have all enjoyed this tournament in Chicago and
it's great to see such big crowds around the court every
The players earned warm applause for providing an evening of
outstanding entertainment and Ashour was given an extra
ovation for his sportsmanship.
He said: "As professional players we have to be honest with
each other on court, even though it gave Shabana match ball.
Shabana played very well tonight and made it hard for me in
large parts of the match.
"I know I should be angry for losing but I am happy that we
made the match very entertaining for the crowd."
01-06 Sep, Chicago, USA, $52k
 Ramy Ashour (Egy)
11/2, 11/8, 11/6 (23m)
[Q] Adrian Waller (Eng)
 Ramy Ashour
11/4, 11/6, 13/11 (38m)
 Wael El Hindi
 Ramy Ashour
11/8, 12/10, 11/8 (32m)
 David Palmer
 Ramy Ashour
11/7, 11/2, 7/11, 12/14, 11/8 (57m)
 Amr Shabana
 Wael El Hindi (Egy)
11/9, 15/13, 10/12, 11/5 (87m)
[Q] Aaron Frankcomb (Aus)
 David Palmer (Aus)
5/11, 11/6, 11/4 11/6 (44m)
[Q] Tom Richards (Eng)
 David Palmer
14/12, 11/6, 11/8 (46m)
 Olli Tuominen
 Olli Tuominen (Fin)
11/9, 11/2, 11/5 (26m)
Hisham Ashour (Egy)
[Q] Julian Illingworth (Usa)
11/9, 11/9, 7/11, 11/9 (63m)
 James Willstrop (Eng)
 James Willstrop
11/8, 13/15, 11/9, 11/13, 11/8 (85m)
 Peter Barker
 James Willstrop
11/7, 11/4, 11/9 (42m)
 Amr Shabana
Gilly Lane (Usa)
12/10, 11/6, 12/10 (44m)
 Peter Barker (Eng)
Saurav Ghosal (Ind)
11/8, 11/9, 12/10 (46m)
 Adrian Grant (Eng)
 Adrian Grant
11/5, 5/11, 11/8, 11/8 (48m)
 Amr Shabana
Shahier Razik (Can)
11/9, 11/3, 11/4 (26m)
 Amr Shabana (Egy)
01-Sep, Finals, Glass Court:
Illingworth (Usa) bt Liam Kenny (Irl)
11/4, 12/14, 11/7, 11/5 (67m)
Adrian Waller (Eng) bt Joe Lee (Eng)
11/7, 11/9, 11/9 (44m)
Aaron Frankcomb (Aus)
bt Martin Knight (Nzl)
11/4, 11/5, 11/5 (49m)
Tom Richards (Eng) bt Christopher Gordon (Usa)
11/6, 11/4, 11/8 (32m)
Julian Illingworth (Usa) bt
Lefika Ragontse (Bot)
11/6, 11/5, 11/7
Liam Kenny (Irl) bt Wade Johnstone (Aus)
8/11, 11/3, 11/4, 11/6
Adrian Waller (Eng) bt Stephen Coppinger (Rsa)
8/11, 11/7, 11/9, 11/13, 13/11
Joe Lee (Eng) bt Scott Arnold (Aus)
Martin Knight (Nzl) bt Mark Heather (Eng)
Aaron Frankcomb (Aus) bt Tyler Hamilton (Can)
Christopher Gordon (Usa) bt Graham Bassett (Usa)
11/6, 11/3, 11/6
Tom Richards (Eng) bt Patrick Chifunda (Zam)
Egyptians race into Chicago
Alan Thatcher in Chicago
Ramy Ashour and Amr Shabana blitzed their way
into the final of the Aon US Open with straight-game
victories over David Palmer and James Willstrop in the
Shabana took 42 minutes to beat Willstrop 11-7, 11-4, 11-9
and Ashour took ten minutes less to overcome Palmer 11-8,
Those two dazzling performances underlined Egypt's global
dominance in the sport and set up a mouthwatering clash
between the tournament's top two seeds.
Willstrop, who took 85 minutes to beat England team-mate
Peter barker in the quarter-finals the previous evening,
started sluggishly and Shabana raced to a 6-0 lead. Once
Willstrop settled he threatened to turn the tables and
pulled the score back to 6-8 but Shabana quickly closed out
kept the ball fast, tight and low as he had the 6ft 5in
Willstrop at full stretch and the three-time world champion
from Cairo raced through the second game 11-4, bringing a
huge cheer from another sell-out crowd with an outrageous
angled kill shot.
Willstrop battled bravely in the third game but Shabana
finished strongly to reach his second final of the season
after winning the Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur last month.
He will need to be at his brilliant best to stop compatriot
Ashour, who is nine years his junior. The reigning World
Open champion produced one of his best career performances
to overwhelm Palmer with a stunning display of high-speed
Ashour won the opening game in just eight minutes but Palmer
responded solidly in the second to reach game ball, only for
Ashour to claw back the points to win the tiebreak 12-10.
well as Palmer played, he was unable to stem the tide as
Ashour conjured up more magical shots in the third game.
A smiling Ashour said: "I am so happy to be in the final.
Amr and I always have great matches and we are just pleased
to be able to entertain such a fantastic audience here in
"This has to be one of the best venues for squash anywhere
in the world and the crowds have been great all week. That
applause helps us to play better."
Shabana was extremely gracious in victory, acknowledging
Willstrop's valiant efforts on his return from an ankle
injury. He said: "James has come back very quickly after a
serious operation and he is always a very difficult
"It is always a good feeling to be in a final, and I know
Ramy is playing brilliantly at the moment. We hope to put on
a great final for this wonderful crowd."
Rampant Ramy roars into Chicago
Alan Thatcher in Chicago
Top seed Ramy
Ashour was in devastating form as he powered into the
semi-finals of the Aon US Open in Chicago. The 21-year-old
world champion produced a dazzling array of spectacular
winners to beat fellow Egyptian Wael El Hindi in
straight games in the quarter-finals.
launched a blistering attack from the start of the match and
won the opening two games in quick fashion with a succession
of unplayable shots.
El Hindi led for much of the third game but Ashour clinched
the tiebreak 13-11 to book a place in the last four against
Australia's David Palmer.
Ashour said: "I was very happy with the way I tlayed and I
hope it was entertaining for the crowd. I am still learning
new ways to play the game and I always ennoy trying new
Palmer, the 2002 US Open champion, also won in
straight-games agamnst Olli Tuominen of Finland. It
was a repeat of Palmer's semi-final victory over the same
opponent as he won last week's Colombian Open in Bogota.
time Tuominen started strongly but he wasted several game
balls as Palmer took the opening encounter 14-12 on a
tiebreao after 20 minutes of physical play littered with
lets and penalty strokes.
Palmer dominated play in$the second and third games to book
his place in the last four against Ashour and said: "I knew
it would be tough because I have played Olli so many times
and knew what to expect. We seem to play each other seven or
eight times a season so I'm not quite sure what's happening
with the PSA computer.
"I was very pleased to beat Olli on a plaster court at
altitude in Colombia last week because I thought those
conditions might favour his game, but I like playing on this
glass court and always felt conditions this week would
seed James Willstrop triumphed against fellow
Englishman Peter Barker in the longest match of the
night in front of a sell-out crowd around the open-air glass
court off Michigan Avenue.
Willstrop won a brutal battle 11-8, 13-15, 11-9, 11-13, 11-8
in 85 minutes of high-quality squash against the No.4 seed
Barker, who won last year's Sweet Home Chicago Open at the
same stunning venue.
The result left Barker still seeking his first win against
Willstrop after 15 defeats, but this was one of their
closest ever encounters as Barker won two tiebreaks to take
the match the full distance.
After closing out the first game, Willstrop wasted four game
balls in the second before Barker won the tiebreak 15-13.
Willstrop edged the third but Barker hit back again to win
the fourth game tiebreak. Willstrop started the fifth game
strongly and withstood a spirited recovery by his
international team-mate to reach the semi-finals.
Willstrop, who played the game with his right ankle heavily
strapped, admitted: "This is such a crazy game. The damage
we do to our bodies is ridiculous. We throw ourselves all
over court, we wake up the next day with aching bodies, and
then we show up the next night and do it all again."
faces No.2 seed Amr Shabana in the semi-finals after
the three-time world champion from Cairo overcame England's
Grant tried to match Shabana's shot-making ability but fell
in four games of high-quality squash.
Shabana said: "Adrian looked on fire tonight, He is a very
good player and was attacking a lot more than usual. James
and I always have crazy matches and it should be a very
Round One, Part Two:
Willstrop weathers Illingworth
Alan Thatcher in Chicago
returning to PSA competition after an ankle operation in the
summer, survived an injury scare and a phenomenal challenge
from American qualifier Julian Illingworth to reach
the quarter-finals of the Aon US Open in Chicago.
Willstrop, who since the ISS Canary Wharf Classic in London
in March has only played in the World Games in July, won
11-9, 11-9, 7-11, 11-9 in 63 minutes of physically demanding
combat and admitted: "I was very relieved to get off court
with a win in my first match back. You never know how you
are going to shape up in your first match of the season,
especially after being out of action for so long.
"First round matches can sometimes be one-sided but I knew
that was never going to be the case with Julian. He played
out of his skin and showed what a good player he can be. The
crowd were on his side and Julian gave them plenty to
Willstrop entered the open-air glass court with his right
ankle heavily strapped and within a handful of rallied he
was limping after an accidental collision in mid-court.
Willstrop said: "Julian's knee caught me in the calf and the
last thing you want is a dead-leg that early in any match,
let alone in your first match back after injury."
The match featured several astonishing twists and turns as
Willstrop hit back from 6-3 down in the first game and 6-1
down in the second to open up a two-game advantage. The
effort seemed to take its toll as Illingworth won the third
game but Willstrop hit back solidly to lead 8-2 in the
Then it was Illingworth's turn to mount a spectacular
recovery and he won six points in a row to draw level after
a succession of brutal rallies. However, he failed to press
home the advantage and some tired mistakes gifted the match
to Willstrop. The home crowd immediately rose to their feet
to give both players a thoroughly deserved standing ovation.
Illingworth said: "I was disappointed not to do better but
it seemed that James was putting me under huge pressure for
most of the match, and I was unable to do the same to him."
faces England team-mate Peter Barker in the
quarter-finals after the left-hander from London removed the
second American in the main draw. Wild card Gilly Lane,
from Philadelphia, was 10-6 up in the third game but
produced a succession of errors to give Barker a
World number 77 Lane said: "It was always going to be
difficult against a player like Peter and I just got a bit
over-excited at the end of that third game. I was pleased
with the way I played and it was a wonderful experience to
appear on the glass court against such a good player."
Adrian Grant made it three Englishmen in the
quarter-finals after beating Indian No.1 Saurav Ghosal
11-8, 11-9, 12-10 and he now faces the prospect of
meeting fellow left-hander Amr Shabana, the
three-time world champion who was in devastating form as he
achieved a lightning-quick victory over Canadian No.1
02-Sep, Round One, Part One:
Ashour leads Egyptian Attack in
Thatcher in Chicago
The Aon US Open, the first major glass-court tournament of
the new season, has a familiar feeling with a dominant
Egyptian contingent led by world champion Ramy Ashour.
Ashour powered through his first round clash with
19-year-old English qualifier Adrian Waller, winning 11-2,
11-8, 11-6 inside 23 minutes.
seed Ashour was pleased with his first outing on the glass
court set up in the open air in downtown Chicago. He said:
"This is a fantastic setting for a big squash tournament.
After playing the Windy City Open two years ago this is my
second visit to Chicago and I love it here. The people are
so warm and friendly it's just like being back home in
Egypt. I love the architecture of the city and it's a very
special place. I enjoyed my match with Adrian and he played
very well after making a nervous start."
Ashour's victory clinched a quarter-final tie with fellow
Egyptian Wael El Hindi. Number six seed El Hindi also
faced a qualifier but was kept on court for 87 minutes by
Australian Aaron Frankcomb before winning 11-9, 15-13,
10-12, 11-5 in a match littered with stoppages caused by
lets and the early evening sun casting shadows across the
Like Ashour, El Hindi is enjoying a love affair with the
USA. He is touring professional at the City View Squash Club
in Queen's, New York, and is promising to unveil a new Rafa
Nadal-style clothing range when he takes to the court
After sporting a plain white T-shirt with the City View
emblem, he said: "No, I'm not dropping the sleeveless
shirts. I will be wearing a new range against Ramy in the
The only Egyptian casualty on the open-air glass court was
Ashour's brother, Hisham, who was despatched in straight
games by Finland's Olli Tuominen.
former world champion David Palmer made a sluggish
start against England's Tom Richards and was clearly feeling
the effects of his marathon victory over Spain's Borja Golan
in the final of the Colombian Open on Sunday.
Palmer lost the first game against Richards and later
admitted: "That was my first glass-court tournament since
winning at Canary Wharf in London in March and I struggled
to see the ball at all. I wasn't feeling well and I hope I
will be OK for the quarter-finals against Olli."
Thursday sees the bottom half of the draw with Americans
Julian Illingworth and Gilly Lane taking centre stage
against English opponents James Willstrop and Peter Barker,
who won last year's Sweet Home Chicago Open against Palmer
at the same venue.
Illingworth flies US flag in
Thatcher in Chicago
Home hope Julian Illingworth powered into the first
round of the Aon US Open Squash Championship in Chicago
after beating Ireland's Liam Kenny in the qualifying finals.
from Portland, Oregon, won 11-4, 12-14, 11-7, 11-5 in an
absorbing contest lasting 67 minutes to clinch a first round
clash with England's James Willstrop, the number seven seed,
Kenny was overwhelmed by Illingworth's high-paced attack in
the opening game but fought back strongly to lead throughout
Illingworth clawed his way back to take the game to a
tiebreak and held game ball when Kenny struck a volley into
the tin. However, the Irishman showed great composure to win
the next three points to close out the game 14-12 after some
phenomenally brutal rallies.
That enormous effort clearly took its toll on Kenny as
Illingworth regained control in the third game, maintaining
his form throughout the fourth to clinch his place against
Illingworth knows he faces a tall order in stopping the 6ft
5in Willstrop, who is returning to the PSA World Tour after
an ankle operation five months ago.
was really happy with how I started the match but I don't
really know what happened in the second. I was behind all
the way there until I held game ball. I was glad to get it
together again in the third and fourth.
"I know James is one of the most talented players in the
world so I am expecting a tough match. We did a summer coach
camp together in Boulder, Colorado, but I have never played
him in a tournament before.
"He was ranked two in the world not so long ago and
obviously he has a false ranking at the moment because of
his injuries last season. It will be nice to have some home
support on the glass court. I might need it!"
Fellow American Chris Gordon
failed to join his compatriot in the main draw after falling
in straight games to rising English ace Tom Richards,
who won 11-6, 11-4, 11-8 victory in 32 minutes to book a
first round tie against Australia's David Palmer, who won
the Colombian Open in Bogota on Sunday.
The tournament top seed, world champion Ramy Ashour of
Egypt, meets English qualifier Adrian Waller, who
beat compatriot Joe Lee in straight games.
Frankcomb, of Australia, beat Martin Knight of New
Zealand to book a first round meeting with number six seed
Wael El Hindi of Egypt.
The Aon US Open is the only tournament in America to be
staged in an open-air setting, and the spectacular
surroundings of Pioneer Court in downtown Chicago will be
echoing to the sound of the world's leading professionals
crashing the ball against the all-glass McWil court
throughout the rest of this week.
had some tremendous matches in the qualifying competition
and now it's down to the serious business in the main draw.
"We had some terrible weather for the tournament last year,
with the tail-end of a hurricane disrupting the event, but
we are keeping our fingers crossed that today's glorious
sunshine lasts for the rest of the week.
"It's good to see Julian Illingworth in the main draw. Last
year he lost 11-9 in the fifth to John White in one of the
longest matches of the tournament and we all hope that he
can produce a major career breakthrough with a victory
against James Willstrop."
Egyptians set to dominate
US Open in Chicago
An all-Egyptian final is on the cards in the forthcoming US
Open with superstars Ramy Ashour and Amr
Shabana - ranked three and four, respectively, in the
world - the top two seeds in Chicago.
The $52k US Open is the first major tournament of the new
season and will be staged in the open air in Pioneer Court,
between Tribune Tower and the Chicago River, from September
The stage seems set for the event to celebrate an Egyptian
champion for the first time. Reinforcing their national
presence, and providing four Egyptian players among the top
ten entrants, are Wael El Hindi, the No6 seed, and
Ramy’s brother Hisham Ashour.
Behind them at No3 in the seedings is Australia’s David
Palmer, who was runner-up to England’s Peter Barker
in last year’s
Sweet Home Chicago Open, the first squash event in North
America to be staged in the open-air.
Boston-based Palmer, currently ranked six in the world, is
also a former world champion and world No1, which
illustrates the tremendous depth of the draw. Palmer won
both the US Open and World Open in 2002 and at 33 is still
competing at the highest level.
English players have dominated the US Open in the past 15
years, with four victories by Peter Nicol, two by Lee
Beachill, and further successes by Nick Matthew and Simon
Barker, last year’s Sweet Home Chicago Open champion, is
seeded four - ahead of fellow Englishmen Adrian Grant
(5) and James Willstrop (7).
Adding a truly international
flavour, Finland’s athletic Olli Tuominen is seeded
eight, with Egyptian-born Canadian No1 Shahier Razik
and Indian No1 Saurav Ghosal also in the draw. All
three possess a track record of claiming some big scalps in
the early rounds of major competitions.
Another player aiming to make a name for himself is
Philadelphia’s Gilly Lane, the tournament wild card
who will be looking forward to pitting his skills against
the best players in the world on home soil.
Willstrop could spring a few surprises being seeded as low
as he is after a spell out of action following an operation
to cure a bone spur on an ankle.
"He is one of the most talented shot-makers in the world and
assuming he gets through he will certainly be a dangerous
opponent for the top seeds in the quarter-finals onwards.
"Peter Barker is also enjoying his highest ranking of seven
in the world and the springboard for his rise up the
rankings in the past 12 months was provided by his victories
here in Chicago and then in Baltimore, where he also beat
David Palmer in the final.
"Egypt is certainly enjoying an incredible spell of
ascendancy in squash at the moment, and only last week they
won both the boys and girls’ titles at the World Junior Open
"They have a wave of young players who are dominating the
world junior scene and the great news for the game of Squash
is that they all seem to mature into adult professionals who
have a wonderful attacking flair which produces brilliant
entertainment for spectators."