• Kuwait PSA Cup  • 08-14 Mar 2013 • Kuwait •  

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 TODAY at the Kuwait PSA Cup                                             Twitter Updates
  Framboise reports, Steve clicks away ...

Wed 13th, Semi-Finals 
[1] Ramy Ashour (Egy) 3-0 [4] Grégory Gaultier (Fra)
          11/8, 11/5, 11/2 (36m)
[3] James Willstrop (Eng) 3-0 [6] Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egy)
          11/5, 12/10, 11/8 (54m)

Ramy & James through in three

Ramy Ashour extended his unbeaten run to 35 matches with a straight-game win over Grégory Gaultier in tonight's semi-final.

The world number one got the better of a tough first game lasting 17 minutes, but from the outset of the second Gaultier's level dropped.

A conduct stroke against the Frenchman early in the second for throwing his racket in frustration didn't help, and Ashour accelerated away to double his lead.

Gaultier barely competed in the third, serving a deliberate fault at 2-10 and Ramy was in a Kuwait final for a fifth time.

"Yesterday’s match was definitely the hardest ever," said Ashour. "Shabana is so smart, he plays every shot so cleverly, and I so proud I was able to get out of his game. Today, I don’t think that Greg was 100%, maybe something wrong with his legs."

James Willstrop also reached the final with a three-nil win, but his match against Mohamed El Shorbagy, the young Egyptian who beat Willstrop in the World Championship semi late last year, was a much tougher affair.

Defending champion Willstrop won the first game reasonably comfortably, even if he was having to do a lot of work especially at the front of the court, but the next two games were as tough as they come.

Willstrop needed to save a game ball before taking the second, and was a couple of points behind midway through the third, but powered through at the end of the game to clinch his place in the final.

"Mohamed is in great form," admitted Willstrop, "so I needed to bring out my A game and I did. It's great to be in another Kuwait Cup final, it will be hard against Ramy who is in such great form but I'll give everything to try to win another title here."


PSA Head 2 Heads

[1] Ramy Ashour (Egy) 3-0 [4] Grégory Gaultier (Fra)
          11/8, 11/5, 11/2 (36m)


Squash is a pool for amazing people. To start with, Greg, who managed to get in the semis of a major tournament on one foot – he rolled his ankle on Nick’s foot in Richmond and has been unhappy with his movement, not being able to push off his foot properly, not able to train properly since then, so reaching the semis is quite an achievement.

And of course Ramy, bless him, squashed out in the second round and quarters, looking yesterday like playing squash was for him as fun as having a root canal without injection. And today, ‘gazelle-ing” away from the first minute on court, bouncing up and down, like a kid in a bouncy castle.

In Greg’s game, one can know immediately if he feels confident with his movement, because when he does, he keeps the errors to a minimum, one or two per game in average. In the first game, he did 4, 4 in the second, 4 in the 3rd, well, in the first rallies of the third, as he basically stopped playing very early in that final game.

The first game was the most disputed, 17m and some superb rallies, an excellent start from Greg, 4/0, Ramy catches up 4/4, 6/6, and Ramy starts taking a lead that he won’t lose, game ball 10/7, game 11/8.

Frustration started quickly for Greg in the second, he just couldn’t push off at all. “When you play against such a champion as Ramy, and you can’t pick up two boasts in a row, it drives you nuts,” Greg told me after the match. And it showed. Gradually losing his focus, he even had a go at the crowd that was – probably not cleverly – clapping enthusiastically each of Greg's tins, with two loud “SHUT UP”!

Ramy led 8/2 to take the second game 11/5 in 8m and Greg just didn’t show up in the third at all, 11/2, even sending the ball out of court on his last serve at 2/10…

"Yesterday’s match was definitely the hardest ever. Shabana is so smart, he plays every shot so cleverly, and I so proud I was able to get out of his game.

"Today, I don’t think that Greg was 100%, maybe something wrong with his legs.

"I grew up with the Al Arham tournament, watching legends like Peter Nicol, Anthony Hill, Simon Parke, I’m sorry I missed JK, but I’m now watching him on Ytube, and that’s why I started playing squash. I picked things from each player, and then I came up with my own style…"

[3] James Willstrop (Eng) 3-0 [6] Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egy)
          11/5, 12/10, 11/8 (54m)


I’ve seen James’ game evolving for years – I met him first in 2004. I’ve seen him playing some extraordinary performance – against Nick and Ramy in particular, or John White, or David Palmer. I’ve seen get to number 2 very young, then stagnating a bit ranking wise, then reach the top spot. And I saw the pressure getting to him a bit, especially in Qatar, when everybody was expecting him to take that elusive World Champs title.

His match against Mohamed will stay a classic in my mind, with Mohamed managed to twisting and turning Dig In James for an amazing 5 setter. Tactically, James said he didn’t play the right tactic. And he is probably right. Needless to say that today, James was waiting for his challenger with a bazooka hidden in his Prince racquet. Baouuuuum, it went from the first rally.

Cubs told me as we headed to our computers that he never taken so many shots of James going for shots to the front. Perfect analysis, Cubs. Mohamed didn’t do anything wrong, I mean, he really didn’t put a foot wrong, he was not given any say in the first game at all. It was James’ show, keeping the World Vice-Champion on a string for the whole game. It was a Masterclass, it was squash at its best, clever, accurate, length perfect, drop shots idem, one foot of course, with James leading 4/0 then 9/2 before Mohamed’s pride pushed him to get a few points, 11/5.

A festival. Fireworks. Magnifique.

All credit to Mohamed, boy did he pushed and really put James through the mill in the second. He picked up the pace dramatically, losing a bit of accuracy in the process (5 tins, against 3 for James), leading 8/5 and looking good. But James strung the points back to come back to 8/8, 9/9. Ridiculous rallies one after the other, both sending the other one visiting the corners back and forth. It was a gem of a match, very very very few calls, fair game, good circulation, a joy for the eyes.

Mohamed – to the upmost delight of the crowd – sets up a game ball, 10/9, but it’s James’ show tonight, and with another three amazing rallies, it’s the Englishman that closes it out 12/10 in 23 long minutes.

Again, all credit to the double world junior champion, he doesn’t say die, changing his tactic by slowing down the pace and he is still well in contention, 1/1, 2/2, 4/4, 5/, 6/6, 7/8, fighting till death on each and every rally/point. But it is now obvious there is only going to be one winner. James is just flowing, flying, dominating, with the same panache he had in the first game. And with a 11/8 in the third, James washes the affront he suffered in Qatar.

As we say in French, he put the clocks back at the right time…

I had to be at the top of my game today. He’s been at a top 5, top 4 level for a while, and his performance at the World Champs was pretty special. So tonight, I had to bring out the A game, weather the storm, and play accurate squash to get in another KW final.

I guess people remember our match from the Worlds, but for me, it was just about the result, another semi final like any other. Now, of course I was not happy to lose in Qatar, so I guess I wanted a revenge.

What is the difference in my performance then, and today? Well, I guess that today, I was more…. attuned. And in Qatar, it’s not that I played badly, but it’s just that I played more high shots, weak ball, and he took advantage of it, he is too good with a racquet, and made me do a lot more work then.

Plus, the conditions were different, then I was world number 1, expected to win the Worlds, and he was coming up, up for it, and no pressure. This time, I’m not world number 1 anymore, and he is suddenly expected to do something special, expected to win, the pressure suddenly being on him, not on me.

Now playing Ramy tomorrow, of course a different tactic. Each player is pretty different, unique. Last time I played him I said at the time I quite couldn’t break the wall, so tomorrow it will have to be different, as he is as unique as it gets.

I feel like he made me run and run and run in the first game, I was not accurate enough, and I made too many errors.

At 8/5 in the 2nd, I really got tired, and I was really disappointed to be tired at that stage of the match. I speeded up the pace in the second, because I thought that my body would hold it, but it didn’t. I know I had a few hard games before, but still I was disappointed not to last.

So in the third, I slowed the pace right down, which I think was the best tactic. So I guess it’s a bit of a lack of experience, doubled with the fact he was so accurate, in great form on this tournament, and all credit to him.

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