Hisham blazes to upset win
Alan Thatcher reports, photos by Dan Bogosh Hisham
Ashour, always a great entertainer, blitzed his way out of
trouble against Saurav Ghosal to reach the second round of the
Davenport North American Open.
Trailing 5-2 in the fifth game, Ashour fought his way back point
by point with some ferocious hitting. His drives had simply too
much pace and accuracy for his faster, fitter and younger
opponent. The Indian number one must have fancied his chances
against a rival who looked suspiciously out of shape.
But every time Ghosal senses the match might be swinging his
way, Ashour responded in style. The 30-year-old Egyptian more
than compensated for any problems with his movement into the
front corners with some powerful hitting and deft touches when
he finally reached those areas of the court.
third game appeared to be crucial. Ghosal was ahead all the way
and when he finally took it, on his third game ball, he must
have thought the match was his to lose. But Ashour had other
A bizarre fourth game followed, with Ashour powering ahead 8-1,
then visibly wilting as Ghosal recovered to draw level in one
hand. Hisham's fighting spirit helped him to dig deep and he
when he won it 11-9 we were heading for a fifth game.
must have hoped his superior fitness would tell and he looked to
be in command as he built a 5-2 lead. Back came Ashour to draw
level, then it was Ghosal's turn to squeeze two points to lead
7-5. Ashour came back again to 7-7 but the two players appeared
to be exchanging points (and tins) before the Indian number one
But Ashour, despite breathing heavily, was able to maintain the
pressure to the end, unleashing some devastating kills and
showing great athleticism with some high over head backhands
(including one trademark Mizuki shot).
He drew level at 9-9 and then led for the first time in the game
when he held match ball. His superior pace delivered the
winning shot and a broad smile crossed his face as he clinched
his place in the second round.
His seeded opponent is Karim Darwish (if he can overcome
qualifier Mathieu Castagnet). Darwish was in Hisham's
corner throughout the match and when I asked what he advice he
had passed on to his compatriot, he answered: "Just hit nicks!"
said: "I have been working in New York for the past six
months or so and have kept losing in the first round of
tournaments, and sometimes I would walk on court and my
heart was not really in it.
"I haven't been able to do much training because of coaching
commitments. But coming back to Richmond, and walking on
this court today, I really wanted to do well and play my
best. I wanted to show people I can still do it."
Saurav Tweeted: Really disappointed with myself :(
Hisham played some great stuff but not entirely happy with
Rosner beats Coppinger Simon
Rosner and Steve Coppinger are two phenomenal
athletes. Both 6ft 3in tall, they strike the ball with enormous
power, and ultimately it's precision that counts.
With relentless driving, accuracy is the key. Both men were
hunting for the loose ball to work in short, and most rallies
followed a similar, metronomic pattern.
Rosner, ranked 16 in the world - four places above his
steadily-improving opponent - found himself 6-2 down in the
opening game before putting together two sequences of points to
closed out the game 11-8 and then built a solid lead in the
second. But this time it was Coppinger's turn to respond.
Suddenly he was 8-7 ahead but Rosner hit back to hold game ball
at 10-9. Again Coppinger got stuck in to finish strongly,
winning the game 12-0 to make it one apiece.
Rosner showed better control in the third to establish a 7-3
lead and maintained that position to win it 11-5.
fourth was much closer as Coppinger fought hard to stay in the
match. But from 6-6 Rosner made fewer mistakes and closed out
the match to clinch his place in the second round.
"It's fair to say we have similar styles. I knew it was
going to be a tough one because Steve has been playing very
well recently and I had to stay focused to win through."
Big hitter Cam
Pilley was in a hurry as he demolished the hopes of Egyptian
qualifier Ali Anwar Reda in just 27 minutes.
Pilley's power play was simply awesome, but he showed plenty of
inventive touches to wrongfoot an opponent who had undergone the
physical trauma of a brutal 101-minute match in the qualifying
finals the day before.
nice to get a win in the first round, and even better when
it's a quick one, because I have struggled to get beyond
this point in a few recent tournaments.
"I knew Reda had had a tough match yesterday and I so I
wanted to put him under pressure as much as i could.
"I do love smacking that little ball as hard as i can but to
get into the top 20 in the world I hope there are obviously
a few other elements in my game as well. You can't get that
high just by smacking the ball as hard as you can.
"I know I'm seeded to meet Ramy Ashour in the next round but
I don't even want to think about that yet because he's got a
match to play first (against Chris Simpson tonight)."
Omar Mosaad responded after
a slow start to beat Canada's Shawn Delierre and advance to a
second round clash with Simon Rosner.
The first game was a curious mixture of winners and errors, with
very few rallies of substance. Delierre recovered from 4-2 down
to lead 6-4 and maintained his advantage to take the game 11-7.
Delierre led 5-2 in the second and a shock result looked on the
cards but the 6ft 4in tall number eight seed began to work his
way into the match with some clean, solid hitting. From 6-4 down
he won five points in a row, setting up not only the pattern of
the closing stages of the second game, but the rest of the
He powered through the third 11-4 and was on the brink of
victory at 7-3 in the fourth before Delierre rallied. The
enigmatic Canadian fought back to 8-9 but Mosaad kept his focus
to close out the final two points. He said:
"This is my
first time here in Virginia so it took me a while to settle
down. The weather is not too different from Egypt at this
time of the year because it is winter in Egypt, so that was
not a factor. I am happy to be in the second round.
"Things have been difficult back home since the revolution,
but despite everything that has happened, squash is still
Colombian Miguel Angel Rodriguez produced a
devastating burst of attacking squash to sweep his opponent off
the court with an 11-1 sprint to the line in the fourth game.
The whole match was played at a high tempo but Adnan could not
stand the pace in the fourth as Rodriguez totally dominated
proceedings. After a steady opening, Rodriguez moved from 4-5 to
8-5 to gain the upper hand in the first game, withstanding a
late surge from the Malaysian to take it 11-9.
Adnan improved his control in the second and quickly moved 6-1
ahead. Not many players can pull back that kind of deficit and
he he was able to hold off his opponent's response to win it
The third game was the crucial, decisive phase of the match.
From 6-6, Rodriguez pulled away to win 11-8 and the fight seemed
to be slipping away from the Malaysian in the fourth.
Rodriguez dropped just one point in a one-sided final game,
playing with both pace and control. Adnan tried slowballing but
Rodriguez is capable of emulating the Malaysian's own trademark
flying volley winners and did so to stunning effect. Rodriguez
"The court was
a little warmer last year so it took me a while to adjust to
"I am very happy with the way I played and it is nice to be
in the second round of a major tournament like this.
"I enjoyed playing Nick Matthew here last year and i am
looking forward to playing him again in the first round of
the canary Wharf Classic in London in three weeks, after I
have played in the Kuwait Cup.
"Squash is developing strongly back home in Colombia. In
Bogota, we have several country clubs, each with five or six
courts, and we have a very strong junior squad. We have a
well-organised tournament circuit, with one event every
month, and the signs are very encouraging for the future of
squash in Colombia."
champion James Willstrop began his campaign to regain the
trophy with a hugely entertaining, inventive and creative
victory over Scottish number one Alan Clyne.
Willstrop was in the mood to unleash his full repertoire of
attacking shots, holding, flicking and feinting at the front of
His attacking options committed his willing opponent to visit
every corner of the court. Clyne was contained to just three
points in the opening game, but did well to double that tally in
the second and his eight-point haul made the scoreline look more
The match time, however, was just 28 minutes, illustrating the
effectiveness and accuracy of Willstrop's attacking genius. He
that was a very enjoyable. Some very enjoyable squash.
"Having won this tournament twice, it's always a pleasure to
come back. The crowd here really gets involved and the
tournament has a great feel to it again this year.
"The Jefferson Hotel is still our favourite place to stay on
the world tour and we all get looked after so well. It's
always a pleasure to come to Richmond."
maestro Ramy Ashour rekindled his love affair with
Richmond in a hugely entertaining match against determined
English underdog Chris Simpson. The advertising campaigns say
Virginia is for lovers. Well, the Virginians certainly love
having Ramy in town for the Davenport North American Open, one
of the elite group of PSA World Series events which rocks up in
Richmond for a tenth anniversary tournament this year.
Ashour has a genius that can't be coached, a touch and feel for
the ball that not only his fans in the crowd wish they could
emulate, but so too do most of the leading professionals who
share the court with him. Having won the North American Open
back in 2009, and lost the last three finals, Ashour returns as
world champion, world number and top seed for a week of high-calibre
squash on the glass court at the Westwood Club.
threatened to roll aside English challenger Chris Simpson, the
world #28 from the tiny Channel Island of Guernsey, just off the
French coast. Ashour won the opening game 11-4 as Simpson
nervously mis-hit three clear openings for winners.
However, the crowd got behind Simpson as the two 25-year-olds
locked horns in the third game. Simpson matched Ashour's
artistry at the front of the court and held game ball at 10-8.
But the Egyptian hit back and thought he had won the game, only
for Simpson's video review appeal to overrule the referee's
decision. The Englishman closed out the game 14-12, the crowd
roared and the smile disappeared from Ashour's face for the
first time in the match.
Back on court, he ruthlessly set about his business in the third
game, attacking at every opportunity to win it 11-4 in quick
time. Simpson battled heroically throughout the fourth, but
Ashour's skill level was in another galaxy as he clinched
victory in 43 minutes. The delighted Ashour told the Richmond
great to be back but I might have to avoid the wonderful
hospitality on offer this week because I need to keep in
shape and stay focused.
"A lot of great players are in this tournament and Cameron
Pilley will be a tough test in the next round. He is a very
good player and I have to take it one match at a time.
"It's great to be back at number one but a lot of stresses
and issues come with that, and I need to keep the demons at
Ashour has recently
signed a significant sponsorship deal to use Prince rackets and
he added: "This is my
first official contract with them and I just love the
rackets. They are very dangerous weapons."
Ashour had words of
praise for Simpson, adding: "Chris showed
that he is going to be a very good player. He played well
tonight and I like the way he plays."
himself said: "I went on
court trying my hardest to win at least one game and I
achieved that, so I have to be happy with that.
"It's the first time we've played since junior days and I
know I could have done better in the first game, but I
tensed up a little when I had some openings and put the ball
in the tin."
Relief for Darwish Egyptian
Karim Darwish heaved a sigh of relief after seeing off an
immense challenge from French qualifier Mathieu Castagnet for
the second year in a row in this tournament.
won the second game and the scoreline illustrates just how hard
he worked and how tantalizingly close he came to scoring a major
said: It was another tough match, just like last year.
Mathieu is a very good player and Im now looking forward to
playing Hisham. He played well earlier today. He is so
talented and so unpredictable that you never know what to
expect, but Im sure it will be a very enjoyable match.