•  Davenport North American Open • 23-Feb to 02-Mar 2013 • Richmond, VA •  

  TODAY at the North American Open

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25-Feb, Round One, Top @ Westwood Club:

Hisham Ashour (Egy)
3-2 Saurav Ghosal (Ind)
                        7/11, 11/6, 11/13, 11/9, 11/9 (59m)
Simon Rosner
(Ger) 3-1 Steve Coppinger (Rsa)
                       11/8, 10/12, 11/5, 11/8 (64m)
Cameron Pilley (Aus) 3-0 [Q] Ali Anwar Reda (Egy)
                        11/3, 11/5, 11/4 (27m)
[8] Omar Mosaad (Egy) 3-1 [Q] Shawn Delierre (Can)
                        7/11, 11/8, 11/4, 11/8 (47m)

Miguel Angel Rodriguez (Col) 3-1 [Q] Nafiizwan Adnan (Mas)
                        11/9, 6/11, 11/8, 11/1 (43m)
[3] James Willstrop (Eng) 3-0 Alan Clyne (Sco)
                        11/3, 11/6, 11/8 (27m)
[1] Ramy Ashour (Egy) 3-1 Chris Simpson (Eng)
                        11/4, 12/14, 11/4, 11/6 (43m)
[5] Karim Darwish (Egy) 3-1 [Q] Mathieu Castagnet (Fra)
                        11/5, 10/12, 11/9, 12/10 (65m)

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.

The 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 ideas.

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.

Ghosal 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 reached 9-8.

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!"

Ashour 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 my performance!!

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 lead 9-7.

He 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.

The 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.

Rosner said: "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.

Pilley chops Reda

Pilley was in control throughout and said:

"It's always 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)

Mosaad recovers to beat Delierre

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 match.

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 strong."

Rodriguez beats Adnan: 11-1 in the fourth!

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 11-6.

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 said:

"The court was a little warmer last year so it took me a while to adjust to the conditions.

"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."

King James suppresses Scottish uprising

Reigning 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 the court.

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 respectable.
The match time, however, was just 28 minutes, illustrating the effectiveness and accuracy of Willstrop's attacking genius. He said:

"Yes, 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."

Simpson takes a game out of the Artist

Egyptian 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.

He 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 crowd;

"It's 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 bay."

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."

Simpson 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.

Castagnet won the second game and the scoreline illustrates just how hard he worked and how tantalizingly close he came to scoring a major upset.

Darwish said: “It was another tough match, just like last year. Mathieu is a very good player and I’m 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 I’m sure it will be a very enjoyable match.”

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