Ramy Ashour (Egy) 3-1 
James Willstrop (Eng)
11/5, 11/8, 9/11, 11/8
(54m) A repeat of last
year's NAO final which Willstrop won, but Ashour has now taken
revenge five times since, as he moves into a fifth successive
 Nick Matthew (Eng) 3-1
 Grégory Gaultier (Fra)
11/6, 11/3, 8/11,
11/7 (63m) Matthew gains revenge for
recent defeats to reach a fourth NAO final in five years
revenge over Willstrop
reports, photos by Dan Bogosh
Ashour gained revenge for his defeat in last year's
Davenport North American Open final by beating reigning champion
James Willstrop in four games of electrifying squash.
Ashour played high-octane, attacking squash throughout this
semi-final of the Davenport North American Open at the Westwood
Club in Richmond, Virginia. Willstrop looked slightly subdued in
the opening two games as a succession of stunning winners flowed
from Ashour's racket.
lost the first game in just under seven minutes and was in deep
trouble at 9-5 down in the second. He fought back to 8-9 but
Ashour closed out the game with less than 17 minutes on the
clock. Willstrop responded positively in the third and a run of
three points from 4-4 put him in a commanding position.
But Ashour suddenly hit a purple patch and a quick victory
looked on the cards as he pulled back to 9-9. However, Willstrop
finished strongly to win it 11-9 to delight the crowd, who were
clearly expecting a closer match. Willstrop maintained that form
to lead 3-1 at the start of the fourth but Ashour again surged
through a run of points to lead 8-4. He soon held match ball at
10-5 but Willstrop then produced one of the most outrageous and
flamboyant shots ever seen in the game with a double feint
winner that even had Ashour applauding.
Willstrop pulled back to 8-10 but Ashour finally closed out the
match to reach his fifth consecutive Richmond final.
After both players had received a deserved standing ovation, he
shot he played at the end was incredible."
"I feel like a little mouse every time I play James. He is so big that I
am always running round him, trying to find a gap to run
through to get to the ball. "He is not doing it deliberately
but he is such a big guy that he is tough to play. He is
always fair and we are happy to put on a great match for
this wonderful Richmond crowd.
promoter Gus Cook and his team look after us, especially
physio Sara Heretick, it makes it easy to play.
"I just need to learn how to finish off these games when I
am ahead because James kept coming back at me tonight.
"We always have great games and whoever I play in the final
I am sure it will be another tremendous match.
Matthew marches past Gaultier Nick
Matthew meets Ramy Ashour in the final after a magnificent win
over Gregory Gaultier.
Matthew surged ahead from 4-4 in the first game to win it 11-6,
and was even more devastating as he advanced from 4-3 to 11-3 in
a second game lasting just eight minutes.
The drama began to unfold in the third game as Gaultier fought
back from 5-2 down to dominate a large phase of the match.
moved 9-6 ahead and successfully repelled Matthew’s late
After a cautious start to the fourth game, the 32-year-old
number two seed from Sheffield won five points in a row from 4-4
to put himself within touching distance of a place in the final.
After another flurry of points from Gaultier, a delighted
Matthew clinched victory.
have lost to Greg a couple of times recently so it was good
to get the win, said Matthew.
"Greg had started well against me last time we played and
won the first game 11-3 in the final of the Swedish Open so
I was determined to make a good start myself.
“From 5-2 up in the third Greg suddenly turned it on and I
was glad to get back on top in the fourth, and especially
pleased to hit some Ramy shots at the end.
“I’m looking forward to the final because we’ve played each
other plenty of times here over the years. It’s an
interesting contrast in styles and should be a great match."
Once again the Richmond crowd gave
both players a standing ovation.
With the top two seeds in such excellent form, the final
promises to be a classic.