peerless performance from maverick three-time World Champion Ramy Ashour
saw the 30-year-old Egyptian end compatriot Mohamed ElShorbagy's
twelve-match winning streak to triumph in the final of the 2018
Grasshopper Cup - his first title win in seven months.
Ashour rolled back the years, eliciting memories of the performances
that accompanied him during a 49-match winning streak throughout
2012/13, as he stormed through the draw to take the title without
dropping a single game - beating World No.1 ElShorbagy 11-8, 11-9, 11-6
after overcoming World No.2 Gregory Gaultier and World No.7 Simon Rösner
in straight-games to secure his place in the finale.
victory, which came after 50-minutes of high-quality play, underlines a
return to full fitness for Ashour following a torrid two-year spell that
has seen him withdraw from seven events through a seemingly never-ending
plague of injuries.
"I'm pouring with emotion right now," said Ashour after the match.
"It's been a very hard two years - but I have proved to myself that I am
is an amazing athlete. He is the World Champion and he has been doing
amazing recently but I'm happy with the way I played today. It was a
brutal match but I'm glad I came out on top.
"I won. I'm not surprised because I did a lot of work and I've been
through a lot - I'm not being cocky - I'm saying what's really on my
mind, because I think I kind of deserve this and I hope we can play more
of these matches in the future."
After the match ElShorbagy said: "We always play matches at a different
level. I wish I had more in me to match him today but he was playing so
well this week and he was just too good.
"There is no shame in losing to one of the sport's greatest players and
I hope he stays healthy so we can play more of these battles together."
No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy, the man who has dominated the PSA World Tour
throughout the 2017/18 season, is set to lock horns with compatriot and
nemesis Ramy Ashour, the three-time World Champion, in what promises to
be a mouthwatering finale to the 2018 Grasshopper Cup.
The duo, who will meet for the eleventh time on the PSA World Tour - in
a seventh final - have been in superb form so far during the PSA M100
tournament in Zurich and will go into tomorrow's match with hopes of
rekindling the rivalry that saw them contest two of the greatest matches
in squash history during the 2014/15 season.
In the finals of both the 2014 World Championship and 2015 El Gouna
International it was Ashour who triumphed in thrilling circumstances but
since then the 30-year-old has largely been absent from the Tour due to
injury, while ElShorbagy, who has assumed the mantle of the sport's most
dominant player, has gone from strength-to-strength - coming through a
supremely high quality last four battle with James Willstrop to
underline his authority with an 11-9, 11-8, 11-8 win.
"This season has been unbelievable for me so far," said ElShorbagy, who
has claimed seven titles so far this season.
"This is the third tournament in a row and the third final in a row -
there's so much work that goes in behind the scenes to try and recover
from each match and come back and perform like I'm doing right now
against these great competitors.
"But these are the kind of challenges that I live for and try to survive
- victory tastes much better this way and tomorrow I will be giving it
has been playing unbelievable this week and we alway play incredible
matches against each other. We play at a different level when we're up
against each other and I'm looking forward to another big battle with
Ashour meanwhile continued to set the court alight as, just 24 hours
after completely outclassing Simon Rösner, he proved too strong and too
clinical for 2017 tournament winner Gregory Gaultier - the man who held
the World No.1 spot for nine consecutive months before ElShorbagy
remounted the summit on April 1st.
Since halting Raphael Kandra in style in round one Ashour has shown an
irresistible fluidity on court and nonchalantly knocked the ball into
all four corners to place Gaultier under an immense amount of pressure
and complete and 11-6, 11-8, 11-8 win in 45-minutes.
played so many battles together - he's an amazing athlete and its
impressive how he covers the four corners of the court," said Ashour.
"He looked a little off in his movement today but I knew I had to be so
on form to not give him an inch as he would have taken the game. When
he's playing normal you know what to expect but today, because he wasn't
at his best, it was even harder because you don't know what to expect
"Of course I'm happy with how it has been going this week. You just try
to give your best out there every time you play but no doubt tomorrow's
match will be another tough one."
No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy put on a masterclass performance to dismantle
compatriot Tarek Momen and book his place in the semi-finals of the 2018
Grasshopper Cup during a thrilling night of action that also saw
35-year-old Gregory Gaultier, 34-year-old James Willstrop and maverick
30-year-old Ramy Ashour roll back the years with a series of vintage
27-year-old ElShorbagy was imperious as he took Momen apart throughout
the first two games before showing tremendous fighting spirit to recover
from dropping the third to prevail 11-9, 11-6, 9-11, 11-8 - just one
week after narrowly defeating Momen in five games in the final of the
Canary Wharf Classic.
"Tarek is a great player and last week we had a huge battle in Canary
Wharf which showed just that," said ElShorbagy.
"Today I had to come out and show him that I was ready for another huge
match. He showed how strong he is when he came back in that third game
and I had to be on my toes and be sharp again in the fourth.
"It's great to be in the semis - I lost in the quarters here last year
so I'm pleased and James (Willstrop) and I always have tough but fair
matches so I'm sure tomorrow with be another one of them."
ElShorbagy will now meet England's former World No.1 Willstrop in the
semi-finals after the Yorkshireman prevailed 11-13, 15-13, 4-11, 11-6,
11-7 in an 80-minute thriller with 2016 World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad.
The opening game between the pair, a phenomenally high quality 20 minute
affair, saw both players hitting precise lines and countering each other
in all four corners. From that point on the quality of play only
increased, with Willstrop putting together the sort of squash that
accompanied him throughout his spell as World No.1 back in 2012 to hold
off Gawad and complete a spectacular triumph.
"There were some very loud English people here in the crowd which just
enhanced what was already an unbelievable atmosphere in this venue,"
"In phases Karim definitely out-did me and I was just trying my best to
hang in there. I just had to have confidence in myself and come through
it mentally and physically.
"He's a former World Champion so it's a great feeling to be playing well
and beating a player like him."
Willstrop's victory came after three-time World Champion Ashour conjured
up a performance of clinical beauty as he halted in-form Simon Rösner
3-0 in just 34-minutes.
Ashour - who has endured a torrid time with injury over the past three
years - was simply sublime as he mixed up his attacks, changing the pace
and angle at every opportunity to twist and turn Rösner, leaving the
German World No.7 unable to stop the flow.
"I was just trying not to let him play the squash he is capable of -
he's a very strong player and has recently won a major event as well,"
"I just kept my focus and went on court and got the job done the way I
Ashour's last four opponent Gaultier meanwhile came back from the brink
of defeat to beat Mohamed Abouelghar in one of the best matches of the
2017/18 PSA World Tour season.
With World No.9 Abouelghar in red hot form, unleashing a seemingly
never-ending barrage of winners from all angles, Gaultier was staring
down the barrel of a straight-games defeat after losing the first two
games and finding himself match ball down.
But the Frenchman resurrected the match with an epic comeback that saw
him save multiple match balls in the third to stop the flow, before
going on to triumph 13-15, 8-11, 19-17, 11-3, 11-9 after 90-minutes of
"It has been the worst season for me - having a lot of injury issues and
I came here with no expectations as I knew that I was not at my best
fitness wise," said Gaultier.
"But I just tried to play as smart as possible and play as tight as
possible. During the first two games the pace was just too much for me
but the more I got into the game the better I felt moving and the better
I was seeing the ball and it was all about confidence then at that
"I have so much experience and that played a part today because a lot of
it is in the head. I enjoyed it out there and I'm really thankfully to
the crowd who really helped me and got behind me throughout the match -
I emptied the tank to win it."
No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy notched up his tenth consecutive victory on the
PSA World Tour as he downed compatriot Omar Mosaad in straight games to
book a place in the quarter-finals of the 2018 Grasshopper Cup - the PSA
M100 tournament taking place in Zurich.
ElShorbagy, the current World Champion, has lost just two of his last 40
PSA World Tour matches - winning seven titles in the process - and
continued to carry his imperious form into Zurich as he dealt with
everything Mosaad, a former World No.3, could throw at him in throughout
a 47 minute encounter.
The 27-year-old was just too accurate and too aggressive for Mosaad,
forcing a plethora of errors from the racket of the hard-hitting man
from Cairo as he wrapped up the win 11-6, 11-7, 8-11, 11-8
"Omar is a very high quality player - he's been inside the top four
before so I knew I had to be focused from the very first point against
him tonight," said ElShorbagy.
"I've been having an incredible season, but this time of the season is
very dangerous because there are still a few events to play before the
summer break and you have to stay sharp mentally.
"I'm here to give it my best shot to win and there are still some big
events to come which I want to win to finish the season strong.
"I have a huge challenge in this event but that is the kind of challenge
that I train for."
ElShorbagy will now face Tarek Momen, the man he beat to win the Qatar
Classic in October, in the quarter-finals in what promises to be a
compelling encounter after the World No.6 put in a hugely impressive
display to defeat Spaniard Borja Golan 3-0.
Momen, known on Tour as ‘The Viper’, has played some of the best squash
of his career this season, reaching three finals including at last
week’s Canary Wharf Classic where he also lost out to ElShorbagy, and
continued to play relentlessly efficient squash to take out Golan 12-10,
“I’m happy with the way I played today,” said Momen.
“Borja is a very tough opponent and I hadn't played him for five years
so I didn’t know what to expect. I knew had to be very focused.
"In the first game he gave me a scare, I was 9-3 up and he played some
ridiculous squash and all of a sudden he was back and almost winning the
game. So I’m happy that I managed to scrap that one out and then in the
next two I think I played really well.”
The other winners on day two of action were former World Champion Karim
Abdel Gawad, who recorded a routine win over Scottish qualifier Greg
Lobban, while England's former World No.1 James Willstrop secured his
place in the last eight with a 3-0 win over India's Saurav Ghosal.
Following a two-month injury enforced absence, 2017 tournament winner
Gregory Gaultier marked his return to competitive action on the PSA
World Tour with a straight-games defeat of local hero Nicolas Müller in
the first round of the 2018 Grasshopper Cup in Zurich.
The 35-year-old former World No.1 was halted by an adductor injury
suffered during January's Tournament of Champions but put those troubles
behind him as he out-classed Müller, the World No.18, to prevail 11-7,
12-10, 11-8 in the PSA M100 tournament and set up a quarter-final clash
with Egyptian Mohamed Abouleghar,
"Everybody knows I've been injured and had a tough year," said Gaultier.
"I missed the game so much but luckily the doctor gave me the green
light a few weeks ago but to come back at my age takes longer and a lot
"So I was trying to be smart on the court today. There's a balance
between wanting to play but also on the other hand trying to make sure
you don't aggravate any injuries, but I'm just very happy to be back on
court and back here in Zurich.
'I've had great memories here over the past few years and hope that can
continue this week."
Gaultier is joined in the last eight by long-term rival Ramy Ashour, the
maverick three-time World Champion who has also been plagued by injury
throughout the past three years.
The Egyptian looked to have resurrected elements of his former self as
he moved effortlessly around the court against German Raphael Kandra,
striking winners with ease to triumph 11-6, 14-12, 11-5 and set up a
meeting with Simon Rösner - the hard-hitting German number one who
earned his quarter-final berth with a hard-fought 3-1 win over Daryl
Selby in his fourth straight win over the Englishman in 2018.
"I gave away too many points early on with errors and that allowed him
to get off to a good start," said Rösner.
"But I felt like I got into my rhythm in the second game and I'm happy
with how I managed to change my approach and turn the game around. To
come through with the win against a player of Daryl's quality is very