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Maestro Ashour Masters Matthew To Claim Second Richmond Title

Final Semi Finals 2nd Round Quarter Finals
  1st Round (Lower) 1st Round (Top)  
North American Open 2013
24 Feb - 02 Mar, Richmond, $115k
Round One
25/26 Feb
Round Two
27 Feb
28 Feb
01 Mar
02 Mar
[1] Ramy Ashour (Egy)
11-4, 12-14, 11-4, 11-6 (43 mins)
Chris Simpson (Eng)
Ramy Ashour
 11/8, 11/6, 12/10 (42m)
Cameron Pilley
Ramy Ashour
11-7, 11-6, 10-12, 11-8 (53 mins)
Simon Rosner
Ramy Ashour
11-5, 11-8, 9-11, 11-8
(54 mins)
James Willstrop

Ramy Ashour
11-7, 11-8, 5-11, 11-7 (65 mins)
Nick Matthew
Cameron Pilley (Aus)
11-3, 11-5, 11-4 (27 mins)
[Q] Ali Anwar Reda (Egy)
Steve Coppinger (Rsa)
11-8, 10-12, 11-5, 11-8 (64 mins)
Simon Rosner (Ger)
Simon Rosner
4/11, 11/8, 11/8, 9/11, 11/9
Omar Mosaad
[8] Omar Mosaad (Egy)
9-11, 11-8, 11-4, 11-8 (48 mins)
[Q] Shawn Delierre (Can)
[5] Karim Darwish (Egy)
11-5, 10-12, 11-9, 12-10 (65 mins)
[Q] Mathieu Castagnet (Fra)
Karim Darwish
 7/11, 11/5, 9/11, 11/8, 11/2 (45m)
Hisham Ashour
Karim Darwish
James Willstrop
Hisham Ashour (Egy)
7-11, 11-6, 11-13, 11-9, 11-9 (59 mins)
Saurav Ghosal (Ind)
Miguel Angel Rodriguez (Col)
11-9, 6-11, 11-8, 11-1 (44 mins)
[Q] Nafiizwan Adnan (Mas)
Miguel Angel Rodriguez
11/7, 11/7, 11/1 (37m)
James Willstrop
[3] James Willstrop (Eng)
11-3, 11-6, 11-8 (28 mins)
Alan Clyne (Sco)
[Q] Joe Lee (Eng)
11/6, 11/6, 11/7 (36m)
[4] Gregory Gaultier (Fra)
Gregory Gaultier 11/4, 11/4, 11/5
Adrian Grant
Gregory Gaultier
11-4, 11-4, 11-3 (34 mins)
Amr Shabana
Gregory Gaultier
11-6, 11-3, 8-11, 11-7
(63 mins)
Nick Matthew
Adrian Grant (Eng)
11/6, 9/11, 11/3, 11/3 (46m)
Shahier Razik (Can)
Karim Abdel Gawad (Egy)
11/3, 7/11, 7/11, 11/4, 11/7
[Q] Yasir Butt (Pak)
Karim Abdel Gawad 11/8, 9/11, 11/3, 11/8 (50m)
Amr Shabana
Nicolas Mueller (Sui)
11/8, 11/8, 11/6 (37m)
[7] Amr Shabana (Egy)
[6] Peter Barker (Eng)
10/12, 11/4, 11/3, 11/6 (53m)
[Q] Campbell Grayson (Nzl)
Peter Barker
11/4, 11/6, 9/11, 11/4 (55m)
Olli Tuominen
Peter Barker
11-6, 11-7, 11-5 (49 mins)
 Nick Matthew
Max Lee (Hkg)
12/10, 11/7, 11/5 (38m)
Olli Tuominen (Fin)
Tarek Momen (Egy)
11/9, 11/7, 10/12, 19/21, 11/5 (85m)
[Q] Chris Gordon (Usa)
Tarek Momen
11/7, 11/8, 11/6 (44m)
Nick Matthew
Laurens Jan Anjema (Ned)
11/4, 11/3, 11/3
[2] Nick Matthew (Eng)

Qualifying finals:

Joe Lee (Eng) bt Omar Abdel Aziz (Egypt) 11-2, 11-6, 11-4 (40 mins)
Ali Anwar Reda (Egypt) bt Siddarth Suchde (India) 11-13, 12-14, 14-12, 13-11, 11-8 (101 mins)
Chris Gordon (USA) bt Zac Alexander (Australia) 8-11, 11-9, 7-11, 11-9, 12-10 (69 mins)
Mathieu Castagnet (France) bt Leo Au (Hong Kong) 11-5, 9-11, 11-6, 11-2 (51 mins)
Nafizwan Adnan (Malaysia) bt Cesar Salazar (Mexico) 11-7, 16-14, 11-9 (52 mins)
Shawn Delierre (Canada) bt Kristian Frost (Denmark) 11-1, 11-8, 11-8 (52 mins)
Campbell Grayson (NZ) bt Gregoire Marche (France) 11-4, 11-8, 9-11, 13-11 (70 mins)
Yasir Butt (Pakistan) bt Matthew Karwalski (Australia) 7-11, 7-11, 11-9, 14-12, 11-4 (55 mins)

1st qualifying round:
Joe Lee (ENG) bt Andrew Schnell (CAN) 11-5, 11-5, 11-3 (36m)
Omar Abdel Aziz (EGY) bt Stephen O'Dwyer (USA) 11-4, 11-1, 11-4 (17m)
Siddharth Suchde (IND) bt Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) 11-9, 11-4, 11-3 (29m)
Mohd Ali Anwar Reda (EGY) bt Dane Sharp (CAN) 11-6, 11-7, 11-9 (38m)
Christopher Gordon (USA) bt Adrian Waller (ENG) 11-9, 2-11, 7-11, 11-3, 12-10 (80m)
Zac Alexander (AUS) bt Fred Reid (CAN) 11-5, 11-7, 11-6 (21m)
Leo Au (HKG) bt Colin Ramasra (TRI) 11-2, 11-4, 11-2 (20m)
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) bt Robbie Temple (ENG) 11-3, 11-3, 11-6 (49m)
Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS) bt Andrew Wagih Shoukry (EGY) 12-10, 11-3, 11-9 (55m)
Cesar Salazar (MEX) bt Ibrahim Nyanzi (UGA) 11-3, 11-4, 11-5 (18m)
Kristian Frost Olesen (DEN) bt Mar! tin Knight (NZL) 12-10, 11-7, 11-3 (59m)
Shawn Delierre (CAN) bt Muhd Asyraf Azan (MAS) 11-6, 11-8, 11-3 (59m)
Gregoire Marche (FRA) bt Sergio Lopez (MEX) 11-3, 11-5, 11-6 (21m)
Campbell Grayson (NZL) bt Jan Koukal (CZE) 11-6, 11-7, 11-9 (42m)
Yasir Ali Butt (PAK) bt Shaun le Roux (RSA) 11-6, 7-11, 7-11, 11-8, 11-5 (60m)
Matthew Karwalski (AUS) bt Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) 11-4, 6-3 ret. (11m)

Click images for larger view
Images Courtesy of

D A N   B O G O S H



Alan Thatcher Reports

Maestro Ashour Masters Matthew To Claim Second Richmond Title

Egyptian maestro Ramy Ashour mastered the tenacious challenge of England's Nick Matthew to win the Davenport North American Open.

Ashour, appearing in his fifth consecutive final of the tournament, continued his long unbeaten run to delight the full-house crowd of almost 1,000 spectators at the Westwood Club in Richmond, Virginia.

Matthew, who had beaten Ashour in the 2010 and 2011 finals, produced a spirited recovery to win the third game, but Ashour  turned on the style again to clinch a second Richmond title.

His previous win in Virginia had also been against Matthew in 2009.

Ashour's 11-7, 11-8, 5-11, 11-7 victory was achieved after 65 minutes of high-quality squash from both players. 

After an even start to the first game, Matthew hit back from 5-3 down to lead 7-6, but Ashour's electrifying array of winning shots produced four points in a row to take the game.

He opened up a 7-3 lead in the second, and held game ball at 10-6 before weathering a late revival from the 32-year-old number two seed from Sheffield.

Matthew made a powerful start to the third and established a 6-1 lead with some stunning winners of his own. 

His powers of retrieval are simply phenomenal and both players covered every inch of the court as the crowd roared their appreciation.

After winning the third game with a degree of comfort, Matthew led 3-1 at the start of the fourth before Ashour elevated the quality of his play to new heights.

He moved ahead to 7-4 and, at 9-5, when Matthew was awarded a penalty stroke following a video review, the Egyptian responded with a dazzling kill shot, slamming his service return into the nick to move to match ball.

After completing his 31st consecutive victory in his ninth PSA final in a row, he kissed the floor of the Westwood Club and thanked his opponent for a tremendous match.

Ashour said: "Nick is a great player and we seem to feed off this rivalry. We have met in so many finals and, whoever wins, the other one gets back to work to raise their game to meet the challenge.

"We are both inspiring each other to work even harder. He plays great squash in all four corners of the court and you have to be playing your best squash to beat him.

"Once again the crowd here in Richmond was fantastic, the tournament is organised brilliantly, and I think the whole show this week proves that squash should be in the Olympics.

"All the players love coming to Richmond and the Jefferson Hotel is the best we stay at anywhere in the world so we all look forward to coming back next year."

Matthew added: "I have played well all week and didn't really do anything wrong tonight in the final but it shows how well Ramy is playing that you can be playing your best and he can still win these big matches. 

"He is on a long winning run at the moment and playing some great squash."

Semi Finals

Alan Thatcher Reports

Ashour Meets Matthew in Richmond Final

Ramy 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.

The Egyptian world number one meets old rival Nick Matthew in the final for the fourth time in five years after the Englishman overcame French ace Gregory Gaultier, also by a 3-1 scoreline.

Ashour played high-octane, attacking squash throughout this semi-final 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.

He 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 said: "Playing James, it’s like a beast versus a mouse.

“I feel like a little mouse every time I play him. 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.

"The way promoter Gus Cook and his team look after us, especially physio Sara Heretick, it makes it easy to play.

"We always have great games and whoever I play in the final I am sure it will be another tremendous match.

"I just need to learn how to finish off these games when I am ahead because James kept coming back at me tonight.

"That shot he played at the end was incredible."

Matthew meets Ashour in the final after a magnificent win over 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..

He moved 9-6 ahead and successfully repelled Matthew’s late challenge.

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.

He said: “I have lost to Greg a couple of times recently so it was good to get the win. 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.


Quarter Finals

Alan Thatcher Reports

Gaultier Hungry For first Richmond Title

 French ace Gregory Gaultier is on the trail of a first success in the Davenport North American Open.

Runner-up to James Willstrop in 2008, the 30-year-old world number four advanced to the semi-finals with a polished performance to beat Egypt's Amr Shabana in just 34 minutes.

Winning 11-4, 11-4, 11-3, Gaultier continued his run of impressive form in recent weeks.

Gaultier was too tight, too accurate and too consistent for Shabana.

As the tournament moved into the closing stages, so Gaultier moved up to a new level of quality.

Striking the ball cleanly and matching Shabana for inventiveness at the front of the court, he booked his place in the semi-finals with a third consecutive straight-games victory.

It was too one-sided to be a classic, but Gaultier was generous in his praise of his opponent.

He said: "Amr is without doubt the best squash player in the world. He is the one you always look to if you are having some difficult moments, because watching him helps you to get things right in your own mind.

"I will always watch him on TV. He is the player you should watch if want to learn how to hit the ball correctly." 

Gaultier now faces rival Nick Matthew full of confidence after beating England's former world champion in straight games in the final of the recent Swedish Open.

Matthew overcame spirited resistance from England team-mate Peter Barker to win 11-6, 11-7, 11-5 in 49 minutes.

The 32-year-old Matthew admitted to a few lucky mis-hits in the final game, saying: "I was amazed at the number of winning mis-hits I hit in that third game so I ought to apologise to Peter for that."

However,  Matthew was being unnecessarily polite, because his all-round game was solid.

Both players showed excellent court coverage, producing some astonishing retrievals, and at the front of the court they showed that Egypt does not have a monopoly on hitting nicks.

Barker matched his opponent in the early stages of each game, but it was Matthew who finished strongly on each occasion.

Matthew added: "It was a really tough game. Peter has been out with an injury and I think that was the probably the main reason I was able to push through from something like 6-6 in each game.

"Obviously he hasn't had the court time you need to build up your levels of fitness but he played very well and will only get better in the coming weeks and months."

Top seed Ramy Ashour also overcame spirited resistance from the unseeded Simon Rosner before clinching his place in the last four.

The tall German matched Ashour's genius for long spells of the match and fought back superbly in the third to stop the Egyptian winning in straight games, hitting three superb winners at the front before trapping his opponent in the back right corner. 

Ashour took a huge tumble but returned to the court to continue. 

The crowd gasped in admiration at the quality of the squash and the stupendous retrieving.

Ashour now faces Willstrop in the semi-finals after the Englishman enjoyed a rest day following the withdrawal of Karim Darwish through injury.

Ashour said: "That was a great game and there are lots of guys around who are capable of playing top-quality squash. Simon is obviously one of them.

"James is a great player and I'm looking forward to another good match. We always enjoy putting on a great show for this wonderful crowd in Richmond."

Ashour has featured in the last four finals, winning in 2009, losing to Matthew in 2010 and 2012, and finishing runner-up to Willstrop last year.

Click images for larger view, Images Courtesy of  D A N   B O G O S H
2nd Round

Alan Thatcher Reports
Rosner Meets Ramy After Winning Battle Of The Giants

 German ace Simon Rosner meets top seed Ramy Ashour in the quarter-finals of the Davenport North American Open after winning a battle of the giants against No.8 seed Omar Mosaad.

With Rosner 6ft 3in tall, and Egyptian Mosaad an inch taller, there was little room to spare on court at the Westwood Club in Richmond, Virginia.

Rosner (Right and Above with Alan Thatcher) produced a performance of enormous physical commitment and tactical intelligence to deliver the first major upset of this PSA World Series tournament.

With two such tall athletes, there were frequent collisions in mid-court caused by access problems to the ball, mainly on the left-hand wall.

Mosaad used his powerful frame to good effect with a solid opening game but Rosner hit back to take the next two.

As the seven-time German national champion attempted to close in on the fourth, Mosaad finished strongly to take the match into a fifth game.

Rosner started strongly and kept in front all the way, fending off a desperate late revival by the Egyptian to book his place in tomorrow's quarter-finals.

Rosner's tactics worked soundly. His straight lines were accurate, his crosscourts forced a heavily-built opponent to twist and turn, and his drop shots were effective.    

The blockages and clashes caused a tension throughout the match, but the frown disappeared and a huge smile crossed his face as a delighted Rosner finally clinched victory after 82 minutes.

He said: "I lost to Omar in Mexico in November, and that finished 11-9 in the fifth, so I knew what to expect today.

"He's a big guy to get round and there were a lot of traffic jams in the middle of the court.

"It's always a good feeling to beat a seeded player and reach the quarter-finals of a tournament like this."

He faces a tough assignment against Ashour, who was in mesmerizing form as he beat Australian Cameron Pilley.

Ashour won the match in straight games but Pilley had the opportunity to win the third when he held game ball at 10-8, but the Egyptian maestro finished strongly to take the match.

Ashour produced moments of breathtaking genius from various parts of the court, but Pilley was equally impressive with some incredible pick-ups and stunning winners.

In the end, he will reflect on a few tins too many at crucial times.

A delighted Ashour said: "Even though this is my job, you can't think like that. You have to love the game, and respect every part of it. 

"I love coming here to Richmond and playing in front of this great crowd."

Ashour's right leg was encased in a surgical stocking but it did not seem to impair his phenomenal movement.

He said: "It's just a precaution. No single player is ever 100 per cent fit. We all have little niggles and have to deal with a lot of small injuries all the time. That's just part of the game and you have to deal with it.”

Ramy’s brother Hisham lost one of two all-Egyptian battles, going down to number five seed Karim Darwish.

In the other, it was a case of the sorcerer and the apprentice as 33-year-old Amr Shabana overcame Karim Abdel Gawad, a talented opponent 12 years his junior.

Matthew, James Willstrop and Gregory Gaultier all won in straight games ,with Willstrop particularly dominant as he crushed Colombian Miguel Rodriguez 11-1 in the third game.

Number six seed Peter Barker overcame battling Finn Olli Tuominen to set up a quarter-final clash with England team-mate Matthew.

Matthew overcame Trek Momen, who been kept on court for almost an hour and a half the previous evening by American Chris Gordon.

Matthew said: “Chris and I share the same coach, David Pearson, and I discussed tactics with him when he was drawn against tarek. But it’s one thing to offer advice and another to follow it yourself.

"The scoreline doesn't do Tarek justice. It was a very hard-fought match and it's not easy to get a three-love against such a good player.

"I was pleased for Chris last night. I told him not be content with just qualifying for the main draw and he took it on board.

"With so many important tournaments in the States it's good to see a US player contributing so much and engaging the crowd as he did last night. It's certainly good for the game."

Click images for larger view, Images Courtesy of  D A N   B O G O S H
1st Round (Lower Half)

Alan Thatcher Reports

Gordon’s Epic Last Stand As He Enjoys Momen In The Spotlight

Egyptian Tarek Momen clinched a second round clash with No.2 seed Nick Matthew but he had to overcome a phenomenal fightback from American Chris Gordon in the Davenport North American Open.

With Momen (right) leading by two games to love, and seemingly in control, Gordon stepped up the pace, improved his accuracy and reduced his error count. 

He won the third 12-10 and saved five match balls in an astonishing fourth game before winning it 21-19.

It was raw, compelling drama all the way through this PSA World Series battle.

A passionate crowd at the Westwood Club in Richmond, Virginia, cheered every rally Gordon won but Momen stuck to his task in the fifth and powered home 11-5 after 85 minutes of superb sporting entertainment.

Tournament director Gus Cook said: “We need American television executives, and every IOC official in the States, to see a tape of this match to understand the excitement and energy that squash can bring to the TV screen and the Olympic Games.”

After the match a relieved Momen said: "I played Chris here six years ago and that was a 3-2 win, and that was at the back of my mind the whole time.

"Chris kept coming back and played a great match.

"Plus, he had the support of a fantastic home crowd, and I just hope they can cheer for me tomorrow against Nick Matthew."

Gordon, who said he had stumbled around the court like a primate during his qualifying final victory against Zac Alexander, added: "I feel I may have evolved a little over the past two days.

"It was a very special occasion, playing on the glass court in a major world tournament here on American soil, and the crowd were simply amazing.

"Tarek is a superb squash player, but from my point of view I think I played well and felt that I deserved to be here on a world-class stage.”

Matthew, the Richmond champion in 2010 and 2011, had earlier powered his way past Dutchman Laurens Jan Anjema, winning 11-4, 11-3, 11-3 in 40 minutes.

Matthew admitted he was determined to avoid the mistakes that cost him so dearly in last year's tournament, when he was kept on court for too long in the early rounds and ran out of steam when he faced Ramy Ashour in the semi-finals.

This time he meant business from the word go, playing his usual high-pace attack with devastating results.

Crisp volleys, firm drives and tight drops all found their target as he overwhelmed a hard-working opponent.

He said: "LJ is a very dangerous opponent and I wanted to avoid the mistakes I made last year when I spent so much time on court in the early rounds.

"James Willstrop and Ramy Ashour seem to be good at getting their matches over and done with quickly and I need to do the same more often.

"Having said that, no tournament is ever won in the first couple of days but it can easily be lost, so you have to be careful when you come up against opponents like LJ.

"This is a great tournament and it always seems to build momentum as the week goes on, so there's plenty of work still to be done."

All of the leading seeds looked in fine form, with comfortable victories for Gregory Gaultier, Amr Shabana and Peter Barker.

Young Egyptian Karim Abdel Gawad recovered from a worrying head injury to return to court to beat Pakistan’s Yasir Ali Butt.

Leading 9-6 in the fifth game, Butt struck Gawad in the face with his elbow in an accidental collision.

The 21-year-old lay motionless on the floor for several minutes but recovered after treatment to win the game 11-7 and clinch a place in tomorrow’s draw against compatriot Shabana, the four-time world champion.

Click images for larger view, Images Courtesy of  D A N   B O G O S H
1st Round (Top)

Alan Thatcher Reports

Ramy Ashour Safely Through In Richmond

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 has rocked up in Richmond for a tenth anniversary tournament this year.

Ashour (right) 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 as he 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 second 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’s brother Hisham also booked a place in the second round against fellow Egyptian Karim Darwish with a surprise win over the younger and fitter Indian number one Saurav Ghosal.

The 30-year-old Ashour looked a little rusty but still managed to produce a succession of blindingly powerful shots to overcome Ghosal.

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.

Reigning champion James Willstrop looked in dazzling form as he won a Battle of Britain clash against Scottish number one Alan Clyne in straight games in just 28 minutes.

Australian Pilley was even quicker as he blitzed his way past Egyptian qualifier Ali Anwar Reda oin just 27 minutes.

New Yorker Chris Battles Into First Round
Alan Thatcher Reports From Richmond

New Yorker Chris Gordon fought through to the first round of the Davenport North American Open after a brutal qualifying triumph at the Westwood Club in Richmond, Virginia.

Gordon battled back after trailing by two games to one to level the match against Australian Zac Alexander and then had to mount an astonishing recovery from 7-2 down in the fifth before clinching his place in the main draw.

Afterwards he admitted he had begun the fifth game “stumbling around the court like a primate” as Alexander opened a commanding lead.

As Gordon (right) worked his way back into the match, Alexander lost his control. The last seven points won by Gordon told the story. Alexander hit the tin five times, Gordon simply crushed a straight backhand kill, and when match ball arrived Alexander lost the point (and a place in the first round) by conceding a penalty stroke.

Gordon’s reward was a place in the first round on Tuesday against talented young Egyptian Tarek Momen, who is ranked #11 in the world.

After the match Gordon was still trying to work out how he rose to the occasion at the end of the fifth game.

He admitted: "At 6-1 down, I was conscious of only one thing, my feelings towards referee Mike Riley for having the ball cleaned between games.

"I was just stumbling around the court like a primate, trying to keep the ball in play as Zac showed how capable he is of destroying you. 

"I still don't know how I pulled it back but it's a great feeling to reach the first round. I guess I managed to stay calm and kept chipping away.”

In another sensational fightback, featuring a second massive Australian collapse, Pakistan’s Yasir Butt recovered from 10-5 match-ball down In the fourth game to beat Matthew Karwalski.

French players Mathieu Castagnet and Gregoire Marche suffered contrasting fortunes. Castagnet overpowered Hong Kong’s Leo Au but Marche failed to repeat his heroics of last month, when he reached the second round of the Tournament of Champions from qualifying.

Here in Richmond he let slip a 6-0 lead in the fourth game as New Zealander Campbell Grayson regained control to win the game 13-11 and the match 3-1.

Another player to suffer a spectacular collapse was Indian Siddarth Suchde, who held match ball against Ali Anwar Reda before the Egyptian hit back to book a first round clash with Australia’s Cameron Pilley.

Adding more North American flavour to the tournament, Canadian Shawn Delierre overcame Denmark’s Kristian Frost in straight games in a hugely physical contest.

Gordon Keeps Home Hopes Alive In Virginia

American Christopher Gordon kept home hopes flying when he staged a thrilling comeback to beat England's higher-ranked Adrian Waller in the first qualifying round of the Davenport North American Open, the second PSA World Series squash event of the year, in Virginia.

Trailing by two games to one, the 26-year-old from New York hit back to win the fourth game and then clinched a dramatic fifth by a 12-10 margin after 80 minutes of brutal squash on the new courts at the Atlantic Coast Athletic Club in Short Pump, Richmond.

The qualifying finals of the championship, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary in Richmond, move to the glass court at the Westwood Club in Richmond - where Gordon meets Australia's Zac Alexander, who overcame Fred Reid of Canada in just 21 minutes.

Another Canadian who was dismissed in straight games was Andrew Schnell, who suffered traumatic travel difficulties because of a North American blizzard. After several missed flights, he arrived just in time to lose to England's Joe Lee in 36 minutes.

An all-Australian clash ended abruptly when world No29 Ryan Cuskelly was forced to retire against Matthew Karwalski because of an ankle injury.

Karwalski, ranked 56 in the world, meets US-based Pakistani Yasir Ali Butt, who fought back from two games to one down to beat higher-ranked South African Shaun le Roux.

France enjoyed a double success when Mathieu Castagnet beat England's Robbie Temple in straight games, and Gregoire Marche removed Sergio Lopez of Mexico in just 21 minutes.

Denmark's Kristian Frost Olesen battled for almost an hour to upset New Zealander Martin Knight 12-10, 11-7, 11-3 to earn a surprise place in the qualifying finals.

Campbell Grayson ensured that there will be Kiwi interest in the final qualifying round, however, when the 26-year-old from Auckland beat Czech number one Jan Koukal 11-6, 11-7, 11-9.



Ninth Tour Final Beckons For Ramy In Richmond

Egyptian squash star Ramy Ashour is seeded to reach his ninth PSA World Tour final in a row next month at the 2013 Davenport North American Open in Richmond, Virginia.

With a record unequalled since the eras of Pakistan legends Jahangir Khan and Jansher Khan, Ashour made the final of each Tour event he competed in last year - winning five, including the Australian, US and Hong Kong Opens, and the PSA World Championship in December.

And the 25-year-old from Cairo began 2013 in dazzling style by winning the Tournament of Champions in New York after powering back from two games down to beat world No4 Gregory Gaultier in the final at Grand Central Station.

The new world champion, now back at number one in the world, is the top seed for a week of explosive squash at the $115,000 PSA World Series event which is celebrating its tenth anniversary at the Westwood Club.

Despite England's James Willstrop spending 11 months of 2012 as world number one, it was Ashour who was voted PSA 'Player of the Year' - a year he finished in style by winning his second World Championship title in Qatar after overcoming compatriot Mohamed El Shorbagy in the final.

Ashour has reached the last four Richmond finals, beating Nick Matthew in 2009 but then losing to the Englishman two years running.

Last year another Englishman stood in his way of glory, as the tall, methodical, Willstrop produced an immaculate performance of disciplined squash to stop the usual flow of winners from Ramy's racket.

Since then Ashour has been the dominant player on the PSA World Tour, beating Willstrop in the El Gouna International final, the British Open semi-finals, the Hong Kong Open final, and the Tournament of Champions semi-finals in New York.

"I am excited to be back again in one of my favourite tournaments of the year," said top seed Ashour. "The effort Gus Cook, the sponsors and the enthusiastic squash community in Richmond put in year after year just makes it so special and thrilling for us - besides the truly amazing hospitality we get there.

"Everything is well-prepared, well-organised and very comfortable for players to get themselves mentally just right to bring their best game on court.

"I am also glad that the NAO is going to be my first tournament playing officially with Prince rackets after we have officially signed earlier this month," added the world number one. "Hopefully there will be more success for both of us to come in the near future.

"I wish myself (!) and all the rest of the players the best at the tournament," Ashour concluded. "I am looking forward to a big exciting elegant event in Richmond this year - may the best player win!"

Returning to Virginia, Willstrop again finds himself in the same half of the draw as Ashour, with Matthew seeded to meet Gaultier in the other semi-final.

Ashour's ascendancy has highlighted a change in the balance of power at the top of the PSA rankings, with Matthew at two, Willstrop slipping to three and the resurgent French star Gregory Gaultier at four.

Gaultier recently retained his Swedish Open title, beating Matthew in straight games in the final, a repeat of his victory in the NetSuite Open in San Francisco last year.

There are several intriguing clashes in the first round, with reigning champion Willstrop meeting Scotland's Alan Clyne and Dutch No1 Laurens Jan Anjema tackling Matthew.

Ashour meets rising English player Chris Simpson as the Channel Islander continues his remarkable run of daunting first round draws, having faced Amr Shabana in New York and Matthew in Sweden.

Two newcomers to the top 20 are hoping to make significant progress in Richmond. South African Stephen Coppinger tackles seven-time German champion Simon Rosner, while the leading Indian player Saurav Ghosal hopes to cope with the trickery of Ramy's brother Hisham Mohd Ashour.

There could be a marathon encounter between long-match experts Adrian Grant (England) and Canada's wild card Shahier Razik, with the winner due to meet Gaultier in the second round.

The first round of qualifying takes place on the new courts at the ACAC centre at Short Pump on Saturday (23 February), before the qualifying finals switch to the glass court at the Westwood Club the following day.

The first round action gets under way at the Westwood Club on Monday, with the final scheduled for the following Saturday 2nd March.