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Pace Canadian Classic 2008
John Bassett Theatre at Metro Toronto Convention Centre

February 12-16, 2008

Ashour Takes Advantage Of Rusty Shabana

Toronto - “When the top two players meet, there is no strategy – the player who plays best wins,” said Amr Shabana, the Egyptian World Champion and World #1, who lost 3/1 to Ramy Ashour in the final of the PACE Canadian Squash Classic played at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

For World Champion Shabana it could have been a nightmare, losing the first two games in just 12 minutes to the World #2 Ramy Ashour from Cairo, Egypt.

The first game was a surprise as Ashour cruised effortlessly to an 11-2 victory in just over four minutes. He summed it up later: “It seemed that Shabana was not really there tonight.” 

But Shabana pulled his act together in the second game and made Ashour work for every point.  The quality of squash rose sharply and the full house was treated to the full gamut of Egyptian squash – constant attack and sublime winners.  Shabana led to 6-6 and then went ahead with two superb winners. It seem as though he now had the measure of the young pretender. And then a dreadful string of three errors followed and Ashour had the second game with the possibility of a three game whitewash.

Shabana finally brought his total persona onto the court in the third game and took charge from the first point, moving Ashour around, hitting his signature winners with lots of cross court action. The pace was hectic and the accuracy from both players was formidable.  Shabana was now in full swing and took the third game, hinting at a full five game final.

But the let-down came in the fourth, with Shabana hitting four errors in the first six rallies. Ashour kept up his impeccable and impenetrable game to lead 10-4. The next rally ended strangely; Shabana had given up and was ready to shake hands, but Ashour hit the tin. Shabana managed a couple of more points, contested a wonderfully creative rally before putting the ball into the tin to end it all in favour of Ashour, whose name will be added for the second time to the Canadian Classic trophy, presented by PACE Savings and Credit Union 

Shabana explained his “absence” from the match by saying he was rusty.

“That’s what happens if you have not been playing competitive squash (referring to his break due to a wrist injury after the World Team Championships in mid December). If you do not play at 110 percent against Ramy, you lose. I am just happy to be playing and to be injury free.  I didn’t know how I was going to play when I came to Toronto – lose in the first or second round – so to make the final makes me happy,” he said.

Ashour admitted that his victory was easily earned, observing that Shabana was “not really there. But I also felt in very high spirits, very confident. And when I saw that Shabana was taking a step backwards, I stepped up the court.  I stopped doing that in the third and he won it,” he said, adding that he felt he played the best tonight of the entire tournament.

This second tournament win in the Players’ Cup Series put Ashour firmly at the top of the points table with David Palmer retaining second spot, James Willstrop third and Karim Darwish of Egypt moving into fourth place.



Semi Finals

Quarter Finals

.  Second Round
.  First Round


Follow the action from the PSA World Tour live

Ramy Ashour takes the Finak aginst Fellow Egyptian and World No. 1 Amr Shabana

Egyptians World No: 1
Amr Shabana and Below World No: 2 Ramy Ashour Line Up in Toronto



Canadian Classic 2008
Toronto, Canada, 11-16 Feb, $60k
Round One
[1] Amr Shabana (Egy)
11-4, 11-9, 11-7 (26m)
Matthew Giuffre (Can)
Amr Shabana
11-10 (5-3), 11-5, 9-11, 5-0 ret. (48m)
Mohammed Abbas
Amr Shabana
11-9, 11-9, 5-11, 11-7 (60m)
Wael El Hindi

Amr Shabana
11-2, 11-9 8-11, 11-8  (38mins)
Ramy Ashour
[7] Mohammed Abbas (Egy)
11-7, 11-4, 11-4 (33m)
[Q] Yasser El Halaby (Egy)
[3] David Palmer (Aus)
11-4, 11-5, 10-11 (4-6), 11-4 (72m)
Cameron Pilley (Aus)
Cameron Pilley
11-5, 11-7, 8-11, 11-5 (75m)
Wael El Hindi
[5] Wael El Hindi (Egy)
11-7, 11-8, 11-4 (46m)
[Q] Shawn Delierre (Can)
Hisham Ashour (Egy)
11-4, 11-4, 11-8 (35m)
[6] Stewart Boswell (Aus)
Stewart Boswell
11-6, 11-7, 11-0 (37m)
Karim Darwish
Karim Darwish
11-4, 11-7, 8-11, 11-5 (52m)
Ramy Ashour
[Q] Eric Galvez (Mex)
11-8, 11-5, 11-9 (36m)
[4] Karim Darwish (Egy)
Miguel Angel Rodriguez (Col)
11-8, 11-8, 11-7 (47m)
[8] Shahier Razik (Can)
Shahier Razik
11-1, 11-8, 11-7 (35m)
Ramy Ashour
[Q] Jan Koukal (Cze)
11-9, 11-7, 11-6 (30m)
[2] Ramy Ashour (Egy)

Qualifying finals:

Eric Galvez (MEX) bt Robin Clarke (CAN)                        11-9, 11-4, 11-7 (40m)

Yasser El Halaby (EGY) bt David Phillips (CAN)                11-4, 11-8, 11-2 (25m)

Jan Koukal (CZE) bt Mark Krajcsak (HUN)                      11-9, 6-11, 7-11, 11-7, 11-7 (80m)

Shawn Delierre (CAN) bt Khawaja Adil Maqbool (PAK)    11-5, 11-1, 11-5 (26m)


Toronto Beckons Classic Final


The world's top two squash players Amr Shabana and Ramy Ashour, both from Egypt, will contest a dream final of the PACE Canadian Classic after felling fellow Egyptians in four games in the semi-finals of the 5-star PSA Tour event at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in Toronto.


After beating fourth seed Karim Darwish 11-4, 11-7, 8-11, 11-5 in the first semi-final, world number two Ramy Ashour admitted that he had guilt problems, which caused him to throw away the last two points of the third game.


“I knew my ball was good, but Darwish was so sure it was down, I began to feel guilty about taking the point and then hit the next ball into the ground,” explained the No2 seed and defending champion.


All Freudian confessions aside, Ashour was in top form from the very first rally and took the first game in just six minutes.  Darwish admitted later that he started flat and defensive – “which you can’t do against Ashour who attacks from the start and is so accurate.”


Darwish picked up his pace in the second game, but Ashour worked his incredible speed and accuracy to take the game.


The score was eight-all in the third when a controversial call occurred, followed by an animated discussion between the two players.  Ashour, obviously upset, gave away the final game points.


Turning anger into overdrive, 20-year-old Ashour returned after a two-minute break, delivering a barrage of shots for which Darwish had no answers.  Ashour won the game handily in less than eight minutes, earning his final berth - his 13th PSA Tour final since November 2004.


Favourite Shabana was sharp and relaxed in his semi-final against Wael El Hindi, the fifth seed.  But, instead of being the killer shot, his forehand drop was letting him down - hitting the tin and giving El Hindi a number of lifelines.  This allowed the UK-based 27-year-old to keep in touch with Shabana to nine-all, but a lucky nick at the back put Shabana at game ball and he was gifted the final point with an error from El Hindi.


After building up a two-game lead, Shabana went walkabout in the third game, allowing El Hindi to take it fairly comfortably.  But the 2006 champion went up a notch in the fourth game, and Shabana clinched the match 11-9, 11-9, 5-11, 11-7 in 60 minutes to claim the 27th Tour final appearance of his career, and the fifth in a row.


El Hindi said later that he should have won that first game.


“It would have been different if I had not been so loose. I relaxed too much and you can’t relax against guys like Shabana.  Against Shabana and Ashour, you have to play every point like it’s match point.  I haven’t yet learned to get that level of concentration.  With me it comes in waves,” he said, adding that he felt he had a good tournament.


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Egypt Rules In Toronto


Despite a lapse in the third game, Wael El Hindi of Egypt took charge of his quarter-final match against Australian Cameron Pilley to book the final place in the last four of the PACE Canadian Classic to complete an all-Egyptian semi-final line-up in the 5-star PSA Tour squash event at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in Toronto.


Fifth seed El Hindi cruised through the opening exchanges, controlling the first game and putting unseeded Pilley, the world No23 who earlier upset third-seeded compatriot David Palmer, under constant pressure.  Pilley fared a little better in the second game, but was still making mistakes at crucial points. 


When the 27-year-old from Giza won that game, it appeared it was all over - but the third game saw Pilley take control.  The 25-year-old from New South Wales won the long game, looking as though he could turn the match around.


But El Hindi upped the pace in the fourth, taking control and winning it easily to record an 11-5, 11-7, 8-11, 11-5 victory in 75 minutes.


“I don’t know why I changed the pace in the third game,” El Hindi chided himself later. “I suppose I relaxed and let the pace slow down.  We were in each others way with a lot of lets.  In the fourth game I picked the pace up and did what I should have done all along."


He will now meet world No1 Amr Shabana in the semi-finals. Shabana had a shortened evening when his opponent, compatriot Mohammed Abbas, had to retire in the fourth game due a foot problem that occurred two days ago.


“I was in pain the whole time and finally could not continue with my foot in the shoe,” said a despondent Abbas after his 11-10 (5-3), 11-5, 9-11, 5-0 (ret.) defeat.


Meanwhile Shabana joked that it will be like playing in the Egyptian Nationals – all the semi-final players are Egyptian.  “Next year we should hold the PACE Canadian Squash Classic in Cairo," quipped the world champion.


Canada’s top player Shahier Razik experienced the full force of Egypt’s boy wonder Ramy Ashour as he bowed in straight games in an earlier quarter final.


After the match, Razik was asked if he will do anything different next time he meets the mighty Ashour.


“Yeah - I’ll take a cup of coffee before the match so I don’t fall asleep in the first game,” he replied, referring to his 11-1 drubbing in the four-minute opener.


Razik, who moved from Cairo to Canada at the age of 12, got up to speed in the second game and needed all his considerable experience to stay in touch with the 20-year-old world No2.  Although Razik played well, Ashour’s accuracy and speed was too much for the Canadian who ultimately went down 11-1, 11-8, 11-7 in 35 minutes.


Ashour will now meet fellow countryman Karim Darwish after the fourth seed cruised to an 11-6, 11-7, 11-0 over sixth-seeded Australian Stewart Boswell.


“Yesterday and today, my opponents were not as competitive as Shabana or Darwish, so I don’t know if I am back to top form,” explained Ashour, who returned to match play recently after two months off with a heel injury.


“I had pain yesterday, but not today.  Shahier let me get the first game, but then he played really well – much more than I expected.  Fortunately there was no pain in my foot.”

Pilley Punishes Palmer In Pace Upset


Australia's world No4 David Palmer suffered his first opening round defeat on the PSA Tour for two and a half years when he was beaten by compatriot Cameron Pilley in the first round of the PACE Canadian Squash Classic at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in Toronto.


In the pair's second clash this year, 25-year-old Pilley, from New South Wales, beat the former world champion, also from New South Wales, 11-4, 11-5, 10-11 (4-6), 11-4 in 72 minutes.


Palmer revealed later that he had injured his back in training three days ago. 


“I spent four hours today with the physio in an attempt to loosen the back up, but on the third point of the first game, it locked up,” explained the 31-year-old.  When asked whether it had been wise to carry on, Palmer replied: “I guess not, but I just hate to lose.”


Pilley goes on to face Wael El Hindi, the fifth seed from Egypt who beat Canadian qualifier Shawn Delierre 11-7, 11-8, 11-4.


Top-ranked Canadian Shahier Razik, ranked 22 in the world, earned his way to the quarter-finals with a 3/0 victory over the 29th ranked Miguel Angel Rodriguez of Colombia.  Fellow Canadian Matthew Giuffre, of Edmonton, lost in straight games to the reigning world champion and world No1 Amr Shabana of Egypt.


Shabana, playing his first tournament this year, showed no rusty signs in his first round match.  The 28-year-old from Giza took just 26 minutes to finish Giuffre with a dazzling array of winners and inch-perfect length that left the Canadian without any answers. 


“I couldn’t handle his length and accuracy,” Giuffre commented after the match.  “It’s awesome playing the best in the world.  I wasn’t shell-shocked because I used to play Jonathon Power a lot.  But I simply don’t get that level of opposition back in Edmonton.” 


When asked to compare the great Canadian, (now retired from professional squash) and Shabana, Giuffre said that Power was the more aggressive player.  “He hit the ball harder than Shabana, but Shabana is so incredibly accurate.”


Troubled with a wrist problem, Shabana has not played a tournament for almost two months.


“I took four weeks off after the World Team Championships in December and only started practising a month ago.  Right now, I’m relaxed because I am happy to be playing.  When you have an injury you never know if you will play again,” said the Egyptian who won the PACE Canadian Classic two years ago.


Koukal Crowns Krajcsak For Ramy Reward In Canada


Czech number one Jan Koukal fought back from two-games-to-one down in the qualifying finals of the PACE Canadian Classic to earn a meeting with Egypt's world number two Ramy Ashour in the first round of the $60,000 5-star PSA Tour squash at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in Toronto.


The 24-year-old from Prague took 80 minutes to get the better of Krajcsak 11-9, 6-11, 7-11, 11-7, 11-7 - and was then drawn to face Ashour, the 20-year-old second seed from Cairo who is unbeaten so far this year.


Defending champion Ashour, who won the first major PSA Tour event of the New Year at the Tournament of Champions in New York after missing out on the World Open at the end of last year due to injury, is due to face top-seeded compatriot Amr Shabana in Saturday's final.


Shabana has also been suffering with injury problems:  Winner of the world title in Bermuda, the 28-year-old from Giza will be making his 2008 Tour debut in Toronto after being out of action this year with a wrist injury.



Toronto — As a three-time tournament champion, Jonathon Power has fond memories of the PACE Canadian Squash Classic, held February 13 to 16, in the John Bassett Theatre at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

There was his inaugural victory in 2000, a thrilling five-game match win against Australia’s David Palmer in 2003, with many other final appearances to follow.

But his favourite memory is from 2002, when Power fought through injury to defeat his arch rival, England’s Peter Nichol. The Canadian champion had been up 2-0 when he rolled on his ankle and called a time-out. After receiving treatment, he hobbled back onto the court and finished what he started.
“I remember taking an injection and getting my ankle strapped up,” said Power, “while the rowdy crowd got to drink for an hour waiting for the match to continue. Being able to finish him off in the fourth game to take the title was the highlight of the Canadian Classic for me.”
Power retired from playing competitive squash two years ago, but his mark on the sport is sure to last forever.
During his storied 15 year career, the Canadian legend won 36 PSA tournaments, captured gold at the 2002 Commonwealth Games and is one of the few professional athletes to retire as World No. 1.
Though he is no longer competing, Power is still the face – and voice – of the sport.
For the second year, the 32 year old will be the Honourary Players’ Chairman at the PACE Canadian Squash Classic. His main role is to do what came naturally during his storied 15 year playing career: speak up.

Power will be front and center at the event he won a record three times. He will provide colour commentary for the High Definition TSN broadcast, break down most matches for live fans and be around to regale in past triumphs and generally talk squash with fans.
“He’s definitely someone who’s quick to tell you his opinion,” joked tournament organizer John Nimick. “The key thing he’s doing is giving the pre-match analysis, so fans will be able to hear him talk about the match that they’re going to see. From a spectator standpoint, to have an icon from Canadian squash describe the match is a huge advantage.”
Perhaps no other squash player has had as much influence on the game as Power did when he turned pro in 1991. From a technical standpoint, his attacking style and inventive shot selection won him support all over the world and changed how people play today. But what made him the “people’s champion” was his personality.
For challenging calls and getting into heated discussions with referees, Power was often referred to as the John McEnroe of squash. Purists may have thought his behaviour bordered on ungentlemanly, but fans loved him for it.
Those same fans are likely to get a taste of Power’s gregarious nature now that the 32 year old is being encouraged to have an opinion.
“My role is to mainly be around the tournament, introduce and talk a little about the players before each match,” said Power. “As well, I’m doing some of the tv commentating for the semis and finals. Also, I’ll get on court with some of the sponsors and keep them excited about squash and this tournament.”
Power may also get on court to show that he can still play.
“I certainly can’t give it up,” he said. “I’m still playing regularly with (top-ranked Canadian) Shahier Razik and some of the other up and coming Canadian players, to keep in shape. I find I can’t get as good a workout doing anything other than squash.”
“I do miss a few things about playing on the tour, but I’m happy about the decision I made. It was the right time for me to go. I had played the circuit 15 years full time and finished the year at No. 1 in the world. I just felt that there were other things waiting for me,” says Power who now resides in Toronto with his wife and baby daughter.
Some of those things include mentoring up-and-coming players and helping the sport grow behind the scenes.

“There are a lot more juniors playing the tournaments these days and there is growth in general for squash throughout Canada,” he said. “I’m committing a lot of my time to help improve the level of our junior players in order to compete on the international scene.”
While the PACE Canadian Squash Classic will showcase the world’s top two players – 2006 champion Amr Shabana and 2007 winner Ramy Ashour – for most fans the tournament will always belong to Power.
“I think he should be the face, image and really the character of the Canadian Classic for the next 20 years,” said Nimick. “I think he could really make this tournament his event. We’re certainly excited about having him continue to be here.”

Toronto — As the top-seeded Canadian, Shahier Razik understands there is a pressure to perform at the Pace Canadian Classic held February 13 to 16 in the John Bassett Theatre at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

It was five years ago that the Toronto native watched his compatriot Jonathon Power dismantle Australian former World Open Champion David Palmer to win his record third victory in this major PSA World Tour Event.

Now, with the retired Canadian squash legend watching courtside as the tournament’s honourary Players Chairman and TSN colour commentator, Razik, seeded 8th, will attempt to carry on the winning tradition.

It is a challenge that the World No. 21 is ready and willing to pursue.

“Definitely, the people are going to be looking for me to keep the flag going,” said Razik, who has failed to advance past the first round in three Canadian Classics.

“Jonathon put squash on the board for Canada. I know I haven’t had a lot of success at the Pace Canadian Classic, but I’m planning to change that.”

Razik is fresh after defeating Pakistan’s Majid Khan to win the Talisman Energy Bankers Hall Open in Calgary. It was the tour veteran’s 18th PSA title and 27th final appearance.

The 30-year-old Razik, who will play Columbia’s Miguel Angel Rodriguez (ranked 30th) in the first round of the Canadian Classic, is looking to end his streak of bad luck at his home tournament.

“Shahier has a great chance to win his first round match,” said Dennis Goodfellow, Head Professional at the Toronto Athletic Club. “He knows the court, so it’s like home territory for him. And the fans will be very supportive.”

As Canada’s second-ranked player, Matthew Giuffre is setting somewhat lower expectations.

The 12th-seeded player from Edmonton, who is ranked 59th in the world, said he would be content with winning a single game from his first round opponent. Giuffre has the distinct pleasure of playing Egypt’s World No. 1 Amr Shabana for the first round of the tournament on Wednesday evening.

Giuffre said the challenge is not unlike a club tennis player trying to return 140 mph serves from Roger Federer. But that he plans to do Canada proud.

“It’s cool, because I’ve never played him before,” Giuffre said of facing Shabana. “Who knows? Anything can happen on the court. I’m not making any promises, but I’ll do my best. I don’t know if there’s more pressure on us as Canadians.  But there’s definitely internal pressure to succeed that’s fueling me.”

It was not long ago that the fans came to the Pace Canadian Classic to watch Power demonstrate his homegrown squash skills. That hasn’t changed.

Power will be trading his signature on-court antics and acrobatic shots for equally dynamic live on-site action coverage each evening of the tournament. His first-hand knowledge of the psychological subtleties of the sport and its key players will provide both tv and live audiences with an insider perspective at a tournament which has drawn many of the top players in the world, including the top three: Shabana, Ramy Ashour also from Egypt, and David Palmer.  “We’re not as strong as when Jonathon was playing,” Giuffre said of the Canadian content. “But I think there’s a lot of depth. And a lot of fresh talent coming up the ranks.”

Some of those on the brink of taking the next step are David Phillips (World No. 65), Robin Clarke (World No. 79) and Ian Power (World No. 104) who are among the Canadians who will attempt to qualify for entry into the main draw with qualifying matches Monday, February 12th and Tuesday, February 13th at the Toronto Athletic Club and the Badminton & Racquet Club.

Phillips, a 27-year-old from Montreal, has never qualified for the Pace Canadian Classic. But in the last 17 months, he has improved his ranking from 118th in the world to his current No. 65 standing.

Clarke, who is only 21 years old, was a national Under-14 and Under-17 champion. The Toronto native recently won the silver medal in the team event at the 2007 Pan-American Championships.

Ian Power is the younger brother of the former World No. 1 squash legend, who was known as much for his creative shots as he was for his on-court verbal jousting. Though it is unfair to compare the two siblings, fans are likely to notice the similarities in their on-court demeanor.

“He’s a solid, competitive grinder,” Goodfellow said of Ian Power. “What I like about Ian is that he doesn’t give up much and he’ll let the ref know when he’s made a questionable call.”




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