SHABANA WINS AON US OPEN TITLE IN CHICAGO
From ALAN THATCHER in Chicago
Shabana overcame a phenomenal fightback from top seed Ramy Ashour to
win the Aon US Open final in Chicago.
Shabana raced through the opening
two games with some astonishing winners to delight a sell-out crowd
around the glass court set up in the open air off Chicago's Michigan
Avenue, known as the Magnificent Mile.
Number two seed Shabana was
certainly in magnificent form and a quick finish seemed on the cards
as he won the second 11-2. Shabana opened up a 4-0 lead in the third
game but Ashour began to work his way into the match, taking control
from 4-6 down to win 11-7.
Despite that confidence booster,
the 21-year-old world champion made a slow start to the fourth game
and Shabana won the first five points and maintained that lead to
stand within three points of the title at 8-3.
However, Ashour stepped up the
pace and produced a succession of blinding winners as the crowd
roared their encouragement. Shabana held match ball at 10-7 but
Ashour won five points in a row to force the tiebreak and lead
12-11. Shabana levelled at 12-12 but Ashour maintained his push to
clinch the game 14-12.
The crowd, boosted by hundreds of spectators enjoying a free view of
the action through the front wall, were delighted that the match was
heading for a fifth game. Ashour led 3-1 at the start of the final
game but Shabana regained control to lead 9-5. Ashour won the next
two points and then sportingly conceded that a backhand drop shot
was down as Shabana screamed at the referee.
gesture gave Shabana match ball at 10-7 and although Ashour
claimed one more point the 30-year-old closed out an entertaining
contest in 57 minutes of spellbinding squash.
Shabana said: "Ramy is such a
great player and as a world champion at 21 years old he seems to
have been around for years.
"He came back very strongly to win
the third and fourth games and I was pleased to win the fifth game.
"The players have all enjoyed this
tournament in Chicago and it's great to see such big crowds around
the court every night."
The players earned warm applause
for providing an evening of outstanding entertainment and Ashour was
given an extra ovation for his sportsmanship.
He said: "As professional players
we have to be honest with each other on court, even though it gave
Shabana match ball. Shabana played very well tonight and made it
hard for me in large parts of the match.
"I know I should be angry for
losing but I am happy that we made the match very entertaining for
HURRICANE SQUASH HITS WINDY CITY AS EGYPTIANS RACE TO
By ALAN THATCHER in Chicago
Egyptian superstars Ramy Ashour and Amr Shabana blitzed their way
into the final of the Aon US Open with straight-game victories over
James Willstrop and David Palmer in the semi-finals.
Shabana took 42 minutes to beat Willstrop 11-7, 11-4, 11-9 and
Ashour took ten minutes less to overcome Palmer 11-8, 12-10, 11-8.
Those two dazzling performances underlined Egypt's global dominance
in the sport and set up a mouthwatering clash between the
tournament's top two seeds.
Willstrop, who took 85 minutes to beat England team-mate Peter
barker in the quarter-finals the previous evening, started
sluggishly and Shabana raced to a 6-0 lead. Once Willstrop settled
he threatened to turn the tables and pulled the score back to 6-8
but Shabana quickly closed out the game.
Shabana kept the ball fast, tight and low as he had the 6ft 5in
Willstrop at full stretch and the three-time world champion from
Cairo raced through the second game 11-4, bringing a huge cheer from
another sell-out crowd with an outrageous angled kill shot.
Willstrop battled bravely in the third game but Shabana finished
strongly to reach his second final of the season after winning the
Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur last month.
will need to be at his brilliant best to stop compatriot Ashour, who
is nine years his junior. The reigning World Open champion produced
one of his best career performances to overwhelm Palmer with a
stunning display of high-speed attacking squash.
Ashour won the opening game in just eight minutes but Palmer
responded solidly in the second to reach game ball, only for Ashour
to claw back the points to win the tiebreak 12-10.
As well as Palmer played, he was unable to stem the tide as Ashour
conjured up more magical shots in the third game.
A smiling Ashour said: "I am so happy to be in the final. Amr and I
always have great matches and we are just pleased to be able to
entertain such a fantastic audience here in Chicago.
"This has to be one of the best venues for squash anywhere in the
world and the crowds have been great all week. That applause helps
us to play better."
Shabana was extremely gracious in victory, acknowledging Willstrop's
valiant efforts on his return from an ankle injury. He said: "James
has come back very quickly after a serious operation and he is
always a very difficult opponent.
"It is always a good feeling to be in a final, and I know Ramy is
playing brilliantly at the moment. We hope to put on a great final
for this wonderful crowd."
RAMPANT RAMY ROARS
INTO LAST FOUR
By ALAN THATCHER in Chicago
Top seed Ramy Ashour was in
devastating form as he powered into the semi-finals of the Aon US
Open in Chicago. The 21-year-old world champion produced a dazzling
array of spectacular winners to beat fellow Egyptian Wael El Hindi
in straight games in the quarter-finals.
Ashour launched a blistering
attack from the start of the match and won the opening two games in
quick fashion with a succession of unplayable shots.
El Hindi led for much of the third
game but Ashour clinched the tiebreak 13-11 to book a place in the
last four against Australia's David Palmer.
Ashour said: "I was very happy
with the way I played and I hope it was entertaining for the crowd.
I am still learning new ways to play the game and I always enjoy
trying new shots."
Palmer, the 2002 US Open champion,
also won in straight-games against Olli Tuominen of Finland. It was
a repeat of Palmer's semi-final victory over the same opponent as he
won last week's Colombian Open in Bogota.
This time Tuominen started
strongly but he wasted several game balls as Palmer took the opening
encounter 14-12 on a tiebreak after 20 minutes of physical play
littered with lets and penalty strokes.
Palmer dominated play in the
second and third games to book his place in the last four against
Ashour and said: "I knew it would be tough because I have played
Olli so many times and knew what to expect. We seem to play each
other seven or eight times a season so I'm not quite sure what's
happening with the PSA computer.
"I was very pleased to beat Olli
on a plaster court at altitude in Colombia last week because I
thought those conditions might favour his game, but I like playing
on this glass court and always felt conditions this week would
No.7 seed James Willstrop
triumphed against fellow Englishman Peter Barker in the longest
match of the night in front of a sell-out crowd around the open-air
glass court off Michigan Avenue.
Willstrop won a brutal battle
11-8, 13-15, 11-9, 11-13, 11-8 in 85 minutes of high-quality squash
against the No.4 seed Barker, who won last year's Sweet Home Chicago
Open at the same stunning venue.
The result left Barker still
seeking his first win against Willstrop after 15 defeats, but this
was one of their closest ever encounters as Barker won two tiebreaks
to take the match the full distance.
After closing out the first game,
Willstrop wasted four game balls in the second before Barker won the
tiebreak 15-13. Willstrop edged the third but Barker hit back again
to win the fourth game tiebreak. Willstrop started the fifth game
strongly and withstood a spirited recovery by his international
team-mate to reach the semi-finals.
Willstrop, who played the game
with his right ankle heavily strapped, admitted: "This is such a
crazy game. The damage we do to our bodies is ridiculous. We throw
ourselves all over court, we wake up the next day with aching
bodies, and then we show up the next night and do it all again."
Willstrop faces No.2 seed Amr
Shabana in the semi-finals after the three-time world champion from
Cairo overcame England's Adrian Grant.
Grant tried to match Shabana's
shot-making ability but fell in four games of high-quality squash.
Shabana said: "Adrian looked on
fire tonight, He is a very good player and was attacking a lot more
than usual. James and I always have crazy matches and it should be a
very entertaining semi-final."
With another sell-out guaranteed
for the semi-finals, organisers were looking into the possibility of
installing more temporary seating before tonight's programme gets
WILLSTROP WEATHERS THE STORM IN WINDY CITY
THATCHER in Chicago
Willstrop, returning to competition after an ankle operation in the
summer, survived an injury scare and a phenomenal challenge from
American qualifier Julian Illingworth to reach the quarter-finals of
the Aon US Open in Chicago.
Willstrop, who has not
played since the ISS Canary Wharf Classic in London in March, won
11-9, 11-9, 7-11, 11-9 in 63 minutes of physically demanding combat
and admitted:"I was very relieved to get off court with a win in my
first match back. You never know how you are going to shape up in
your first match of the season, especially after being out of action
for so long.
"First round matches
can sometimes be one-sided but I knew that was never going to be the
case with Julian. He played out of his skin and showed what a good
player he can be. The crowd were on his side and Julian gave them
plenty to cheer."
Willstrop entered the open-air glass court with
his right ankle heavily strapped and within a handful of rallied he
was limping after an accidental collision in mid-court. Willstrop
said: "Julian's knee caught me in the calf and the last thing you
want is a dead-leg that early in any match, let alone in your first
match back after injury."
The match featured several astonishing twists
and turns as Willstrop hit back from 6-3 down in the first game and
6-1 down in the second to open up a two-game advantage. The effort
seemed to take its toll as Illingworth won the third game but
Willstrop hit back solidly to lead 8-2 in the fourth.
Then it was Illingworth's turn to mount a
spectacular recovery and he won six points in a row to draw level
after a succession of brutal rallies. However, he failed to press
home the advantage and some tired mistakes gifted the match to
Willstrop. The home crowd immediately rose to their feet to give
both players a thoroughly deserved standing ovation.
Illingworth said: "I
was disappointed not to do better but it seemed that James was
putting me under huge pressure for most of the match, and I was
unable to do the same to him."
England team-mate Peter Barker in the quarter-finals after the
left-hander from London removed the second American in the main
draw. Wild card Gilly Lane, from Philadelphia, was 10-6 up in the
third game but produced a succession of errors to give Barker a
World number 77 Lane
said: "It was always going to be difficult against a player like
Peter and I just got a bit over-excited at the end of that third
game. I was pleased with the way I played and it was a wonderful
experience to appear on the glass court against such a good player."
Adrian Grant made it
three Englishmen in the quarter-finals after beating Indian No.1
Saurav Ghosal 11-8, 11-9, 12-10 and he now faces the prospect of
meeting fellow left-hander Amr Shabana, the three-time world
champion who was in devastating form as he achieved a
lightning-quick victory over Canadian No.1 Shahier Razik.
Top seed Ramy Ashour
meets fellow Egyptian Wael El Hindi and former world champion David
Palmer meets Finland's Olli Tuominen.
WORLD CHAMPION ASHOUR LEADS EGYPTIAN ATTACK
THATCHER in Chicago
Aon US Open, the first major glass-court tournament of the new
season, has a familiar feeling with a dominant Egyptian contingent
led by world champion Ramy Ashour.
Ashour powered through his first
round clash with 19-year-old English qualifier Adrian Waller,
winning 11-2, 11-8, 11-6 inside 23 minutes.
Top seed Ashour was pleased with
his first outing on the glass court set up in the open air in
downtown Chicago. He said: "This is a fantastic setting for a big
squash tournament. After playing the Windy City Open two years ago
this is my second visit to Chicago and I love it here. The people
are so warm and friendly it's just like being back home in Egypt. I
love the architecture of the city and it's a very special place. I
enjoyed my match with Adrian and he played very well after making a
Ashour's victory clinched a quarter-final tie with fellow Egyptian
Wael El Hindi. Number six seed El Hindi also faced a qualifier but
was kept on court for 87 minutes by Australian Aaron Frankcomb
before winning 11-9, 15-13, 10-12, 11-5 in a match littered with
stoppages caused by lets and the early evening sun casting shadows
across the court.
Like Ashour, El Hindi is enjoying
a love affair with the USA. He is touring professional at the City
View Squash Club in Queen's, New York, and is promising to unveil a
new Rafa Nadal-style clothing range when he takes to the court
After sporting a plain white
T-shirt with the City View emblem, he said: "No, I'm not dropping
the sleeveless shirts. I will be wearing a new range against Ramy in
The only Egyptian casualty on the
open-air glass court was Ashour's brother, Hisham, who was
despatched in straight games by Finland's Olli Tuominen.
Australia's former world champion
David Palmer made a sluggish start against England's Tom Richards
and was clearly feeling the effects of his marathon victory over
Spain's Borja Golan in the final of the Colombian Open on Sunday.
Palmer lost the first game against Richards and later admitted:
"That was my first glass-court tournament since winning at Canary
Wharf in London in March and I struggled to see the ball at all. I
wasn't feeling well and I hope I will be OK for the quarter-finals
Tonight sees the bottom half of
the draw with Americans Julian Illingworth and Gilly Lane taking
centre stage against English opponents James Willstrop and Peter
Barker, who won last year's Sweet Home Chicago Open against Palmer
at the same venue.
Illingworth flies flag for US
Home hope Julian Illingworth powered into the first round of the Aon
US Open Squash Championship in Chicago after beating Ireland's Liam
Kenny in the qualifying finals.
Illingworth, from Portland, Oregon, won 11-4, 12-14, 11-7, 11-5 in
an absorbing contest lasting 67 minutes to clinch a first round
clash with England's James Willstrop, the number seven seed, on
Kenny was overwhelmed by Illingworth's high-paced attack in the
opening game but fought back strongly to lead throughout the second.
Illingworth clawed his way back to take the game to a tiebreak and
held game ball when Kenny struck a volley into the tin. However, the
Irishman showed great composure to win the next three points to
close out the game 14-12 after some phenomenally brutal rallies.
That enormous effort clearly took its toll on Kenny as Illingworth
regained control in the third game, maintaining his form throughout
the fourth to clinch his place against Willstrop.
Illingworth said: "I was really happy with how I started the match
but I don't really know what happened in the second. I was behind
all the way there until I held game ball. I was glad to get it
together again in the third and fourth."
Illingworth knows he faces a tall order in stopping the 6ft 5in
Willstrop, who is returning to the PSA World Tour after an ankle
operation five months ago.
Illingworth added: "I know James is one of the most talented players
in the world so I am expecting a tough match. We did a summer coach
camp together in Boulder, Colorado, but I have never played him in a
tournament before. He was ranked two in the world not so long ago
and obviously he has a false ranking at the moment because of his
injuries last season. It will be nice to have some home support on
the glass court. I might need it!"
Fellow American Chris Gordon failed to join his compatriot in the
main draw after falling in straight games to rising English ace Tom
Richards, who won 11-6, 11-4, 11-8 victory in 32 minutes to book a
first round tie against Australia's David Palmer, who won the
Colombian Open in Bogota on Sunday.
The tournament top seed, world champion Ramy Ashour of Egypt, meets
English qualifier Adrian Waller, who beat compatriot Joe Lee in
Aaron Frankcomb, of Australia, beat Martin Knight of New Zealand to
book a first round meeting with number six seed Wael El Hindi of
The Aon US Open is the only tournament in America to be staged in an
open-air setting, and the spectacular surroundings of Pioneer Court
in downtown Chicago will be echoing to the sound of the world's
leading professionals crashing the ball against the all-glass McWil
court throughout the rest of this week.
Tournament promoter Imran Nasir said: "We had some tremendous
matches in the qualifying competition and now it's down to the
serious business in the main draw. We had some terrible weather for
the tournament last year, with the tail-end of a hurricane
disrupting the event, but we are keeping our fingers crossed that
today's glorious sunshine lasts for the rest of the week.
"It's good to see Julian Illingworth in the main draw. Last year he
lost 11-9 in the fifth to John White in one of the longest matches
of the tournament and we all hope that he can produce a major career
breakthrough with a victory against James Willstrop."
US Open Attracts
AON As Title Sponsor
The US Open Squash Championship has provided a significant
boost for the sport with the announcement of Aon, the leading
global provider of risk management and human capital solutions, as
title sponsor of the forthcoming PSA World Tour tournament,
from 2-6 September, in Chicago.
"We are delighted to welcome Aon aboard as title sponsor," said
Tournament Director Imran Nasir. "They are a Fortune
250 company with their global headquarters here in Chicago, right
next door to where we are holding the tournament.
"It is a major achievement for the sport that such a high-energy,
global corporation with an understanding of sport branding is
prepared to back a prestigious event like the US Open - and clearly
demonstrates that Squash is a rapidly developing sport."
Nasir, head squash professional at the city's Lakeshore Athletic
Club, added: "I have had a fantastic relationship with Aon for
more than 12 years. I use to organise the Aon Classic that was a
PSA World Tour stop for a couple of years, and then it was a
professional invitational tournament.
"We attracted squash legends like Peter Nicol, Peter Marshall,
Jonathon Power and Martin Heath, and the new PSA Chief Executive
Officer Alex Gough won the first Aon classic that I ran about 12
Nasir noted: "The US Open is really attracting the interest of the
Chicago corporate community and we are delighted that we have two
major Associate Sponsors in Zeller Realty and the Fairmont Hotel."
Adding extra spice to the proceedings, the Aon US Open is the first
major tournament of the new season and will be staged in the open
air inside the spectacular McWil glass court which will be set up in
Pioneer Court, between Tribune Tower and the Chicago River, from
The Aon US Open is a PSA Five Star tournament offering a prize fund
of $52,500 and has attracted a stellar draw featuring two Egyptians
- with four World Open titles between them - as the top two
the current world champion, is seeded one - ahead of legendary
compatriot Amr Shabana, who boasts three world titles on his