More Pictures and reports at the North American Open Blog
Click images for full size view
Matthew Wins North American Open Crown
Englishman Nick Matthew
celebrated a long-awaited victory over Egypt's world number
one Ramy Ashour in the final of the $93,750 North American Open in
Richmond to win the second PSA Super Series 2010 squash
event of the year at the University of Richmond in Virginia.
The 29-year-old from
Sheffield, beaten by Ashour in their last four meetings, fought back from 9-7
down in the first game and 7-4 behind in the second to break the heart of the
defending North American Open champion.
Ashour seemed to be playing
the kind of free-flowing squash that is his trademark, though Matthew kept
pegging him back, using his straight volley drop to force Ashour to reach
uncomfortably into the front corners.
"It wasn't obvious that
Ashour was injured, though maybe because he doesn't play traditional physical,
length-based squash," said an event spokesman. "He attacks into the front
corners, especially crosscourt, and his wins are predicated upon when he can
force the loose shot and how far forward he can get to reduce the risk of
playing a winning shot."
After dropping the first,
the second game was make-or-break for Ashour; win it and he might have gone on
to dominate the match. This wasn't to be: Matthew would not let his opponent
break free, forcing Ashour deeper and deeper in the court, eventually getting
Matthew's steely resolve
and physicality means that he is incredibly hard to break down when he is in a
rhythm, and also hard to dominate in more random conditions due to his
insistence on making his opponent play one more shot to finish the rally.
Matthew's two-game lead
proved to be unassailable. Ashour tried for a few points in the third, though it
was a half-hearted effort. He knew he couldn't summon the effort required to
come back and win, especially while carrying a niggling injury.
Matthew fully deserved his
11-9, 16-14, 5-4 (ret.) victory. He laboured through a couple of average matches
during the tournament, finding his volley drops and short game in the
semi-finals and finals. The interest now lies in a potential rivalry for the
top spot on the PSA world rankings - this win pushes the steely Yorkshireman
closer to that goal, one which he is yet to achieve.
Ashour praised Matthew at
the post-match presentations and refused to make any excuses for his injury:
"He played a terrific match and was a lot better than I was," said the
22-year-old top seed.
"It was one of the biggest
matches I've ever played in my life. It's good to have each other at the top –
pushing each other all the time."
New champion Matthew found
it difficult to be too celebratory under the circumstances: "It's a strange
feeling right now – you feel you should be happy and celebrating. It's never
nice to win like that.
"But all credit to Ramy –
you could see he wasn't moving well. But to come through as far as he did was
amazing – I don't think anyone else in the world would have been able to do
that," Matthew added.
"It's very tough playing
Ramy – you want to keep him at the back because at the front he's lethal. But
you also have to attack or you're never going to win a point.
"I got a bit lucky at the
end of the second – but that win was crucial. If it had gone one-all, then
maybe he would have got his confidence back."
Both Ashour and Matthew
praised the tournament organisers, led by Gus Cook: "Gus and his team
have done a great job – the tournament has a real community feel," concluded the
new North American Open champion.
The triumph gives Matthew
the 12th PSA World Tour title of his career, and the fourth Super Series crown.
It also takes the world number two to top of the PSA Super Series 2010
rankings with 140 points, sharing number one position with compatriot James
Willstrop. Ashour is in third place, with fellow Egyptian Amr Shabana
Ashour & Matthew To Contest Second
(left) and Nick Matthew (below), the world's top two players, will
contest - for the second successive year - the final of the $93,750 North
American Open in Richmond after prevailing in contrasting semi-finals
of the second PSA Super Series 2010 squash event of the year at
the University of Richmond in Virginia.
World number one Ashour
closed in on the head-to-head record against his illustrious Egyptian compatriot
Amr Shabana by beating the reigning and four-time World Open
champion in a 76-minute marathon in which he twice had to come from behind.
Shabana started the match
in control, playing crisp length and carving in deadly volley drops at will.
Ashour's astonishing speed allowed him to retrieve and win the scrappy rallies,
which is all that he had at the beginning of the match. The nucleus of Ashour's
armoury, the backhand crosscourt volley drop, was not firing as well is it had
been all week.
the 30-year-old third seed, led in the first three games,
though the 22-year-old top seed pegged it back each time, firing in some
incredible power forehand crosscourt nicks.
The former world number one
looked to have it sewn up after he breezed through the third game, though let
Ashour back in the fourth. It was not until the decider game that both players
played at their full potential.
It was Ashour that received
the momentum at the end of the game - though it could so easily have been a
different outcome – as the event favourite secured the 12-14, 13-11, 7-11, 11-7,
11-8 victory which takes Ashour into his 24th PSA Tour final in just over five
"It's just amazing, the way
Shabana plays," said Ashour later. Every time I go on court with him, I think
it's going to be easier – but it never happens!
"I had such a tough match –
it's never easy to play him. He's one of the smartest players ever.
"It was more of a mental
game today, than physical. I'm really glad I'm in the final," added Ashour.
In the other all-English
semi, world number two Matthew faced seventh seed James Willstrop, his
Yorkshire rival against whom he boasted a 12-8 head-to-head advantage.
Willstrop, winner of the
last Super Series event at the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions in New
York, never really looked comfortable for the whole of the match. The
26-year-old from Leeds did take a lead in the first two games, though he was
half the player of the previous round.
Matthew was hitting a more
precise length and bringing the ball short enough on the volley drop to make
Willstrop lunge, intercepting the next ball to end the rally at the back of the
It was a pattern that was
repeated through the match. Willstrop briefly looked in control in the third
game, though Matthew levelled the score and went on to win 11-8, 11-9, 12-10
after 62 minutes.
"I'm delighted with the way
I played tonight," said the 29-year-old from Sheffield, now in his 32nd Tour
Matthew praised the help he
and Willstrop had been getting from England Squash coach David Campion:
"We've done a lot of work on my short game this week, so it's nice to see it
finally coming off.
"I'm just delighted to get
it off 3/0 – which gives me the chance against Ramy when I'll be relatively
fresh," concluded the Englishman.
The winner of the Richmond
final will top the PSA Super Series 2010 rankings – but, if it
were Matthew, he would share the lead with fellow countryman James Willstrop.
Willstrop Ousts Gaultier In Richmond
Two of the greatest
national rivialries in world squash will entertain the semi-final crowd at the
$93,750 North American Open in Richmond after Egyptians Ramy
Ashour and Amr Shabana, together with Englishmen Nick Matthew
and James Willstrop, came through the quarter-finals of the second PSA
Super Series 2010 event of the year at the University of Richmond in
Seventh seed Willstrop
produced the only upset of the day when he beat fourth seed Gregory Gaultier
– repeating the win over his career-long French rival in the Richmond final two
years ago, but avenging two most recent losses to the former world number one
The clash was billed as the
potential match of the tournament: Gaultier reached No1 in the world only a few
months earlier, while Willstrop won the year's first Super Series event, the
JP Morgan Tournament of Champions, in January in New York.
Both players started out at
a furious pace, with Willstrop managing to hit a slightly better length,
allowing him to dominate the middle of the court.
"Gaultier never really
controlled any point in the match, though he is a great fighter," commented a
tournament spokesman. "Through sheer will, he managed to win a few scrappy
points towards the end of the second game to force a tie-break."
The Frenchman stuck to his
natural game of fast-paced hitting and counter-attack in the third game, though
it was ineffective as Willstrop closed out the last few points to win 11-6,
12-10, 11-3 in 53 minutes.
It took Nick Matthew 14
more energy-sapping minutes to conquer compatriot and England team-mate
Adrian Grant 11-9, 5-11, 11-4, 11-7 to set up his second Tour meeting this
year with fellow Yorkshireman Willstrop after the pair contested the Swedish
Open final earlier in the month.
Matthew, 29, from
Sheffield, and 26-year-old Willstrop, from Leeds, have been persistent rivals
since their junior days – and Willstrop, currently 8-12 down on their PSA
head-to-head record, is looking for his first win since December 2007.
Like last year's runner-up
Matthew, defending champion Ramy Ashour is one match away from his second
successive appearance in the Richmond final after beating experienced Frenchman
Thierry Lincou 8-11, 12-10, 11-9, 11-8.
Lincou, a former world
number one, produced a fantastic display of fighting squash against the touch
and speed of Ashour, the reigning world number one. The ninth-seeded Frenchman
played tight squash and dominated the top seed in the first game and up to
mid-way through the second.
At 10-8 to Ashour in the
second, Ashour hit two crosscourt volley drops into the tin - an unusual
occurrence! The 22-year-old from Cairo regained composure and Lincou started to
tire. Two more crosscourt drop-shots and this time they went in: game to
Ashour went on to produce
some spectacular shot-making and retrieving to carve out his impressive
four-game victory in 49 minutes.
Reigning World Open
champion, and four times winner of the sport's ultimate title, Amr Shabana
needed just 32 minutes to despatch Olli Tuominen, the 14th seed from
Finland, 11-3, 11-7, 11-8.
The 30-year-old third seed
from Giza produced a clinical display of precision squash to end the Finn's
Richmond run – and set up a head-on clash with young Egyptian rival Ramy Ashour.
The pair will be meeting
for the 15th time on the Tour since October 2006 – eight of which were in
finals. Shabana was the victor in November's World Open final in Kuwait, but
Ashour prevailed in their most recent clash in December's semi-finals of the
Punj Lloyd PSA Masters in India.
Matthew Tested By Abbas In Virginia
Second seed Nick Matthew
claimed his anticipated place in the quarter-finals of the $93,750 North
American Open Squash Championship in Richmond – but the world number
two from England had to fight back from a game and 8-6 down to overcome Egyptian
qualifier Mohammed Abbas in the second PSA Super Series 2010 event
of the year at the University of Richmond in Virginia.
Abbas has spent most of the
past 12 months struggling with plantar fasciitis, a debilitating injury
of the bottom of the foot. The 29-year-old from Giza was as high as No13 in the
world, and currently lies at 60. Title success in December's Edmonton Open
showed that he is getting back on track.
Matthew, winner of the
Swedish Open earlier this month, played patient squash - up and down the
backhand wall, waiting for the opportunity to attack Abbas short. The
experienced Egyptian stayed with Matthew's pace, frustrating the Englishman by
playing textbook glass court squash.
The 29-year-old from
Sheffield slightly increased the pace, and was able to stand forward – but Abbas
eventually started to show signs of lack of belief towards the end of the second
game and then signs of fatigue in the third. Thereafter Matthew was in control
and wrapped up the match 11-13, 11-9, 11-3, 11-7 to earn a surprise last eight
clash with fellow countryman Adrian Grant.
Londoner Grant, the 10th
seed, faced Egypt's former world number one Karim Darwish, seeded five.
Darwish was in control the first two games, using his racket head speed to cut
the ball straight into the front corners on any opportunity. Grant is a great
athlete, though could not break Darwish's metronomic rhythm and silky touch.
The Englishman found his
way into the game in the third, stepping up the court, hitting the ball with a
little more pace to build up a 5-0 lead. But, taking a ball in the front
corner, Darwish rolled over his ankle.
After a three-minute time
out, Darwish then conceded the third game for another two minutes - though his
efforts were to prove fruitless. A recurrence of an old injury forced Darwish
to concede the match: Grant was gracious in victory, though nonetheless looking
forward to competing in another quarter-final.
The other second round
matches produced a quarter-final clash which is the repeat of the Davenport
Professional Championship final in Richmond in 2008 - between long-time
European rivals James Willstrop and Gregory Gaultier.
Seventh seed Willstrop,
winner of the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions, the first PSA Super
Series 2010 event in New York, produced a workmanlike performance to
dispose of fellow Englishman Alister Walker 11-6, 11-5, 11-6.
Frenchman Gaultier, the
fourth seed, faced 15th seed Joey Barrington. The Englishman put up a
good fight in the opening game, but Gaultier ultimately took control and moved
through to the quarters unscathed after an 11-7, 11-3, 11-3 victory.
Tuominen Topples Palmer In Richmond Upset
Flying Finn Olli
Tuominen, the 14th seed, produced an impressive upset in the second round of
the $93,750 North American Open Squash Championship in Richmond
when he beat long-time rival David Palmer, the eighth seed from
Australia, to claim a place in the quarter-finals of the second PSA Super
Series 2010 event of the year at the University of Richmond in
The 30-year-old from
Helsinki is clearly at home in the Richmond surroundings as Tuominen was
repeating his unexpected victory over the US-based former world number one at
the same stage two years ago.
But, this time, the Finn
went onto court 3-16 down on a career PSA Tour head-to-head record which dates
back to November 1999 and includes three successive losses to Palmer over the
past 16 months.
Tuominen twice led, and
twice Palmer drew level before the underdog maintained the pattern to close out
the match 11-9, 6-11, 11-4, 4-11, 11-8 after 67 minutes.
Tuominen will now face
third seed Amr Shabana after the four-time world champion from Egypt beat
compatriot Wael El Hindi 11-5, 11-7, 3-5 (ret.).
"El Hindi pulled his hip in
the first point of the match though hung around until the third game," said
event spokesman Martin Heath. "Shabana fully took advantage of his
opponent's lack of mobility with devastating length and devastating volley
Thierry Lincou, the No9 seed, also upset the form book with a straight games
win over England's sixth seed Peter Barker to secure a quarter-final
berth for the third year in a row.
"Both players have similar
styles, with low risk, attacking length, always pushing forward looking to
volley and increase the pace," explained Heath. "It was Lincou's deft volley
drops and ability to control the middle that made the difference - with Barker
only creeping in front of Lincou at 6-5 in the third, two games down."
The 33-year-old from
Marseille will now line up against top seed Ramy Ashour, the defending
champion from Egypt who took four games to quash 13th seed Aamir Atlas Khan
11-4, 11-4, 10-12, 11-4 in his first Tour meeting with the 19-year-old from
"Ramy started the game as
relaxed as ever, dropping his racket head to cut in some devastating straight
and crosscourt drops," said Heath. "Aamir fought bravely to clinch the third
game – but eventually his lack of tactical experience meant he was going for the
winning shot too early, exposing himself to Ashour's wristwork and artistry."
Abbas Ends US Interest In North American
Mohammed Abbas produced the only upset on the second day of first round
action in the $93,750 North American Open Squash Championship in
Richmond when he beat 16th seed Julian Illingworth to end US interest
in the second PSA Super Series 2010 event of the year at the
University of Richmond in Virginia.
The 29-year-old from Cairo
is fighting back to top form after spending most of last year sidelined by
injury. Illingworth, the five-time US champion from Portland ranked 32 in the
world, took the opening game – but Abbas, a former world No13 bounced back to
claim his 8-11, 11-7, 11-7, 11-6 upset after 45 minutes.
Abbas will now face second
seed Nick Matthew, the in-form Englishman who arrived in Richmond
following successive title successes in the Swedish Open and the
British National Championships.
The 29-year-old world No2
from Sheffield despatched Paraguayan wild card opponent Esteban Casarino
11-3, 11-3, 11-8.
Matthew led a group of five
Englishmen through to the second round. Indeed, James Willstrop and
Alister Walker will meet in an all-English last 16 battle after successes in
the opening round. Willstrop, the seventh seed who lifted the trophy in the
year's first PSA Super Series 2010 event at the JP Morgan Tournament of
Champions in New York, defeated Australian Aaron Frankcomb 11-4,
Alister Walker was after
revenge when he faced qualifier Nicolas Mueller, a rising star from
Switzerland to whom he lost in last year's Irish Open.
"Mueller came out of the
blocks like a bullet from a gun and went 8-2 up in a matter of minutes, firing
in some excellent winners to the front," said a tournament spokesman. "Walker
finally found his composure and started to gain his range and rhythm and clawed
his way back to 8-9. From here he was matching Mueller's aggressive volleying
and continued through to take the game 11-9."
The 27-year-old 12th seed
from Leeds continued his assault to claim a well-deserved 11-9, 11-4, 11-8
victory – and a second round clash with Willstrop, who is also from the same
Coppinger Tests Champion Ashour In
Defending champion Ramy
Ashour made it through to the second round of the $93,750 North American
Open Squash Championship in Richmond – but the world number one from
Egypt was taken the full distance before overcoming unseeded South African
Stephen Coppinger in the first round of the second PSA Super Series 2010
event of the year at the University of Richmond in Virginia.
In a surprise turnaround on
the opening day of the tournament, world No45 Coppinger fought back from a game
down to lead title-holder Ashour 2/1. But the event favourite from Cairo
restored order to take the next two games to claim a dramatic 11-7, 6-11, 9-11,
11-3, 11-5 win after 53 minutes.
The 22-year-old, who topped
the world rankings for the first time in January, will now face Aamir Atlas
Khan after the 19-year-old 13th seed from Pakistan despatched Australian
qualifier Steve Finitsis 11-5, 2-11, 11-4, 13-11.
Ashour will be joined by
two fellow countrymen in the last sixteen. Third seed Amr Shabana, the
four times World Open champion from Giza, saw off Australian qualifier
Zac Alexander 12-10, 11-6, 11-9, while Wael El Hindi, the New
York-based No11 seed from Cairo, ended Mexican interest in the event by beating
qualifier Cesar Salazar 11-3, 11-2, 7-11, 11-8.
David Palmer and Thierry Lincou, both aged 33, secured comfortable
first round wins: Australian Palmer, the former world number one and world
champion who next month begins his 17th year on the PSA World Tour, faced
Canadian Shahier Razik, winner of the North American Open title in 2005.
After a see-saw first game,
eighth seed Palmer made quick work of the 32-year-old from Toronto to win 13-11,
11-8, 11-2 – and set up a second round clash with career-long Finnish rival
Olli Tuominen, the 14th seed.
Frenchman Thierry Lincou,
also both a former world number one and World Open winner, took on Pakistan's
Farhan Mehboob. But Lincou's experience was too great for the 21-year-old
from Peshawar as the ninth seed clinched an 11-5, 11-6, 11-4 victory in just 27
Australians Excel In North American Open
A trio of Australians will
join the main draw of the $93,750 North American Open Squash Championship
in Richmond, Virginia, after successes by Zac Alexander, Ryan
Cuskelly and Steve Finitsis in the qualifying finals of the second
PSA Super Series 2010 event of the year at the University of Richmond.
Alexander became the
lowest-ranked player to qualify when he beat Colombian Bernardo Samper
11-6, 11-4, 11-4 in 29 minutes. The 21-year-old from Brisbane will take on
third seed Amr Shabana in his first ever meeting with the four times
World Open champion from Egypt.
"This is my first time
qualifying for a Super Series event, so I'm very pleased with the win today,"
said Alexander, ranked 105 in the world. "I’ve never played Bernardo in a PSA
match but we train together in New York a bit so I knew it was going to be tough
out there. Now I’m just looking forward to playing either tomorrow or Monday."
New York-based Ryan
Cuskelly dashed US hopes of success in the qualifiers when he beat New
York-born Christopher Gordon 11-7, 11-6, 9-11, 11-3.
"I found it a little tough
to get going today because I have played a lot of squash the last couple of
months," said the 22-year-old from New South Wales who is already competing in
his seventh PSA Tour event of the year.
"But all credit to him, he
stuck in there and made me work for it," added the world No51 who now meets
Olli Tuominen, the 14th seed from Finland.
had to battle for 56 minutes to overcome higher-ranked Frenchman Julien Balbo
11-8, 11-9, 9-11, 11-8. The Queenslander now lines up against Aamir Atlas
Khan, the 13th seed from Pakistan.
There was further US
disappointment when Mexican Cesar Salazar beat Gilly Lane, the
American number two from Philadelphia, 11-13, 11-9, 1-11, 14-12, 11-8 in a
"I didn’t start the first
game too well and, though I lost it, I felt I was getting a better length at the
end - then I got it together in the second and felt in control," explained the
22-year-old from San Luis Potosi who now faces Egypt's 11th seed Wael El
"In the third I didn’t do
anything, rushed to finish the points and totally lost the plan. By saving a
few match balls in the fourth, it gave me the confidence for the fifth and I
think he felt the pressure."
Gilly & Gordon Lead US Hopes Into
Richmond Qualifying Finals
New York's Christopher
Gordon boosted US hopes of added interest in the main draw of the $93,750
North American Open Squash Championship when he won through to the
qualifying finals of the second PSA Super Series 2010 event of the year
at the University of Richmond in Richmond, Virginia.
The 23-year-old US number
three was too strong and sharp for Fernando Lopez in the first qualifying
round, beating the Mexican 11-6, 11-6, 11-4.
Gordon will now face
Ryan Cuskelly, the in-form Australian who arrives in Richmond to compete in
his seventh PSA Tour event of the year, having already reached two Tour finals.
Lane, the second highest-ranked player in the US, ranked 59 in the world,
received a first round bye and will now take on Mexican Cesar Salazar for
a place in the main draw. Salazar, the world No67 from San Luis Potosi, had to
save several game balls in the third against Andrew Wagih Shoukry before
defeating the Egyptian 11-9, 13-11, 15-13 in 50 minutes.
Canadian David Phillips
had the toughest first round battle, having to fight back from two games down
before prevailing 7-11, 7-11, 11-9, 11-3, 11-6 against Lekgotla Mosope,
from Botswana. Mosope led 8-5 in the third game when a loose shot hit the tin.
This proved to be the turning point for the 29-year-old from Montreal who gained
the upper hand on the way earning a berth in the qualifying finals, where he
will meet Australian Scott Arnold.
King Ramy Returns
2010 North American Open attracts stellar
By ALAN THATCHER
Egyptian squash superstar
Ramy Ashour returns to Richmond, Virginia, for the forthcoming North American
Open as reigning champion and top seed, having entered 2010 as the PSA world
At just 21 years of age, he
is the youngest player to top the world rankings since the days of Pakistan’s
all-powerful Khan era.
Ashour’s claiming of the
number one spot came in dramatic circumstances as he and England’s Nick Matthew
contested the final of the Saudi International one week before Christmas Day.
Whoever won the match would
enter the new decade on top of the rankings and it was Ashour who emerged
victorious, triumphing 11-7, 7-11, 11-9, 9-11, 11-8 in a battle lasting one hour
and 50 minutes, the longest match of his career.
That epic battle was a
rematch of the 2009 North American Open final in Richmond, where Ashour clinched
another brutal five-setter, again 11-8 in the fifth.
He and Matthew also met in
the final of the PSA Masters in India, one week before their showdown in Saudi,
with Ramy winning 11-6, 9-11, 11-9, 11-9.
The 2010 North American
Open boasts a spectacular draw, with all of the world’s top ten players entering
this PSA (Professional Squash Association) Super Series Silver event with a
prize fund of almost $100,000.
This year’s tournament
boasts a new title sponsor in Quantitative Investment Management, based in
The event is hosted by
Virginia Squash and the high-speed action takes place on the all-glass McWil
exhibition court which will be erected in the Millhiser Gymnasium on the campus
of the University of Richmond.
The tournament runs from
February 21-27 and will be preceded by a two-day qualifying tournament as the
sport’s rising stars bid for a coveted place in the main draw.
Tournament Director Gus
Cook said: “We are delighted to welcome Ramy back to Richmond. He and the other
top professionals are wonderful ambassadors for the sport and they can always be
guaranteed to provide spectacular entertainment for the audiences.
“We are overjoyed to have
attracted such a high-quality draw. We have enjoyed some magnificent squash in
this tournament in recent years but this year promises to be the best yet.”
Cook got to see a different
side of Ramy Ashour during the US Open in Chicago in September when they were
returning from a tournament reception.
explained: “The car hit a pothole in the road and suffered a puncture. As it was
around midnight, our lady driver was very keen for Ramy to jump in a taxi to get
back to the hotel but he was having none of it and so we changed the tyre
“It took a while because we
did not have any tools until a friendly neighborhood policeman stopped to see
what was happening and lent us what we needed.
“All told it took over 30 minutes and we were both filthy by the end. It just
goes to show what kind of guy he is, though, and I hope he stays that way.
“I can’t think of many
world champions from other sports who would behave in such a humble and helpful
manner, and long may it continue in our wonderful game.”