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28/02/2010
NORTH AMERICAN OPEN
 

Nick Matthew Wins North American Open Crown

Alan Thatcher Event History Official Website

North American Open 2010
Richmond, USA
February 21-27 $93,750
 

Round One
21/22 Feb
Round Two
23 Feb
Quarters
24/25 Feb
Semis
26 Feb
Final
27 Feb
[1] Ramy Ashour (Egy)
11-7, 6-11, 9-11, 11-3, 11-5 (53m)
Steve Coppinger (Rsa)
Ramy Ashour
11-4, 11-4, 10-12, 11-4
Aamir Atlas Khan
Ramy Ashour
8-11 12-10 11-9 11-8 (49m)
Thierry Lincou
Ramy Ashour
12-14 13-11 7-11 11-7 11-8 (76m)
Amr Shabana
Ramy Ashour
11-9 16-14 5-4 ret. (48m)
Nick Matthew
[13] Aamir Atlas Khan (Pak)
11-5, 2-11, 11-4, 13-11 (37m)
[Q] Steve Finitsis (Aus)
[6] Peter Barker (Eng)
 11-9, 7-11, 11-7, 14-12 (50m)
[Q] David Phillips (Can)
Peter Barker
11-8, 11-7, 11-9
Thierry Lincou
[9] Thierry Lincou (Fra)
11-5, 11-6, 11-4 (27m)
Farhan Mehboob (Pak)
[3] Amr Shabana (Egy)
12-10, 11-6, 11-9 (33m)
[Q] Zac Alexander (Aus)
Amr Shabana
11-5, 11-7, 3-5 ret. (32m)
Wael El Hindi
Amr Shabana
11-3 11-7 11-8 (32m)
Olli Tuominen
[11] Wael El Hindi (Egy)
11-3, 11-2, 7-11, 11-8 (34m)
[Q] Cesar Salazar (Mex)
[8] David Palmer (Aus)
 13-11, 11-8, 11-2 (39m)
Shahier Razik (Can)
David Palmer
11-9, 6-11, 11-4, 4-11, 11-8 (67m)
Olli Tuominen
[14] Olli Tuominen (Fin)
11-9, 11-9, 7-11, 11-5 (53m)
[Q] Ryan Cuskelly (Aus)
[Q] Nicolas Mueller (Sui)
11/9, 11/4, 11/2
[12] Alister Walker (Eng)
Alister Walker
11-6, 11-5, 11-6 (40m)
James Willstrop
James Willstrop
11-6 12-10 11-3 (53m)
Gregory Gaultier
James Willstrop
11-8 11-9 12-10 (62m)
Nick Matthew
Aaron Frankcomb (Aus)
11/4, 11/4, 11/8
[7] James Willstrop (Eng)
Rafael Alarcon (Bra)
10/12, 11/5, 11/7, 9/11, 11/6
[15] Joey Barrington (Eng)
Joey Barrington
11-7, 11-3, 11-3 (32m)
Gregory Gaultier
[Q] Yasir Butt (Pak)
 11/6, 11/9, 11/6
[4] Gregory Gaultier (Fra)
Simon Rosner (Ger)
11-9, 11-9, 6-11, 10-12, 11-6 (70 mins)
[10] Adrian Grant (Eng)
Adrian Grant
6-11, 6-11, 5-0 ret. (35m)
Karim Darwish
Adrian Grant
11-9 5-11 11-4 11-7 (67m)
Nick Matthew
Amr Swelim (Ita)
11-6, 11-5, 11-2 (27 mins)
[5] Karim Darwish (Egy)
[Q] Mohammed Abbas (EGY)
8-11, 11-7, 11-7, 11-6 (45 mins)
[16] Julian Illingworth (Usa)
Mohammed Abbas
11-13, 11-9, 11-3, 11-7 (54m)
Nick Matthew
Esteban Casarino (Par)
11-3, 11-3, 11-8 (33 mins)
[2] Nick Matthew (Eng)

Qualifying finals:

Nicolas Mueller (SUI) bt Khawaja Adil Maqbool (PAK) 11-7, 11-7, 11-9 (21m)

Mohammed Abbas (EGY) bt Jens Schoor (GER) 11-4, 11-3, 11-5 (26m)

Yasir Butt (PAK) bt Shaun le Roux (ENG) 11-7, 6-11, 11-5, 11-6 (44m)

Zac Alexander (AUS) bt Bernardo Samper (COL) 11-6, 11-4, 11-4 (29m)

David Phillips (CAN) bt Scott Arnold (AUS) 11-9, 10-12, 11-5, 11-1 (44m)

Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) bt Christopher Gordon (USA) 11-7, 11-6, 9-11, 11-3 (51m)

Cesar Salazar (MEX) bt Gilly Lane (USA) 11-13, 11-9, 1-11, 14-12, 11-8 (98m)

Steve Finitsis (AUS) bt Julien Balbo (FRA) 11-8, 11-9, 9-11, 11-8 (56m)
 

1st qualifying round:

Khawaja Adil Maqbool (PAK) bt Sean Steinour (USA) 11-6, 11-6, 11-7 (16m)

Jens Schoor (GER) bt Ehimen Joseph Ehalen (NGR) 11-7, 11-4, 11-13, 11-5 (54m)

Shaun le Roux (ENG) bt Lazarus Chiluba Chilufya (RSA) 11-7, 11-5, 11-3 (22m)

Bernardo Samper (COL) bt Willy Clark (USA) 11-2, 11-5, 11-5 (20m)

Zac Alexander (AUS) bt Luke Forster (AUS) 11-7, 11-8, 11-4 (25m)

David Phillips (CAN) bt Lekgotla Mosope (BOT) 7-11, 7-11, 11-9, 11-3, 11-6 (57m)

Scott Arnold (AUS) bt Patrick Chifunda (ZAM) 13-11, 11-4, 11-8 (47m)

Christopher Gordon (USA) bt Fernando Lopez (MEX) 11-6, 11-6, 11-4 (37m)

Cesar Salazar (MEX) bt Andrew Wagih Shoukry (EGY) 11-9, 13-11, 15-13 (50m)

Steve Finitsis (AUS) bt Jamie Crombie (USA) 11-8, 10-12, 11-9, 12-10 (46m)

 

More Pictures and reports at the North American Open Blog 

Click images for full size view
Nick 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 the error.

 

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 fourth.


 

Ashour & Matthew To Contest Second Richmond Final

 

Ramy Ashour (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.

 

Shabana, 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 years.

 

"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 court.

 

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 final.

 

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 Upset

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 Virginia.

 

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 from Aix-en-Provence.

 

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 12-10.

 

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 Virginia.

 

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 drops."

 

Veteran Frenchman 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 Pakistan.

 

"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 Open

 

Egyptian qualifier 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, 11-4, 11-8.

 

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 Yorkshire city.

 

Coppinger Tests Champion Ashour In Richmond Opener

 

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.

 

Veteran campaigners 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 minutes.

 

Australians Excel In North American Open Qualifiers

 

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.

 

Steve Finitsis 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 98-minue marathon.

 

"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 Hindi. 

 

"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.

 

Philadelphia's Gilly 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 To Richmond

 

2010 North American Open attracts stellar field

 

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 number one.

 

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 Charlottesville, Virginia.

 

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.

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Cook 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 together. 

 

“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.”

 

 

EVENT HISTORY: RECENT RICHMOND FINALS

 

2004:

Rodney Durbach (South Africa) beat Jan Koukal (Czech Republic)

15-8, 15-10, 15-11

 

2005:

Shahid Zaman (Pakistan) beat Bradley Ball (England)

11-5, 5-11, 11-4, 11-9

 

2006:

John White (Scotland) beat Adrian Grant (England)

11-9, 11-6, 11-9

 

2007:

Anthony Ricketts (Australia) beat Lee Beachill (England)

11-8, 11-7, 12-10

 

2008:

James Willstrop (England) beat Gregory Gaultier (France)

11-6, 6-11, 11-9, 8-11, 11-4

 

2009:

Ramy Ashour (Egypt) beat Nick Matthew (England)

11-8, 13-11, 10-12, 5-11, 11-8