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Ramy Is The El Gouna Champion As Willstrop Pulls Out

  Final      Semi Finals      Quarter Finals     2nd Round    1st Round   Preview
El Gouna International Squash Open 2012
05-13 April, Alexandria & El Gouna, $115k

Round One
08/09 Apr

Round Two
10 Apr

11 Apr

12 Apr

13 Apr 

[1] James Willstrop (Eng)
11-8, 11-4, 6-11, 11-4 (43m)
Nicolas Mueller (Sui)
James Willstrop
14/12, 11/2, 11/7 (55m)
Saurav Ghosal
James Willstrop
9/11, 11/2, 11/8, 11/5 (69m)
Laurens Jan Anjema
James Willstrop
11/7, 11/5, 11/2
Karim Darwish
James Willstrop
12/10, 11/5,
5/2 rtd
Ramy Ashour
Saurav Ghosal (Ind)
8-11, 9-11, 11-9, 11-7, 11-4 (85m)
[Q] Robbie Temple (Eng)
Tarek Momen (Egy)
11-8, 7-11, 11-7, 11-9 (48m)
Mohammed Abbas (Egy)
Tarek Momen
11/7, 8/11, 11/9, 11/7 (70m)
Laurens Jan Anjema
[8] Laurens Jan Anjema (Ned)
11-5, 6-11, 11-4, 11-5 (49m)
Omar Abdel Aziz (Egy)
[7] Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egy)
11-7, 12-10, 11-6 (34m)
[Q] Ivan Yuen (Mas)
Mohamed El Shorbagy
5/11, 11/8, 11/8, 8/11, 11/8 (75m)
Thierry Lincou
Mohamed El Shorbagy
11/9, 9/11, 11/9, 6/11, 11/6 (84m)
Karim Darwish
Thierry Lincou (Fra)
2-11, 11-6, 5-11, 11-5, 11-6 (76m)
Cameron Pilley (Aus)
Jonathan Kemp (Eng)
11-8, 11-4, 11-5 (27m)
[Q] Omar Abdel Meguid (Egy)
Jonathan Kemp
7/11, 11/2, 11/2, 11/3 (31m)
Karim Darwish
[Q] Adrian Waller (Eng)
11-9, 11-6, 11-6 (35m)
[4] Karim Darwish (Egy)
[3] Nick Matthew (Eng)
11/5, 11/5, 11/3 (35m)
[Q] Andrew Wagih (Egy)
Nick Matthew
9/11, 14/12, 11/6, 11/6 (85m)
Ali Anwar Reda
Nick Matthew
11/6, 12/10, 11/7 (42m)
Hisham Ashour
Nick Matthew
11/4, 9/11, 11/8, 11/9 (75m)
Ramy Ashour
Ali Anwar Reda (Egy)
11/5, 11/6, 11/5 (32m)
[Q] Wael Farag (Egy)r
Hisham Ashour (Egy)
9/11, 11/8, 14/12, 11/9 (63m)
[Q] Mathieu Castagnet (Fra)
Hisham Ashour
13/11, 9/11, 11/9, 11/8 (48m)
Amr Shabana
Karim Abdel Gawad (Egy)
11/4, 11/9, 11/9 (40m)
[6] Amr Shabana (Egy)
[Q] Amr Khalid Khalifa (Egy)
11/7, 11/9, 11/7 (35m)
[5] Ramy Ashour (Egy)
Ramy Ashour
11/4, 9/11, 11/5, 11/1 (44m)
Adrian Grant
Ramy Ashour
11/5, 12/10, 11/8 (58m)
Gregory Gaultier
Adrian Grant (Eng)
9/11, 11/3, 5/11, 11/1, 11/3 (61m)
Omar Mosaad (Egy)
Simon Rosner (Ger)
10/12, 11/6, 12/14, 11/9, 11/6 (87m)
Gregoire Marche (Fra)
Simon Rosner
11/6, 11/9, 10/12, 11/1 (67m)
Gregory Gaultier
Marwan El Shorbagy (Egy)
11/4, 11/9, 11/2 (33m)
[2] Gregory Gaultier (Fra)
  1. Qualifying finals:


  2. Mathieu Castagnet (Fra) bt Zahed Mohamed (Egy)  10/12, 11/5, 11/3, 11/3 (48m)
    Wael Farag (Egy) bt Omar Mohie (Egy)  11/6, 11/4, 11/4 (25m)
    Omar Abdel Meguid (Egy) bt  Abdullah Al Muzayen (Kuw)  9/11, 5/2 rtd (19m)
    Adrian Waller (Eng) bt Mohamed Abouelghar (Egy)  12/10, 9/11, 11/2, 7/11, 11/8 (65m)
    Andrew Wagih (Egy) bt Campbell Grayson (Nzl) 3/11, 11/9, 11/8, 9/11, 11/8 (109m)
    Ivan Yuen (Mas) bt Karim Ali Fathi (Egy) 8/11, 11/4, 7/11, 11/7, 11/9 (97m)
    Robbie Temple (Eng) bt Karim AGA Samy (Egy) 11/7, 10/12, 11/8, 11/6 (65m)
    Amr Khaled Khalifa (Egy) bt Amr Swelim (Ita) 11/7, 11/8, 11/4 (32m)

  3. Qualifying Round One:

  4. Mathieu Castagnet (Fra)    bye
    Zahed Mohamed (Egy) bt Khaled Abdel Ghoniem (Egy)  11/8, 11/8, 11/4 (37m)
    Omar Mohie (Egy) bt Joey Barrington (Eng) 7/11, 8/11, 11/9, 11/8, 11/6 (72m)
    Wael Farag (Egy) bt Kamran Khan (Mas) 11/6, 11/9, 19/17 (56m)

  5. Abdullah Al Muzayen (Kuw) bt Marwan Mahmoud (Egy) 11/9, 11/3, 11/1 (25m)
    Omar Abdel Meguid (Egy) bt Ahmed El Mehelmi (Egy) 11/9, 11/3, 4/11, 11/5 (35m)
    Mohamed Abouelghar (Egy) bt Adel El Zarka (Egy) 3/11, 13/11, 12/10, 11/5 (35m)
    Adrian Waller (Eng) bt  Fares Dessouki (Egy) 11/7, 13/11, 11/5 (46m)

  6. Campbell Grayson (Nzl) bt Ahmed Hany (Egy) 11/8, 11/4, 11/6 (29m)
    Andrew Wagih (Egy) bt Hesham Mohamed Aly (Egy) 11/5, 11/4, 11/6 (22m)
    Karim Ali Fathi (Egy) bt Hasan Hashim Al-Sulttani (Irq) w/o
    Ivan Yuen (Mas) bt Mohd Essam El Sherif (Egy) 11/7, 12/10, 11/1 (31m)

  7. Robbie Temple (Eng) bt Husham Abdulkareem Al-Sady (Irq) w/o
    Karim AGA Samy (Egy) bt Rasool Hashim Abdullah (Irq) w/o
    Amr Swelim (Ita) bt Mohamed Mosaad (Egy) 11/8, 11/8, 11/9 (32m)
    Amr Khaled Khalifa (Egy) bye


Ramy Is The El Gouna Champion As Willstrop Pulls Out

It was an unlucky Friday 13th for world number one James Willstrop as he pulled out of the final of the El Gouna International Open when trailing Ramy Ashour by two games and 5/2 in the third.

It was the second time in two editions of the event that the final failed to reach a natural conclusion, but whereas in 2010 Ashour had been the one forced to pull out with injury, this time he was the recipient as he succeesed Karim Darwish as the champion to keep the title in Egyptian hands.

In the first game, which was punctuated by stoppages as the court was cleaned and the players occasionally stepped out of the side doors to clean their shoes, Willstrop had for the most part contained the attacking opportunities of his opponent, muh as he had done in their previous meeting in February’s North American Open final.

As the game neared its conclusion though, Ashour managed to raise the pace with often brilliant attacking play and delicate flicks and drops, and Willstrop began to struggle to contain him.

The Englishman’s slender lead was whittled away and Ashour took the game 12/10 with a joyous pump of the fist.

The momentum was with him now, and he dominated the second game to take it 11/5, and amid more stoppages built a 5/2 lead in the third.

Willstrop approached his opponent at the front of the court, explaining that he was struggling with the conditions and didn’t feel able to continue, and offered his hand to the new champion.

“Horribly disappointed. At times like this, losing is not the problem. I can’t explain. Losing having given your 200% is just 20 times better than the frustration I’m feeling right now. It feels like the chance to compete in a major final has been taken away from me,” explained Willstrop.

“I just never felt steady on there from the 3rd rally in the first game. So I found myself thinking about the floor, and not about my squash, so I’m thinking, what am I doing!!!

“Ramy didn’t seem to be as much bothered, but then again, he obviously handled the floor better than I did tonight. Very unsatisfactory to say the least. Terribly disappointing. Hugely frustrating.”

Ashour was delighted to be the champion, but was understandably muted in his celebrations.

“I feel strange happy. I feel good because I’m happy with the way I played all week, I’ve been consistent from the first match to the last one, and that doesn’t normally happen to me.

“With all what happened this week, on, off the court, slippery, the wind, etc, a bit of a chaotic week, a very tough week, I’m happy I was mentally able to handle it, and I’m really happy to win this great tournament, and that squash is back in Egypt.”


Semi Finals

Willstrop And Ashour Make The Final After Disrupted Semis

It was an unfortunate start to the El Gouna International Squash Open semi-finals when the first semi-final was suspended after one point of the second game due to slippy floor conditions on the glass court at the Abu Tig Marina.

James Willstrop had taken that game, which was interrupted several times by the players slipping and the court cleaners being called into action, but after one point of the second game the players reluctantly decided that it would be dangerous to continue.

That match was resumed on the traditional court at the Movenpick hotel - with room for maybe 20 spectators - where Willstrop quickly finished the match off in straight games.

"Mentally, it was very difficult," admitted Willstrop. ""e get ready for 7, 7.30, extreme engaging of mind, then play one game, then down completely for an hour. This one game was to my advantage. No atmosphere, nobody watching, late, 10pm, the isolation of sport, that’s what it’s all about.

"Yes, he seemed to lose focus at the end, and I guess I made him lose it, but! One hour off when you are one game up, it had to be to my advantage. You know, when you hear about Tennis, and the weather breaks, the difference it can make in a match, well, this is what we had today, and we are not used to it."

Meanwhile after extensive court cleaning and testing of the floor by the players, the second semi-final started on the glass court, where Ramy Ashour reached his second El Gouna final, winning a fast-paced, often frantic, always enthralling, four-game thriller against Nick Matthew to set up another Egypt v England clash in tomorrow's final.

Ashour was unstoppable in the first as he blitzed through the first game 11/4, but Matthew managed to put a brake on proceedings in the second as Ashour's error count rose, but still the Englishman needed four game balls as Ashour made a valiant comeback, started when he won a brilliant, scrambling rally at 10/6 down.

The third was crucial - Matthew led 7/3, containing the play well, but Ashour turned errors into winners as he took six points in a row to turnd the game in his favour and he finished it with another dropshot into the nick.

The fourth was a nip and tuck thriller, close all the way to 9-all when a despairing dive from Matthew brought up match ball and a stoppage as Matthew had treatment to a cut on his hand. There was to be no reprieve though as Ashour took the next point to reach the final to the delight of the Egyptian crowd who had waited around hoping to see their hero in action - they weren't disappointed.

"It's always a tough match with Nick, and tonight the start was so fast, but then it was all mixed up with all the disruption and stoppages, I really had to work hard to try to stay in my bubble and not get distracted," said Ashour. "During the third I had to get out of my box and seek an alternative, and I'm happy with the way I responded.

"Tomorrow will be a tough match against James, the conditions will probably play a part as it's quite cold on there too, as well as everything else - you have to be very direct on this court, I slept a lot today to make sure I was ready for it!"

Quarter Finals

It's England v Egypt In The El Gouna Semi-Finals

Defending champion Karim Darwish was the first player to reach the semi-finals of ther El Gouna International Squash Open, seeing off a typically determined challenge from fellow Egyptian Mohamed El Shorbagy.

Playing more conserative squash than you might expect from two Egyptians, they shared the first four games with hardly a point to separate them, each game taking around a quarter of an hour. It was the experienced Darwish who made the move in the decider as the play opened up, moving 9/6 ahead.

As Darwish thum,ped away a winner top reach match ball, Shorbagy slipped in the back corner and looked to be in considerable pain. After three minutes recovery time he came back for one more point, which Darwish quickly finished to reach the last four.

"It was a very hard match, and we played all the way through point for point. Mohamed is a young player, so hungry, he wants to beat everybody,” said Darwish. “And today, I really had to dig in, from the first to the last point. I feel sorry for him on that last point, and I hope it’s not too bad. As for myself, I’m so happy to be in the semis, and I’m enjoying the tournament!!!!"

World Champion Nick Matthew faced a more orthodox Egyptian challenge in the form of Hisham Ashour, whose falmboyant style had delivered him a long-awaited win over Amr Shabana yesterday. The Englishman was a different proposition though as he kept a lid on things, controlling the play and limiting Hisham’s attacking opportunities.

The Egyptian’s chance came when he was 10/6 up in the second game, but a run of six points from Matthew gave him a 2-0 lead and the momentum to open a a gap in the third which, try as he might, Hisham couldn’t close down.

“I’m pleased to beat Hisham any score, but 3/0 is perfect as it keeps me fresh for tomorrow,” said Matthew. “But it was at no point an easy match, had he won the second, not sure what would have happened.”

World number one James Willstrop faced an early onslaught from Dutchman Laurens Jan Anjema, who let out a delighted yell as he took the 28-minute first game 11/9. Willstrop quickly put himself back in the driving seat though, dominating the second for 11/2 and always keeping a cushion in the third game.

Anjema held his own at the start of the fourth but the match slipped away quickly as the Englishman took a run of points to put himself into the semi-finals.

“It was very tough indeed, happy to get out 3/1,” said Willstrop. “The first game was massive, it certainly cooled down after that, it was like two different matches!!! I think the first took a long out of him, I was pleased with what I was doing, but I lost it. So, I didn’t panic, actually relaxed a bit, and loosened up.”

Ramy Ashour delighted the home crowd at the Abu Tig marina with a marvelous attacking display against second seed Gregory Gaultier in a match featuring many long rallies and some scintillating winners, plus a few slips and stoppages in the blustery conditions.

To be fair, the Frenchman was equally impressive for most of the match, but Ashour found the necessary extra when it mattered, particularly at the end of the second game when he took four points in a row to take a crucial advantage. He finished off the match in style too, with a service return into the nick.

“It was a great match,” said a delighted Ashour, “I’m very happy about everything but one; that it’s not the final! He played very well, and I’m very happy with my performance, we always seem to stretch each other. But I feel that the second was crucial, I was down, and the way I came back, I’m really happy with that. So, I’ll have to stay focused for tomorrow, and the day after ...”

So it will be Egypt v England in the semi-finals, Willstrop v Darwish and Matthew v Ashour ... can you really wait until tomorrow (well, later today anyway!)


2nd Round

Hisham Downs Shabana At Last

All eight seeds, and six Egyptians, were still in contention at the start of the second round of the PSA $115k World Series El Gouna International Squash Open in Egypt’s Red Sea resort, and at the end of it we were left with seven seeds, four Egyptians, and an upset win that had been a full decade in the making.

The first match iof the day was a clash of style and physique as eighth seeded Dutchman LJ Anjema met speedy Egyptian Tarek Momen.

Anjema took a tight first game, but Momen looked to have taken the momentum as he levelled, then led 5/1 and 8/5 in the third. Anjema powered back though, taking the lead 11/9 and opening up a 10/4 advantage in the fourth, which he finished off at the fourth attempt.

“This is why I’m playing squash, this is such an amazing feeling!!! Playing in the Lion’s Den…. I’m so happy with my performance,” said a delighted Dutchman. “He is just so fast, so tricky, and if I was not quick enough to the front he would have me all over the place, but I just kept focusing on my game, nothing else to focus on really, is there.”

The second match was a clash of the ages as 21-year-old Mohamed El Shorbagy faced France’s Thierry Lincou, with 36 years of experience to call on. The Frenchman made an untypically fast start as he took the lead but Shorbagy struck back to lead 2-1.

A series of unforced errors cost the Egyptian at the start of the fourth, but he prevailed in a tense decider which Lincou led 7/5 but was Lincou left unhappy as the referee called his pickup not up on Shorbagy’s first match ball.

“I don’t know what to say, he played very well, I didn’t expect him to play that well to be honest,” admitted a relieved winner. “I think I played well in patches, I was patient, but at others, I just wasn’t. Still, we had some very tough rallies. I think he likes playing me, and I like playing him! It was a Tecnifibre battle!”

An Egyptian winner was guaranteed from the third match, but for the first time in ten meetings since their first in January 2002, it would be Hisham Ashour, not Amr Shabana who progressed.

It was typically fast and furious, but on this day the sixth-seeded fourt-time world champion couoldn’t keep Hisham and his winners down. Understated on court at the end of the match, he walked a few solo circuits of the court and the Movenpick gardens and his considered reaction was “I feel like crying, man ...”

“Do you know how many years I’ve been trying to win against him, and never ever succeeding,” he added. “It’s been probably what, 8, 9 years? And getting close sometimes, but because of his experience, and craft, and immense talent, not succeeding.

“Today, I beat 4 people. One, The Legend, Two, the 4 times World Champion, Three, The big brother, Four, The Fair player, who is so respectful on court.”

Hisham’s younger brother Ramy Ashour made it an Egyptian hat-trick for the afternoon session as he beat Adrian Grant in four fast-paced games. The Englishman fought back well to take the second, but in the end Ashour’s pace and shotmaking proved too much.

“I knew, even after taking the first, that it was not going to be easy, that he would dig in and not let go. And that’s exactly what he did in the second,” said Ramy. “After that, I found my rhythm – it was a pretty fast pace – and although it was a shortish match, a lot of work was done.”

World champion Nick Matthew survived a scare in the first evening match on the glass court, where the top four seeds were to play. Ali Anwar Reda gave the sizeable Egyptian crowd at El Gouna and on TV hopes of an upset as he took the first game and had game balls at 10/8 in the second to double his advantage.

The Englishman survived that to take it 14/12 and although it was never easy, took the next two to advance to a quarter-final meeting with Hisham Ashour.

“That lasted a bit longer that I expected!!!” admitted Matthew after the 80+ minute match. “Tonight we were both playing well in patches, like I was playing 3 or 4 points quite well, then he would. But we didn’t seem to find a real momentum throughout.

“Conditions were difficult tonight, but tomorrow I’ll have to move better between plan A and plan B! It’s all there in pieces, it’s just about piecing them together….”

Defending champion Karim Darwish looked to be taken by surprise by the attacking start made by Jonathan Kemp as the Englishman took the first game 11/7. Darwish dominated the next three games though, taking them for the loss of just seven points to set up a meeting with Mohamed El Shorbagy.

“A few tins? A bit more than a few! Like one every other point,” admitted Kemp, “but he was just too good!”

“In the first game, there was nothing I could do, he was going for every shot, typical Kemp!” added Darwish. “So I played more solid to the back, to retake the control. So happy to be in the quarters, in this beautiful setting of El Gouna, and I hope I can stick around a bit longer ...”

Top seed James Willstrop, like his Yorkshire rival Matthew, found himself facing game balls in his first game as Saurav Ghosal continued to cause his Leeds training partner trouble. Willstrop though, saved five before tking the game 14/12 and carried that momentum into the second, taking it 11/2.

The speedy Indian led midway through the third but the world number one helped the schedule a little as he again recovered to take it 11/7. He now meets LJ Anjema for a place in the semi-finals.

“I was much more mentally tuned and solid than I was in Canary Wharf, I think I played better,” said Willstrop. “Winning the first was crucial, then the second, momentum with me, but again had to dig in the third. Tonight was a good mental performance, I think.”

The final match of the day and the round saw two big swings of fortune. Second seed Gregory Gaultier looked to be heading for a fairly comfortable 3-0 win over Simon Rosner, but from 4-10 down the strong German scored eight points in a row to pull a game back 12/10. The Frenchman responded with a run of nine points to lead the fourth 9-0, and finished it off 11-1 to set up a mouth-watering clash with Ramy Ashour in the quarter-finals.



1st Round Bottom Half

Seeds Progress As Round One Concludes In El Gouna

Hisham Ashour made it a good start for Egypt on day two of the El Gouna International Squash Open, on a day which saw home interest in all but one of the eight matches, as he overcame French qualifier Mathieu Castagnet in an entertaining and high-quality four games.

The Frenchman finished a tough opening game stronger to take the lead 11/9, but Ashour levelled 11/8, and almost paid the price for a string of unforced errors in the third, saving four game balls before taking the lead 14/12. Despite Castagnet’s best efforts - and they were considerable - Ashour kept ahead during the fourth, and finished it off 11/9 with a crosscourt that was just too wide for Castagnet to control.

“He is a strong man on court, he is like the Shark in the movies, you think you’ve killed it, and it keeps coming back at you!!!!!” quipped Ashour. “I’m pretty happy with my performance,” he added.

Ali Anwar Reda made it two out of two for Egypt - but that was no surprise as he was up against a compatriot in qualifier Wael Farag. Reda was relatively untroubled as Farag struggled to make a real impression on the match, losing handfuls of quick points in each game as Reda took the initiative and showed no sign of letting it slip.

“Wael is a good player, we know each other’s game pretty well, last week only, we played three times,” said the winmner. “When I play him, I try and keep him off pace, because he adapts to your pace something awful, so, I have to change the rhythm constantly.”

Germany’s Simon Rosner became the first non-Egyptian to advance, but it took him 87 minutes to quell the challenge of young Frenchman Greg Marche, who was playing confidently to put himself 2-1 up and 8-all in the fourth before the higher-ranked Rosner managed to impose himself.

“I think that’s the best I ever saw Greg play,” said a relieved and impressed Rosner. “He didn’t give my any cheap point for the whole first four games, and I got frustrated more and more, I just didn’t know what to change tactically!!!! I don’t think I played badly, he just played so well, really well.”

Adrian Grant gained a measure of revenge for his marathon defeat in the KL Open final at the hands of Omar Mosaad, coming through in five games where neither seemed to play well at the same time. From 2-1 down the Englishman eased through the last two games with Mosaad making error after error in the fourth and unable to regain the momentum in the decider.

“He was the last opponent I played, and neither of us wanted to play each other again so soon but that’s how it goes sometimes. The court was to my advantage, but he was at home in Egypt, so it balanced things I guess! It was a tough draw for both of us, but it’s really nice to beat him here.

The first evening match was all-Egyptian, with Amr Shabana taking on young Karim Abdel Gawad. The four-time world champion showed who was boss in the opening game 11/4, but Gawad made a real fight of it in the next two. You never got the impression that Shabana was in danger as he went through to a second round meeting with Hisham Ashour, but it wasn’t a cakewalk either. 

“The court we played on in Rotterdam during the worlds suited his game better, because he’s got some sting in his shots, but this glass court is a bit slower, so it was better for my game,” said Shabana. “Still, it was very close, 11/9, 11/9, it could have gone either way. And his game is like his personality: calm but deadly!”

Neither was it a cakewalk for Ramy Ashour against his fellow former world junior champion Amr Khaled Khalifa, who played well to push the fifth seed in the first before losing it 11/7, but then opened up a 9/3 lead in the second. Ashour steadied though, took the next 14 points in a row and although Khalifa made a good comeback it was too late by then and Ashour goes through to meet Adrian Grant.

Ashour, looking trim, was happy with his performance, some of which he put down to a new regime and attitude: ““I thought that I was dedicated before, but now, I’m actually realising that I’m learning the true meaning of it. And it’s like, before, I was a squash player when I was on court, and thinking about other things off court. But now, I am a squash player all the time…

World champion Nick Matthew, seeded three, moved smoothly through with a comfortable straight games win over qualifier Andrew Wagih.

“I had never seen Andrew play before, so I had to give him all the respect due, but after a while, I got used to the conditions, and felt pretty comfortable,” said Matthew, who faces Ali Anwar Reda. “I have a lot of Egyptians in my draw, I just hope I can keep the English flag going,” he added.

Round one was completed as Fance’s second seed Gregory Gaultier despatched world junior champion Marwan El Shorbgy in just over half an hour, the young Egyptian challenging at the end of the second game as Gaultier made a few errors on game ball, but left no room for error in the third as he advanced to an all-European second round with Simon Rosner.

“Marwan played extremely well, he has a lot of good shots and moves very fast to the front, so it was perfect to test myself, and to get back into business,” said Gaultier.

1st Round Top Half

Champion Darwish Wins El Gouna Opener

Egypt's No4 seed Karim Darwish successfully began his defence of the El Gouna International Open title in the opening match on the all-glass court at Abu Tig Marina in El Gouna.

The third PSA World Series squash event of the year, being staged in the Red Sea resort for first time since 2010, is celebrating the return of international sport to Egypt after the revolution.

Darwish, whose triumph in 2010 marked his first World Series title on home soil, got his title defence underway smoothly with a straight games win over qualifier Adrian Waller. The tall Englishman stayed with the home favourite until the middle of each game, but former world number one Darwish eliminated his chances in the endgames.

"It was a hard game, I'm happy to finish it in three," said the 30-year-old from Cairo. "Adrian has good racket skills - he makes me think a bit of James, he likes holding the ball, but obviously has a bit of lack of experience on the glass court.

"It's so nice to be back in El Gouna, everybody is enjoying the place so much. I really want to thank El Gouna, the sponsors and Amr Mansi for holding this tournament here again, and really we are grateful to the sponsors. They invested in us at such a crucial time. It's so nice to be playing at home again."

Darwish will now play another Englishman for a place in the quarter-finals. Left-hander Jonathan Kemp eased through with a quick-fire win over Omar Abdel Meguid, the Englishman's shot-making too hot for the Egyptian qualifier to handle.

Top seed James Willstrop "did what I needed to do for enough games to win" against Nicolas Mueller, the dangerous young Swiss opponent who gave England's world number one a stiff test for two of their four games before seeing the fourth run away from him.

"He always takes the game to you," said the 28-year-old from Leeds. "But actually tonight, I thought he was being a bit conservative for the first two games, but started to let go a little bit in the third. He broke me a little bit there, fantastic drop shots, sublime shots and nicks, so it was good to come back to business into the fourth. It was a very enjoyable match indeed."

Willstrop's next opponent will be training partner Saurav Ghosal, the Indian number one who is also based in Leeds. But the speedy Kolkata-born 25-year-old had to fight back from two games before overcoming England left-hander Robbie Temple.

"I had to dig pretty hard to win this," admitted Ghosal. "Winning the third helped, but he was still in it. In the fourth, I had a good spell, and I started to believe, felt more confident. And physically, I felt fine."

Dutchman Laurens Jan Anjema was too strong in the end for Omar Abdel Aziz, finishing off the match powerfully after the Egyptian had fought back well to take the second game.

"He surprised me, because I thought of him as not a typical Egyptian player, more of a 'grinder' in the positive sense, as in, able to make it tough and the rallies long," said eighth seed Anjema after his 11-5, 6-11, 11-4, 11-5 win. "But when he took the opportunities I was opening for him in that game, I realised that he was probably not 'a typical Egyptian' after all!"

World No10 Thierry Lincou, the in-form Frenchman who is the highest-ranked unseeded player in the draw, survived a tough five game battle against Australian Cameron Pilley, ranked just four places lower.

The decider alone lasted 31 minutes, with Lincou coming through from six-all to secure his place in the last 16 - just days after his 36th birthday.

"When I was able to get back into a bit more control at the back, I was able to come back into it tactically," revealed Lincou. "I'm extremely happy, I have found my confidence again in my body, in my ability to win. If it hadn't been for my mates, advising me between games, I'm not sure I would have made it today."



Egyptian Quartet Boosts Home Interest

Egyptians claimed four of the qualifying slots in the El Gouna International Open after Wael Farag, Omar Abdel Meguid, Andrew Wagih Shoukry and Amr Khaled Khalifa prevailed in the qualifying finals of the third PSA World Series squash event of the year which will take place at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of El Gouna.

In the second day of action of the Sporting Club in Alexandria, Farag became the lowest-ranked player to earn a qualifying place in a World Series event this year when he ended the brave run of fellow countryman Omar Mohie Elddin Marei 11-6, 11-4, 11-4.

The 22-year-old from Cairo, ranked 238 in the world, took advantage of a tired Marei, who flew in from Australia just two days ago and won a marathon against England's Joey Barrington 24 hours earlier. Farag took the first comfortably and led the second 7-0 before Marei enjoyed his best spell of the match.

But from the middle of that game, the tired 20-year-old's legs wouldn't respond as Farag moved on to earn his second appearance in the event's first round.

Meguid was the first to qualify, squandering an early lead to lose the first game against Abdullah Al Muzayen - but then was leading in the second when the Kuwaiti was forced to pull out due to cramp with score standing at 9-11, 5-2.

"Myself and Abdullah have been struggling with injuries," admitted Meguid afterwards. "So I called my physio in Cairo who came specially before the match to make sure we were fit enough to play, gave us some treatment, and taped us up!

"I was not moving too well, but it was more about being a bit too careful! Still, Abdullah was really struggling with his movement, and had to stop. I'm so happy I'm in the main draw again."

Later in the day, Wagih Shoukry came from behind to deny Campbell Grayson a place in the main draw, beating the higher-ranked New Zealander 3-11, 11-9, 11-8, 9-11, 11-8 in just under two hours - and Amr Khaled Khalifa defeated Cairo-born Italian Amr Swelim 11-7, 11-8, 11-4 to complete the Egyptian qualifying quartet.

Mathieu Castagnet made sure that it wouldn't be an Egyptian clean sweep. The Frenchman recovered from losing a tough first game against Zahed Mohamed to exert increasing control in a 10-12, 11-5, 11-3, 11-3 victory.

"I was careful to watch Zahed play yesterday, plus, he played Little Greg in Hong Kong about three weeks ago, and I knew how a great fighter he is, and that he thrives on playing at a fast pace," admitted the Castagnet after the match.

"I personally didn't mind, as my natural game is also very physical, but I have to admit that at the end of the first game, I thought that if he was to go on like that much longer at that pace, I was in for a nice 3/0 defeat!

"But in the end, experience paid off, I kept on getting everything back, everything back, and managed to keep a nice cushion till the end of the match. So happy/proud to win here against such a player, they play at such a level in front of their home crowd, they simply display an extraordinary class. They truly have a 'heart of squash'."

Adrian Waller became the first of two English qualifiers, coming through an up and down encounter with Egyptian junior international Mohamed Abouelghar 12-10, 9-11, 11-2, 7-11, 11-8 in 65 minutes.

"It was really warm today, and I lost so much fluid on there!" said the tall 22-year-old from Enfield. "The first two games were really tough, and after he got the second, he had a bit of a drop of energy in the third, which I won really easily

"But in the fourth, he went for a lot of his shots, and played really well. In the fifth, it was really close up to 8-8, but he made two tins, and I found a nice drop shot to win."

Left-hander Robbie Temple, from Gloucestershire, also took 65 minutes to get the better of Egypt's Karim A G A Samy 11-7, 10-12, 11-8, 11-6.

Malaysia's Ivan Yuen edged past Karim Ali Fathi 8-11, 11-4, 7-11, 11-7, 11-9 in just under an hour and a half, and was understandably as delighted to be making the trip to El Gouna as Fathi was disappointed.

"In the first three games, I just couldn't breathe on there, not helped by the fact I've had a flu for a few days now," said KL-based Yuen. "But in the fourth, I got my confidence back, and told myself, yes, I can do this, don't give up.

"He is really and up and coming player, a bit wild, but it's part of the game. And I'm really glad to go to El Gouna for the first time, really excited!"

Main draw action in El Gouna begins on Sunday after a rest day while players and officials travel from Alexandria to the Red Sea resort.


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