Saudi International 2009
13-18 December
 

Ramy Rallies To Saudi Success - & World No1 Ranking

It was a dramatic 110-minute final that brought the 2009 Saudi International to a fitting climax today (Friday) at Sunset Beach in Al-Khobar in Saudi Arabia when Egyptian Ramy Ashour not only clinched the $250,000 PSA World Tour Super Series squash title in sensational style, but ensured that he would become number one in the PSA world rankings in January 2010 for the first time.

Described by Professional Squash Association (PSA) CEO Alex Gough as "the most incredible, most tense match I have seen in a long time", the clash was watched not only by a packed - and partisan - crowd at Sunset Beach willing 'local' hero Ashour to win, but also by thousands of squash enthusiasts around the world via the new internet TV streaming service www.psasquashtv.com launched by the PSA at the final Super Series event of the year.

Top seed Ashour was facing England's third seed Nick Matthew - with both players eyeing up both the winner's cheque of $37,400 and the next world number one ranking.

And from the start, right through to the final point, it was anyone's match:  After Ashour took the first game, Matthew came back in the second after winning five points in a row from 6-7 down.

The 22-year-old Egyptian led through most of the third - but Matthew saved two games balls from 8-10 down after two sensational rallies before the pressure got to him as he made a costly error to give Ashour a confidence-boosting 2/1 lead. 

"That was a massive game," said SquashTV guest commentator Adrian Grant, the England international who was beaten in the semi-finals by Matthew.

True to style, the young Ashour scored six quick points in the fourth to reach 8-4 - and, just three points from the title, seemed in control.

But, true to his Yorkshire roots, Matthew refused to give up - and, playing his best squash of the match, dug deep to claim the next seven points in succession to force a decider.

Incredibly, again Ashour moved ahead to 8-4 in the fifth game - and again Matthew mounted a rear-guard action to reduce the deficit, winning the eighth point after sending Ashour scurrying to the back corner where he slipped and went head-first into the wall.

After a three-minute injury break to dry off his shoes, Ashour was back and, despite almost slipping again, took the next two points to seal his historic 11-7, 7-11, 11-9, 9-11, 11-8 victory.

The match was not only Ashour's longest of the tournament - but his longest all-time (by almost 20 minutes) on the PSA World Tour.

"I think we both played well, and to be honest, this is probably the toughest match I ever played," conceded the new champion later.  "And I think itís good that Nick and I are pushing each other that hard, because weíll keep playing for a long time.

"I was able to relax at the start of each game, but when I got the lead, then I started thinking, and started to get all tense, and didnít go for my shots!

"Tonight, it could have been anybodyís, it was the most amazing match ever!  But at the end, it was so slippery out there!  The sweat was coming out of our bodies, our shirts, our shoes!!!  Maybe it was my shoes I donít know, but I kept slipping on there!

"Iím so happy about winning this title, thatís something Iíve been working hard all my life.  It was my dream, my brother, my mum, my dad, my coaches, and all the people that have been pushing and supporting me all those years."

Despite missing out on the world number one spot, world No4 Matthew has the consolation of knowing that he will rise to a career-high No2 in the January list.

"We fought hard, really we fought all the way, but there is an immense respect between us too," said the 29-year-old from Sheffield.  "I think we both played well tonight, and there was the smallest of margin at the end.

"I had Adrian (Grant) in my corner, he was pushing me hard - but at some point, I had the impression that we were two against 2,000!  Still, I kept imagining everybody back in Sheffield, looking at the match at the club on the big screen, and supporting me, and shouting for me.  So I kept on telling myself, come on, push, just push, for them.  And that gave me a lot of strength."

"All credit to Ramy - he deserves this victory, and the title.  Although, we were smiling with Ziad (Al-Turki) during the trophy ceremony, when he said that he worked all his life to get that title, he is only 22! I really have worked all my life, so I think he should have let me have it then!

Alex Gough stated that it was the most incredible match he had seen in a long time.  "Considering what was at stake, both players played fearlessly and produced squash of the highest quality," added the former world number four.

"It's an old clichť, but it was a shame someone had to lose - but tonight Ramy was the one who held up in the final throws.  Tough for Nick to take, but he can be proud at being as close as he was.

"2010 is set up to be an incredible year all around and we have the players to elevate the sport to where it deserves," concluded the PSA CEO.

 


. Draw
. Reports


 

 
Saudi International 2009 
Draw  $210k
Round 1
Sun 13 Dec
Round 2
14/15 Dec
Quarters
Wed 16 Dec
Semis
Thu 17 Dec
Final
Fri 18 Dec
[2] Amr Shabana (Egy)
11/8, 4/2 rtd (16m)
[Q] Joey Barrington (Eng)
Joey Barrington
11/2, 11/4, 11/8 (30m)
Aamir Atlas Khan
Aamir Atlas Khan
9-11, 11-5, 11-6, 13-11 (62m)
Adrian Grant
Adrian Grant
11-3, 3-11, 11-6, 11-7 (61m)
Nick Matthew

Nick Matthew
11-7, 7-11, 11-9, 9-11, 11-8 (110m)
Ramy Ashour
[15] Aamir Atlas Khan (Pak)
11/5, 11/9, 11/4 (30m)
[Q] Saurav Ghosal (Ind)
[8] Adrian Grant (Eng)
11/8, 11/5, 11/2 (31m)
Amr Swelim (Ita)
Adrian Grant
8/11, 11/9, 11/7, 11/7 (71m)
Farhan Mehboob
[14] Farhan Mehboob (Pak)
11/5, 11/0, 11/5 (18m)
[Q] Stťphane Galifi (Fra)
[3] Nick Matthew (Eng)
11/6, 11/2, 8/11, 11/2 (45m)
[Q] Omar Mosaad (Egy)
Nick Matthew
11/8, 11/8, 4/11, 11/9 (70m)
James Willstrop
Nick Matthew
11-8, 11-3, 11-7 (51m)
Wael El Hindi
[9] James Willstrop (Eng)
11/7, 11/5, 11/3 (26m)
Olli Tuominen (Fin)
[7] Wael El Hindi (Egy)
11/4, 10/12, 10/10 CG CM (58m)
[Q] Davide Bianchetti (Ita)
Wael El Hindi
 11/7, 11/9, 11/2 (36m)
Jonathan Kemp
[11] Laurens Jan Anjema (Ned)
11/6, 5/11, 11/7, 11/3 (40m)
Jonathan Kemp (Eng)
[Q] Aaron Frankcomb (Aus)
11/4, 11/7, 11/6 (31m)
[10] Ong Beng Hee (Mas)
Ong Beng Hee
11-9, 11-2, 11-9 (45m)
Thierry Lincou
Thierry Lincou
11-5, 11-8, 5-11, 11-5 (47m)
David Palmer
David Palmer
11-8, 14-12, 11-3 (38m)
Ramy Ashour
[Q] Ali Anwar Reda (Egy)
9/11, 11/3, 11/6, 5/2 rtd (42m)
[6] Thierry Lincou (Fra)
Tom Richards (Eng)
11/4, 11/9, 11/5 (45m)
[16] Stewart Boswell (Aus)
Stewart Boswell
13-11, 11-8, 11-6 (46m)
David Palmer
Cameron Pilley (Aus)
11/5, 10/12, 3/11, 11/1, 11/3 (54m)
[4] David Palmer (Aus)
Steve Coppinger (Rsa)
11/4, 11/2, 11/3 (20m)
[13] Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egy)
Mohamed El Shorbagy
10-12, 11-9, 11-8, 11-8 (54m)
Peter Barker
Mohamed El Shorbagy
11-3, 12-10, 11-3 (32m)
Ramy Ashour
Naif Abureqah (Ksa)
11/6, 11/7, 11/9 (28m)
[5] Peter Barker (Eng)
Daryl Selby (Eng)
11/4, 11/3, 11/7 (31m)
[12] Alister Walker (Eng)
Alister Walker
12-10, 11-8, 11-5 (38m)
Ramy Ashour
Hisham Ashour (Egy)
11/8, 11/5, 11/5 (27m)
[1] Ramy Ashour (Egy)

Reports
 

Matthew & Ashour Line Up For Saudi & World Ranking Glory

England's Nick Matthew and Egypt's Ramy Ashour will contest a dream final of the $250,000 Saudi International at Sunset Beach in Al-Khobar in Saudi Arabia - the champion of the PSA World Tour Super Series squash event not only picking up the $37,400 winner's cheque, but also certain to become number one in the first PSA world rankings of 2010.

Yorkshireman Nick Matthew reached the 30th PSA Tour final of his career when he beat England team-mate Adrian Grant 11-3, 3-11, 11-6, 11-7 in the first semi-final of the day.  Despite suffering with food poisoning, left-handed Londoner Grant - competing in his first Super Series semi - extended third seed Matthew for 61 minutes.

"I knew of his condition - but actually, he played so well," Matthew said afterwards.  "I know, I had the same feel when I played in the British, I had back problems and couldnít rely on my physical strength - and my squash got better!

"I think it was the same for Adrian tonight.  He had nothing to lose, and he couldnít rely on what makes his strength normally, so his squash was really outstanding tonight.

"It will be fantastic to play Ramy.  Tonight, I had everything to lose, in a way - whereas tomorrow, I wonít, and will enjoy every second of it," added the 29-year-old from Sheffield, the first Englishman to make the Saudi final.

Top seed Ramy Ashour was in sensational form in the second semi, where he fought back from five game balls down in the second game to beat experienced Australian David Palmer 11-8, 14-12, 11-3 in 38 minutes. 

Palmer, the 33-year-old fourth seed, was marking his fourth successive appearance in the Saudi semi-finals - and bidding to make the final for the first time.

"Iím very happy with that result, I cannot complain," exclaimed Ashour, now in his 22nd Tour final.  "Itís the biggest event, itís the biggest prize money, itís the biggest everything!!!

"I donít want to think about the world number one ranking, but I guess I have to start thinking about it now.  Tomorrow will be the most important match of my career, and for Nick too.  The only thing I can do it do my best.

"I could see that David got tired at the end of the match, itís the end of the season.  But I made an error, in particular in the second that was an absolutely crucial game.  I had in my mind the idea that David was older, and had the experience, and that I was young and probably fitter, and just tried and outrun him.

"Now, Iím going to eat well, rest, and tomorrow, back to basics.  Iíll try my best not to think about the match, not to think about the rankings."

The Saudi International is celebrating its fifth year as one of the leading events on the PSA World Tour - and for the fifth time, the winner will go on to top the world rankings. 

The final - which will be streamed live and FREE on www.psasquashtv.com - will be Ashour and Matthew's eighth career PSA World Tour clash.  It will also be the pair's third final meeting this year, and only eight days after Ashour clinched victory in the climax of the PSA Masters in India. 

Ashour currently boasts a 4/3 lead, but it was Matthew who prevailed when they last met in Saudi, in the quarter-finals in December 2008.

Grant Grabs Maiden Super Series Semi-Final Slot In Saudi

A four-game victory over Pakistan's Aamir Atlas Khan in the quarter-finals of the $250,000 Saudi International at Sunset Beach in Al-Khobar in Saudi Arabia led Englishman Adrian Grant through to his maiden appearance in the semi-finals of a PSA World Tour Super Series squash event in his 48th attempt since February 2001.

After beating Pakistan's Farhan Mehboob in the previous round, eighth seed Grant faced a second nephew of the legendary Jansher Khan when he took on 15th seed Aamir Atlas Khan in the opening match of the day.

And after recovering from a game down, the left-hander from London battled through to a 9-11, 11-5, 11-6, 13-11 victory over his Peshawar opponent in 62 minutes to achieve his historic Tour breakthrough

"This is obviously my best result of the year - Iím in the semis of a platinum event," Grant acknowledged afterwards.  "I knew it was going to be tough, heís been having some great results lately.

"Even after losing the first, I was still confident that I would win - I was moving well.  At the start of that fourth, I really wanted to get off to a good start, and I was a bit too relaxed, too confident from the first and second game, where I was dominating," added the 29-year-old world No12.

Grant will now take on England team-mate Nick Matthew in a clash which will guarantee the first English finalist in the five-year history of the Saudi championship.

Third seed Matthew kept alive his hopes of becoming world number one for the first time next month when he beat Egypt's No7 seed Wael El Hindi 11-8, 11-3, 11-7 in 51 minutes.

"Iím really happy with that 3/0 win, saving legs and mind for tomorrowís game," admitted the 29-year-old from Sheffield.  "Iíve been playing Adrian since we were 10 years old - Iím so happy for him that he reached his first ever platinum event semi, and Iím looking forward to tomorrowís match already."

The other semi-final will feature top seed Ramy Ashour, the Egyptian who is also bidding to top the PSA world rankings for the first time in January.  The 22-year-old from Cairo maintained his straight games record in the event when he defeated 18-year-old compatriot Mohamed El Shorbagy, the 13th seed, 11-3, 12-10, 11-3.

Ashour made history in 2006 when he became the first man to win the World Junior Championship a second time - a feat which El Shorbagy repeated in August this year.

"It felt like a World Junior semi or final," said Ashour after the Saudi quarter-final.  "It reminded me of my final against (Omar) Mosaad, the same excitement, feeling, pace.

"When I see Mohamed, I see myself, the same hunger, passion, when I was younger.  I know that a lot of people would have played him keeping it simple, and straight, but I wanted to play at that pace, I wanted to race with him.

"I enjoyed the match so much, no doubt he is extremely gifted, and that he will become a spectacular player."

Ashour will face David Palmer, the fourth-seeded Australian who prevailed 11-5, 11-8, 5-11, 11-5 over fellow 33-year-old Thierry Lincou, the sixth seed from France.

"Weíve played 18 times before, 9/9 each, so I hope weíll stay on this result, 10/9 for me," exclaimed the US-based former world number one from New South Wales.

"I look at Thierry - he had a great career, then a bit of a bad patch, recovered and came up firing again. Itís a bit like me, I have a not so good start of the season, and I got better. Itís all a question of motivation.  He can still do it, and so can I!"

El Shorbagy Shocks Barker In Saudi

Egyptian teenager Mohamed El Shorbagy continued his end-of-year surge at the Saudi International when he upset fifth seed Peter Barker in the longest match of the day to reach the quarter-finals of the $250,000 PSA World Tour Super Series squash championship in Saudi Arabia - the final major event of the year at Sunset Beach in Al-Khobar. 

The youngest player in the world's top 20, El Shorbagy showed the same sparkling form which took him to a surprise quarter-final appearance in last week's PSA Masters in Mumbai after overturning England's world No6 James Willstrop.

In their first meeting on the PSA Tour, the 18-year-old from Alexandria recovered from a game down at Sunset Beach to beat Englishman Barker, the world No7, 10-12, 11-9, 11-8, 11-8 in 54 minutes. 

"Iím so happy - it was my mumís birthday yesterday, thatís my belated birthday gift for her," El Shorbagy said later. 

"In the first game, we didnít know how to play each other, so we were ever so patient, and I could feel that he got a lot of confidence after winning the first - like I got a lot of momentum after winning the second. 

"I shouldnít have lost the first game:  I was up 9-7, but I lost my concentration, and I feel that he probably did the same in the second.  He was up 9-6, made errors at crucial times, and seemed to lose his focus a bit," explained the UK-based world No20. 

El Shorbagy goes on to face fellow countryman Ramy Ashour for a place in the semi-finals.  The 22-year-old top seed kept alive his dreams of becoming world number one for the first time next month with a 12-10, 11-8, 11-5 victory over England's 12th seed Alister Walker. 

Earlier, Australian veteran David Palmer took one step closer to his fourth successive semi-final appearance in the Saudi championship after a hard-fought 13-11, 11-8, 11-6 win over 16th seed Stewart Boswell - his second battle in a row over a fellow countryman. 

"Two Aussies in a row, thatís not easy," said the 33-year-old fourth seed whose first round clash with compatriot Cameron Pilley came about as a result of a late re-draw.  "I was disappointed with the change of draw of course, but that the game. 

"I had a bit of luck at the end of the first, things seemed to go my way a bit.  And after that, I was able to control things better. 

"It was a 3/0 match - but oh so close.  After I saw Thierry winning 3/0, I realised that, if I could avoid it of course, the last thing I needed was to be dragged in a long five-setter.  Any 3/0 win against Bozza is a good win!" 

Palmer now plays fellow Tour stalwart Thierry Lincou, the 33-year-old Frenchman who despatched tenth-seeded Malaysian Ong Beng Hee 11-9, 11-2, 11-9 in the first match of the day. 

"For tomorrow, Thierry and I have been around for a few years now, itís all due to a good preparation, a good management from my team, a bit of luck, and turning up to tournament to win.  Also, we both have the kind of game that allows us to win even on a bad day," added Palmer.

Matthew Marches On In Saudi

 England's Nick Matthew extended his unbeaten Tour run against James Willstrop to four wins over two years when he beat his national rival in the second round of the Saudi International to reach the quarter-finals of the $250,000 PSA World Tour Super Series squash championship in Saudi Arabia - the final major event of the year at Sunset Beach in Al-Khobar.

 It was a tense and tough encounter - the pair's first meeting since world number four Matthew prevailed in a 122-minute marathon final of the British Open on home soil in September after Willstrop failed to convert match balls to give him the title for the first time.

 Third seed Matthew took the first two games at Sunset Beach for eight points each - but fellow Yorkshireman Willstrop, the No9 seed who is only two places lower in the world rankings, fought back to take the third for only four points.

 But Matthew regrouped in the fourth - raising his arms in delight after 70 minutes to celebrate his 11-8, 11-8, 4-11, 11-9 victory.

 The 29-year-old from Sheffield is on course to become world number one for the first time in the January rankings - but must reach the semi-finals and stay ahead of his only rival Ramy Ashour, the 22-year-old Egyptian who beat him in last week's PSA Masters final in India, and who plays his second round Saudi International match today.

 "Iím so happy Iíve got a day of rest tomorrow, itís not physically, more mentally," Matthew said afterwards.  "The standard of squash was so high, that a little drop in concentration - like in the third - and James was all over me like a rash.

 "And in the fourth, I was determined not to have a fifth, because then you might as well toss a coin!

 "It was the worst draw for both of us, and you knew by the number of players that were sitting watching the match that it was going to be fireworks, and a great match.

 "This was the first time James and I played after our match in the British Open. A lot of things were written and said, and Iím glad that we had none of that rubbish today.  It was a clean and good match - now we can all move on with our lives and look to the future," concluded Matthew.

 Willstrop conceded that the outcome was just:  "Nick played better today, he deserved to win.  Today he was stronger than me, his body held it better.  Everybody knows how great a professional Nick is.

 "It was a dog of a draw, especially after all the top players have gone out of the tournament.  Iím disappointed with the standard I play at the moment - to be out in the second round.  I donít think I deserve that!  I think I need a bit of luck, things to go my way a bit - although in no way shape or form am I saying that luck made Nick win the game!"

Matthew will now face seventh seed Wael El Hindi on Wednesday for a place in the semi-finals after the Egyptian beat English qualifier Jonathan Kemp 11-7, 11-9, 11-2.

 There were mixed fortunes for Englishmen in the earlier second round matches:  Eighth seed Adrian Grant was extended for 71 minutes by Pakistan's 14th seed Farhan Mehboob before beating his fellow left-hander 8-11, 11-9, 11-7, 11-7.

 Meanwhile qualifier Joey Barrington was unable to take advantage of his surprise place in the last sixteen after the mid-match retirement of second seed Amr Shabana in the their first round clash.  Aamir Atlas Khan, the 15th seed from Pakistan was too strong for the 29-year-old from Somerset, winning 11-2, 11-4, 11-8 in just 30 minutes.

Shabana Limps Out Of Saudi

 Amr Shabana became the third player from the world's top three to exit the Saudi International as a result of injury when the Egyptian retired midway through his first round match in the $250,000 PSA World Tour Super Series squash championship in Saudi Arabia - the final major event of the year at Sunset Beach in Al-Khobar. 

It was on the eve of the second richest tournament of 2009 that France's world No2 Gregory Gaultier and Egypt's world number one Karim Darwish announced their withdrawals - with thigh and back injuries, respectively.  Success in Saudi could have led any one of the trio to the top of the PSA world rankings in January.

 It was in the last match of the day that second seed Amr Shabana, the Saudi champion in 2006 and 2007, called it a day at a game and 2-4 down to Joey Barrington, having failed to recover from the hamstring injury he picked up at the Punj Lloyd PSA Masters in India last week.

 The unexpected victory takes the English qualifier through to a last sixteen clash with Pakistan's Aamir Atlas Khan.  The 19-year-old 15th seed from Peshawar ended Indian interest in the event when he dismissed qualifier Saurav Ghosal 11-5, 11-9, 11-4 in 30 minutes.

 Another Englishman earned a surprise place in the second round when Jonathan Kemp beat Dutchman Laurens Jan Anjema, the 11th seed, 11-6, 5-11, 11-7, 11-3.  The 28-year-old qualifier from Halifax now lines up against Wael El Hindi, the No7 seed from Egypt.

 El Hindi faced fiery Italian Davide Bianchetti who, after several altercations with officials, was awarded a conduct game against him towards the end of the third game - immediately followed by a conduct match - which gave the 29-year-old from Cairo a place in the last 16 with the score standing at 11-4, 10-12, 10-10.

 Top seed Ramy Ashour, the 22-year-old Egyptian who arrived in Saudi fresh from his PSA Masters victory in Mumbai, overcame the same first round opponent he encountered in India - his older brother Hisham Mohd Ashour

 "He was fast, focused and there every time, he was just better than me today but I should have played better and at least made it last longer," Hisham said after his 11-8, 11-5, 11-5 defeat in 27 minutes.

 "But he's my brother - I'll support him through the rest of the tournament now.  If he wins this one he'll be world number one which is something we've dreamed of and worked towards for a long time now."

 Third seed Nick Matthew, runner-up in Mumbai, also progressed to the next round - but needed four games to overcome Egyptian qualifier Omar Mosaad 11-6, 11-2, 8-11, 11-2 in 45 minutes.

 The England number one will now face national rival James Willstrop after the ninth seed enjoyed a straightforward 11-7, 11-5, 11-3 win in 26 minutes over unseeded Finn Olli Tuominen.