Saudi International 2006
Shabana & Gaultier To Contest Saudi International Final In Al Khobar
In their fifth Tour meeting over the past three months, favourite Amr Shabana and seventh seed Gregory Gaultier will contest the final of the Saudi International after demanding semi-final clashes in the Super Series Platinum event which rounds off the PSA Tour year in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia.
Both players, despite being four years apart in age, are celebrating their 20th appearances in PSA Tour finals – Frenchman Gaultier his third in a row in the past five weeks and Shabana, the world number one from Egypt, his sixth this year.
Shabana recovered from a game down to beat England's fourth seed James Willstrop 7-11, 11-2, 11-7, 11-9 in 49 minutes.
"It’s always a mind game between James and I, and I think it’s good for the squash when we play together," the 27-year-old from Cairo told said afterwards. "It’s squash at its highest quality."
In the other match, Gaultier gained revenge for the five match-balls he failed to convert against David Palmer in the World Open final in September, beating the Australian 11-8, 11-2, 11-9 in 43 minutes.
"I’ve tried to give my 100% on every ball, on every rally, and not to give anything away," said the 23-year-old from Aix-en-Provence after his impressive upset.
Palmer, the world champion ranked two in the world, was not too unhappy with his performance: "I really struggled to move tonight, the body was not responding. After the first game, Greg's confidence just grew and grew, and the way he plays at the moment, he just believes in his game."
Despite never having been ahead of Shabana in the world rankings, Gaultier boasts a 5-2 head-to-head record over the top-ranked Egyptian – including a 3/1 victory in the US Open final in November.
Gaultier Chalks Up Second Win Against Team-Mate Thierry
The French squash pecking order is on the verge of its first major change for eight years after Gregory Gaultier recorded his second PSA Tour win over compatriotThierry Lincou, the long-established French number one, in the quarter-finals of the Saudi International.
Gaultier, the 23-year-old seventh seed from Aix-en-Provence who is ranked four in the world - now just one place behind his French team-mate in the Dunlop PSA World Rankings – beat third seed Lincou 11-9, 11-7, 11-10 (2-0) in 56 minutes to reach the semi-finals of the final major international squash event of the year in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia.
"I feel sorry for him, it’s hard to play against each other," Gaultier said afterwards. "I know what it is to lose against him, the last time we played he beat me, today I beat him, so in a way I’m happy to have won the match, but on the other hand I’m sorry to have beaten my best mate."
Remarkably, it was the pair's sixth Tour clash this year – with Lincou's current all-time 7-2 head-to-head lead looking in jeopardy of further erosion in the future.
"Greg really likes those conditions, it suits his game, and on such a cold court, it’s very hard to retrieve," explained the 30-year-old former world number one from Marseille. "It was very close, very close indeed, but he was just a bit better than I was. I could never get ahead, even when I was leading, and I couldn’t get the third, that he won with three superb backhand winners."
Gaultier, just one match away from his third successive PSA Tour final, takes on No2 seed David Palmer in a repeat of the World Open final – won by the Australian – in Egypt. Palmer toiled for 52 minutes to overcome England's British Open champion Nick Matthew, the No6 seed, 11-10 (5-3), 11-7, 6-11, 11-7. The match will be Palmer's sixth successive semi-final since becoming world champion in September.
The other semi-final between Egypt's top seed Amr Shabana and England'sJames Willstrop will also be a replay of a an earlier classic confrontation – in the semi-finals of the Hong Kong Open in October.
Shabana, the world number one from Cairo who had not dropped a game on his way to the last eight, continued his fine run of form with an 11-7, 11-7, 11-6 dismissal of compatriot Mohammed Abbas in just 28 minutes. Abbas, the 15th seed, had achieved his unscheduled appearance in the last eight after upsetting eighth-seeded fellow countryman Karim Darwish in the previous round.
"I’ve been training with Mohammed every day for the past 10 or 11 years, there is no surprise. It’s always the same when two Egyptian players play against each other, it’s who plays the tighter and better," explained the left-hander who boasts four PSA Tour titles this year, including three Super Series. "Today, it was my turn to play well, I’m glad."
James Willstrop, the fourth seed from Pontefract eager to make up for disappointing runs in his previous two PSA events, was in sparkling form as he defeated Australia's fifth seed Anthony Ricketts 8-11, 11-10 (2-0), 11-5, 11-10 (3-1) in 58 minutes. The win cements the Englishman's place in the 2007 Super Series Finals, but rules out Ricketts's chances of defending his title next May in London.
"It's disappointing to lose, it was a big match for me - I wanted to get back on track before Christmas after a fairly poor run of results," said a disconsolate Ricketts later. "I knew I needed to win to guarantee a Super Series Finals place, and my gut feel is that the quarters here wasn't quite enough. I'd have loved to defend that title, but we'll just have to see how it goes."
After beating his higher-ranked fellow countryman Ramy Ashour in the first round of the Saudi International, Egyptian Karim Darwish went down to lower-ranked compatriot Mohammed Abbas in the second round of the final major international squash event of the year in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia.
Abbas, the 15th seed from Cairo – and the fifth highest-ranked Egyptian in the Dunlop PSA World Rankings – brushed aside eighth-seeded Darwish 11-9, 11-5, 11-6 in just 29 minutes to record the only upset on the second day of this PSA Super Series Platinum event in its second year.
"I’ve been losing all my matches to him for the past five to six years - I’ve lost so many finals against him, and every time I lose, it grows in my head, what I’m supposed to do to beat him," Abbas said
"Today I was blessed, all my shots just came in. I told my mother to pray for me, I guess she must have done!" added Abbas, who now meets Egyptian favourite Amr Shabana in the quarter-finals.
The 2007 Saudi International is providing the world's top players the final chance to earn points to qualify for next year's Super Series Finals, the annual event which showcases the eight most successful players in the previous year's PSA Super Series events.
Darwish, the world No9 from Cairo, lies in eighth place in the latest standings – but could lose his qualification place to Anthony Ricketts if the Australian title-holder (currently ninth in the list) reaches the semi-finals.
Fifth seed Ricketts overcame Finland's 12th seed Olli Tuominen 11-10 (3-1), 11-9, 11-9 and will now face James Willstrop in the quarter-finals. The fourth-seeded Englishman also had a straightforward second round win, avenging his Pontefract club team-mate Lee Beachill's shock first round loss to Joey Barrington by cruising to an 11-6, 11-3, 11-8 victory over the English qualifier in just 28 minutes.
Willstrop, virtually assured of a place in the 2007 Super Series Finals, lost to Ricketts in the 2006 event – but boasts a 4-3 head-to-head record over the defending champion.
A French rivalry which has grown in intensity throughout the year - and produced two dramatic PSA Tour finals – will be replayed for the sixth time on the Tour in 2006 when world No3 Thierry Lincou takes on the new world No4 Gregory Gaultier in the quarter-finals.
Lincou, the third seed battled for 52 minutes to quash England's 14th seed Adrian Grant 11-4, 3-11, 11-3, 11-5, while Gaultier, the No7 seed, outplayed the other surprise qualifier in the last sixteen when he beat Egypt's Hisham Mohd Ashour 11-5, 11-5, 11-6.
Beachill, a quarter-finalist in this PSA Super Series Platinum event a year ago, was looking for a good run in the event to capture a late place in next year's Super Series Finals - the eight-man event which features the top eight players from this year's PSA Super Series tournaments, in which the 29-year-old Yorkshireman has competed for the past four years.
But his opponent, son of the illustrious six-times British Open champion Jonah Barrington, was determined to make the most of the qualifying slot he earned in September, after losing out at the first round stage in the inaugural event in 2005.
Barrington, 26, from Glastonbury in Somerset, battled for 76 minutes to achieve his impressive 5-11, 11-9, 6-11, 11-9, 11-7 upset over the England international, ranked 10 in the world. His next opponent will be another fellow Englishman – and Pontefract stable-mate of Lee Beachill – James Willstrop, who eased to an 11-3, 11-3, 11-7 win over Canada's Shahier Razik.
At the end of a long, and surprisingly rain-soaked, day in Saudi Arabia, Egyptian qualifier Hisham Mohd Ashour also claimed a seed scalp when he beat No10 seed Mohd Azlan Iskandar 11-10 (5-3), 11-8, 10-11 (0-2), 11-6 in 45 minutes. It was the end of a disappointing week for the Malaysian who was beaten into second place in the Asian Games championship in Qatar 48 hours earlier.