Saudi International 2007

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Saudi International 2007
23rd-28th October

Shabana Shines In
Saudi Showdown

Amr Shabana conquered Egyptian compatriot Ramy Ashour in the final of the Saudi International to not only win the biggest cheque in the history of squash but also ensure that he extends his grip on the world number one ranking into a 20th successive month.


The climax of the PSA Super Series Platinum event in the Saudi Arabian city of Al-Khobar provided the dream finale between top seed Shabana, one of the sport's most skilful racquet 'technicians', and second seed Ramy Ashour, the 20-year-old 'new kid on the block' who has already picked up five PSA Tour titles this year - and for whom victory would have led to his attaining the world number one ranking for the first time!


Shabana, in his first Tour final since March, romped to a two-game lead - the pressure appearing to affect Ashour more than his experienced opponent.


But Ramy took heart in the third after Shabana hit two unnecessary tins.  Ramy led 5-0 and 7-1, by which time Shabana let the game go to focus on the fourth.


The top seed was back on court early for the fourth, keen to get back on top.  But Ramy too was up for it now.  Level up to five-all, Shabana pulled ahead 7-5 - but then Ramy took over the lead 8-7.


At match-ball, Shabana is about to celebrate after hitting a winner, when the referee shouts 'let'.  At the second time of asking, it's a 'no let' - and the defending champion raises his arms in delight.


"Oh man, what a big match, so much at stake," Shabana said after collecting his record cheque for $31,172.


"You have to keep it simple as you can against Ramy, or he's going to eat you up. The first two games were good, I played simple, steady squash and contained him.  I could see in his eyes as he came out he was up for the third, but I mixed it up too much and he played too good.


"It meant a lot when I got to match ball.  I've been thinking a lot about getting to match ball in a big tournament, thinking about it for some time, it's been a long time for me.  I knew I had to push, really push then, it might not come again," explained Shabana, who now boasts 17 PSA Tour titles.


"It's going to be so hard playing Ramy over the next few years, but I'm really pleased to win this one again, it's massive.  I'm not thinking about three for now, two is enough!"


Ramy responded:  "He played much better than me.  I played well, but he was better.  I was a bit loose in the first and second, I couldn't feel the shots, but I came back well in the third.


"In the fourth he had that mental toughness.  I got close but he forced me to push myself as hard as I could and in the end he was that bit tougher and he played better than me."


Event promoter Ziad Al-Turki expressed his delight at the success of the tournament:  "Amr Shabana won it again, he's a deserving champion - and for the second time in three years the final decided who would be number one.


"Overall it was a great event. It would have been nice to see Ramy win, but the future is his."



. Draw
. Qualifying
. Previews

2006 Event
. 2005 Event

Karim Darwish (above) takes a determined
Amr Shabana (below)
the distance

Saudi International 2007 
Draw  $210k
Round 1
Round 2
24/25 Oct
[1] Amr Shabana (Egy)
 11/7, 11/6, 12/14, 11/7 (57m)
Omar Mosaad (Egy)
Amr Shabana
 10/12, 4/11, 11/4, 11/6, 11/4 (67m)
 Karim Darwish
Amr Shabana
11-7, 11-10 (2-0), 11-5 (50m)
Thierry Lincou
Amr Shabana
11-10 (3-1), 11-8, 11-4 (54m)
David Palmer
Amr Shabana
11-5, 11-5, 1-11, 11-9 (50m)
Ramy Ashour
[9] Karim Darwish (Egy)
14/12, 8/11, 11/4, 11/6 (52m)
Cameron Pilley (Aus)
[5] Thierry Lincou (Fra)
13/11, 8/11, 11/9, 11/8 (71m)
Azlan Iskandar (Mas)
Thierry Lincou
12/10, 11/6, 11/8 (52m)
 Stewart Boswell
[10] Stewart Boswell (Aus)
11/6, 11/4, 11/2 (25m)
Mohammed Taher Al-Saif (Ksa)
[3] David Palmer (Aus)
11/3, 11/5, 11/6 (30m)
Chris Ryder (Eng)
David Palmer
11/7, 11/9, 11/7 (47m)
Adrian Grant
David Palmer
11-5, 10-11 (0-2), 11-3, 11-3 (71m)
Nick Matthew
[13] Adrian Grant (Eng)
3/11, 7/11, 11/8, 11/9, 13/11 (92m)
Joey Barrington (Eng)
[7] Nick Matthew (Eng)
11/6, 11/6, 10/12, 11/6 (61m)
Alister Walker (Eng)
Nick Matthew
12/10, 8/11, 11/6, 11/3 (60m)
 Laurens Jan Anjema
[12] Mohammed Abbas (Egy)
12/10, 11/13, 11/2, 11/9 (52m)
Laurens Jan Anjema (Ned)
Alex Gough (Wal)
7/11, 11/7, 11/7, 7/11, 11/5 (71m)
[11] Lee Beachill (Eng)
Lee Beachill
11-4, 11-6, 11-4 (38m)
James Willstrop
James Willstrop
11-2, 2-11, 11-7, 11-9 (65m)
Gregory Gaultier
Gregory Gaultier
10-11 (0-2), 11-2, 8-11, 11-2, 11-8 (68m)
Ramy Ashour
Daryl Selby (Eng)
11/6, 11/7, 11/5 (35m)
[6] James Willstrop (Eng)
Chris Simpson (Eng)
11/2, 11/3, 11/3 (30m)
[14] Peter Barker (Eng)
Peter Barker
11-7, 11-4, 11-7 (49m)
 Gregory Gaultier
[LL] Jonathan Harford (Eng)
 11/0, 11/7, 11/8 (29m)
[4] Gregory Gaultier (Fra)
Davide Bianchetti (Ita)
11/1, 11/2, 11/7 (20m)
[15] Olli Tuominen (Fin)
Olli Tuominen
11-7, 11-6, 11-10 (3-1) (61m)
Wael El Hindi
Olli Tuominen
11-6, 11-6, 11-7 (31m)
Ramy Ashour
Borja Golan (Esp)
7/11, 11/7, 9/11, 11/5, 11/5 (96m)
[8] Wael El Hindi (Egy)
Hisham Ashour (Egy)
11/8, 7/11, 11/1, 10/12, 11/8 (61m)
[16] Ong Beng Hee (Mas)
Ong Beng Hee
11-9, 10-11 (0-2), 11-6, 11-5 (63m)
Ramy Ashour
Jonathan Kemp (Eng)
13/11, 11/13, 11/3, 11/7 (31m)
[2] Ramy Ashour (Egy)


Qualifying finals:
St George's Hill 18th July
Hisham Mohd Ashour (EGY) bt Aaron Frankcomb (AUS) 11-7, 11-4, 11-3 (28m)
Omar Mosaad (EGY) bt Jonathan Harford (ENG) 11-9, 5-11, 11-6, 11-4 (45m)
Jonathan Kemp (ENG) bt Mohamed El Shorbagy (EGY) 11-10 (2-0), 11-6, 11-7 (26m)
Chris Simpson (ENG) bt Renan Lavigne (FRA) 11-6, 2-11, 11-6, 11-4 (57m)
Davide Bianchetti (ITA) bt Scott Handley (ENG) 11-10 (4-2), 11-8, 11-8 (43m)
Joey Barrington (ENG) bt Robbie Temple (ENG) 11-7, 11-5, 11-2 (25m)
Daryl Selby (ENG) bt Jan Koukal (CZE) 11-6, 11-3, 11-8 (37m)
Alister Walker (ENG) bt Chris Ryder (ENG) 5-11, 11-2, 11-10 (2-0), 6-11, 11-0 (61m)

1st qualifying round:
St George's Hill 17th July
Aaron Frankcomb (AUS) bt Jason Barry (RSA) 11-3, 11-6, 11-1 (34m)
Jonathan Harford (ENG) bt Tom Hoevenaars (NED) 11-10 (3-1), 6-11, 11-6, 11-2 (49m)
Omar Mosaad (EGY) bt John Rooney (IRL) 8-11, 11-10 (5-3), 11-4, 11-7 (67m)
Jonathan Kemp (ENG) bt Ben Ford (ENG) 11-5, 11-8, 11-10 (5-3) (31m)
Mohamed El Shorbagy (EGY) bt Dylan Bennett (NED) 11-3, 11-10 (2-0), 11-8 (27m)
Chris Simpson (ENG) bt Joe Lee (ENG) 11-6, 11-9, 11-3 (41m)
Renan Lavigne (FRA) bt Darren Lewis (ENG) 11-3, 11-8, 11-5 (37m)
Davide Bianchetti (ITA) bt James Snell (ENG) 11-5, 11-4, 9-11, 11-5 (35m)
Scott Handley (ENG) bt Ryan Thompson (NAM) 11-1, 11-2, 11-5 (26m)
Robbie Temple (ENG) bt Stacey Ross (ENG) w/o
Daryl Selby (ENG) bt Alex Ingham (ENG) 7-11, 11-5, 11-6, 11-6 (47m)
Jan Koukal (CZE) bt Philip Nightingale (ENG) 10-11 (0-2), 11-2, 8-11, 11-9, 11-4 (66m)
Chris Ryder (ENG) bt David Barnett (ENG) 11-5, 11-7, 11-6 (33m)

Shabana & Ashour In
All-Egyptian Saudi Final

Top-seeded Egyptians Amr Shabana and Ramy Ashour will contest the final of the Saudi International after coming through contrasting semi-finals in the PSA Super Series Platinum squash event in
Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia.


Shabana, the world No1 from Cairo who hasn't reached a PSA Tour final since March, faced Australia's world champion David Palmer. 


For two and a half games, it couldn't have been closer, as the pair went point for point as they strove to reach the final.  Palmer took at 3-1 lead in the first, but in a relatively cagey opening game the score went 3-3, 4-4, 5-5 ... all the way to 9-9 when the Australian earned game ball with a deep volley.  Shabana saved that with a tight dropshot, but faced another as Palmer powered another volley deep into the back.


Defending champion Shabana saved that too and went on to take the lead after 23 minutes to Palmer's visible disappointment.


The second presented a similar tale, not a point to separate them up to seven-all.  Three consecutive returns of serve into the nick and Shabana led 9-8, then he sent his opponent on courts sprints to reach game ball and closed it out with a drop that was just too tight.


Both were still playing measured squash, generally content to wait for opportunities to present themselves rather than forcing the issue, but from four-all in the third Shabana made a break for home, firing in a series of spectacular winners that left Palmer dead and buried. The pick of the bunch was a deft crosscourt flick to reach 9-4, quickly followed by a volley kill and a wrong-footing boast to wrap up the 8-minute game.


"It's always a great performance to beat David, he's a big guy, very strong and very hard to beat," Shabana said after his 11-10 (3-1), 11-8, 11-4 victory in 54 minutes.


"There was nothing in it for the first two games, I managed to save a couple of game balls in the first which was very important.


"My shots were very crisp, I had a good hit this morning when I felt good and it paid off tonight, my shots were working well.  When I got a couple of points ahead in the third I knew it was time to push for a 3/0 win, and I had the confidence to go for my shots and thank God they came off," added Shabana, now in his 24th PSA Tour final.


"It will be fun playing Ramy in the final.  He's just like a kid, out there having fun - it should be a good match."


In the second semi, second seed Ashour took on Gregory Gaultier, the fourth seed who last month became France's first ever British Open champion.


The first game bore a remarkable resemblance to the opening game of the previous match - scorewise, at least.  Point-for-point to eight-all, one player edging ahead to 10-8 only to be overtaken.


The similarity ended there, however.  The crowd was treated to a feast of flicks, lobs, drops, drives and boasts as two of the most talented racket players on earth pitted their skills against each other.  Fast and furious, tense and exciting.


Gregory Gaultier took the first, then, as yesterday, succumbed 11-2 in the second as Ramy Ashour's shot-making came to the fore.


The Frenchman was much more comfortable in the third, easing ahead from the mid-point, moving easily and getting the crowd worried as he reclaimed the lead.


Then Gaultier lost 11-2 again, contributing to his own downfall with early errors.


The fifth game decider was 15 minutes of talent and tension.  Ramy led 4-1, Greg recovered to 6-all, then 8-all.   Greg lunged after the ball into the back corner and was left sprawling as Ramy put away an

easy winner to lead 9-8, then Greg hit his return of serve out to gift Ramy two match balls.


The 20-year-old Egyptian only needed one. A tin on his second shot spelled the end for Gaultier, and sparked the celebrations of the crowd.


"I felt that we were both playing in patches, we were both up and down. I had the lead 10-8 in the first and if I'd taken that it would have helped my confidence," said Ashour after the 10-11 (0-2), 11-2, 8-11, 11-2, 11-8 win in 68 minutes which takes him into the 11th Tour final of his career, but his sixth this year.


"I would have stepped the pace up.  But I had to play safe for a while after that, get the feel of my shots, then, when I could, I pushed as hard as I could.

Top Seeds Through In Saudi
The world's top four players will contest the semi-finals of the Saudi International after surviving contrasting quarter-final clashes in the PSA Super Series Platinum squash event in Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia.

Egypt's top seed Amr Shabana was in no mood for another five-game thriller, and once he had saved a pair of game balls in the second he eased through to an 11-7, 11-10 (2-0), 11-5 victory over fifth seed Thierry Lincou.  The Frenchman needed brief treatment following an accidental clash in the third - after which he failed to gain a further point.


"It was one of those matches that was more on the physical side, it's not the best technical squash I've ever played, but every one of Thierry's shots is technically perfect so it makes it very hard for you if I don't play a good shot I'm in trouble," Shabana said afterwards.


"I knew at 3-5 in the third that was the time, because he's the king of the comeback and if he had got back to 2/1 I was not likely to win.  Even though I wasn't happy with my game, I am pleased to be through to the semi-finals.  This is such a big tournament for us, and with all the fans here we want to do well for them."


The defending champion will meet David Palmer for a place in the final after the Australian world champion turned in "one of my best performances of the year" to see off the challenge of England's US Open Nick Matthew - who, by his own admission, had only one brief good spell during the match which enabled him to take the second game.


"I knew it was going to be a tough match, that I'd have to be at 110% to win this one - but the schedule suited me this week, I was fresh and well-prepared and that was probably one of the best matches I've played this year," said Palmer.


Another Egyptian who improved massively on his previous performance was Ramy Ashour, the 20-year-old No2 seed who, in the words of his opponent Olli Tuominen, "really ruled the game" with a very impressive performance.


"Olli is such a fast player, my target when I play him is to make him as tired as I can," said the world No2 from Cairo after his 11-6, 11-6, 11-7 victory over the 15th seed from Finland.


Ashour will meet France's Gregory Gaultier, who got the better of a topsy-turvy encounter with Englishman James Willstrop, winning 11-2, 2-11, 11-7, 11-9 in 65 minutes to set up a repeat of their Super Series Finals meeting in August.


"It's tough to keep the pace up for the whole match, and it was a little up and down for both of us," said fourth seed Gaultier.  "The third and fourth games were very hard, he was very sharp today and came back very strongly towards the end."

Olli Ousts El Hindi In Saudi

Olli Tuominen produced the only shock on the second day of second round Saudi International action when he upset eighth seed Wael El Hindi to reach the quarter-finals of the PSA Super Series Platinum squash event in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia.


The determined No15 seed from Finland battled for 61 minutes to overcome El Hindi 11-7, 11-6, 11-10 (3-1) to reach his fourth PSA Tour event quarter-final this year.


Tuominen, 28, from Helsinki, will now face Egypt's latest squash star Ramy Ashour, the 20-year-old world number two who was taken to four games by Ong Beng Hee before beating the 16th seed from Malaysia 11-9, 10-11 (0-2), 11-6, 11-5 in 63 minutes.


"That was very tough - I expected him to play faster than me but he slowed it down and slowed it down.  I wasn't expecting that at all," Ashour explained.


"I had to just keep playing my way and learn to cope with what he was doing.  I learned a lot from that game today, a lot," added the winner of five Tour titles already this year.


In the all-English clash which opened the day's play, Yorkshireman James Willstrop beat his club, county and national team-mate Lee Beachill 11-4, 11-6, 11-4 in 38 minutes.


"It's not the easiest or most enjoyable matches to play, although it's always fair game, but you just have to get on with it," said Willstrop - who only earlier this year secured the first ever win over his close friend in years of competition on an off the Tour. 


"Lee wasn't moving so fluently, you could see it wasn't there - but he hung in well and made it hard for two games before he dropped off in the third," said the 24-year-old sixth seed.


"I performed as well as I had to and played some pretty decent squash.  He's done that to me so many times, so I'm not going to get embarrassed to get one back!"


Willstrop will face Frenchman Gregory Gaultier in the quarter-finals for the third time in three months.  The 24-year-old fourth seed, winner of the British Open title in September, defeated Willstrop's England team-mate Peter Barker, the 14th seed, 11-7, 11-4, 11-7.


"I've played him twice this year, he fights for all the points and is a good defender so you have to make your shots count and that worked for me today," explained Gaultier, the world No3.


"Winning the British Open was a huge thing for me, it's one of my main targets.  With Thierry already having won the world championship and been number one, it was nice to be the first to get something for France.  But you can't afford to dwell on it too long, now I try to stay focussed on my upcoming matches and events."


Shabana Tested By Darwish In Saudi
Egypt's world number Amr Shabana was taken the full distance by fellow countryman Karim Darwish in the second round of the Saudi International before surviving to claim his anticipated place in the quarter-finals of the PSA Super Series Platinum squash event in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia.

Shabana, looking for his first Tour title win since March, dropped the first two games - but staged a mighty fight-back to beat his Egyptian rival 10-11 (0-2), 4-11, 11-4, 11-6, 11-4 in 67 minutes.


"I had to give 100% - and the rest - to win that one," said Shabana. 
"I was out of breath in the first two.  I wasn't sure what shape I was in coming into this tournament after an injury in the British and losing early in
New York.  He just outplayed me in the first two though - he was too good.


"It's a fine line between winning and losing and I could easily have lost tonight," added the 28-year-old from Cairo.


Shabana will face France's Thierry Lincou in Friday's quarter-finals after the fifth-seeded Frenchman defeated Australian Stewart Boswell, the tenth seed, 11-10 (2-0), 11-6, 11-8.


"It's not like it used to be - all the players are very close to each other and there are battles right from the first round," Lincou explained.  "Normally Stewart and I go to four or five games, so I'm really pleased with that.


"I've changed my preparation, especially the mental side of it to try not to give games away, and I'm trying to enjoy myself more."


The other quarter-final resolved on the first day of second round action will see Australia's World Open champion David Palmer face England's US Open champion Nick Matthew for the fourth time this year. 


Third seed Palmer defeated Adrian Grant, the 13th seed, 11-7, 11-9, 11-7, while seventh seed Matthew needed exactly one hour to end the run of unseeded Dutchman Laurens Jan Anjema, winning 11-10 (2-0), 8-11, 11-6, 11-3.


"Adrian plays a very slow game, it's hard to build up a rhythm," said Palmer after his win.  "My game was to try to step forward and take the volley, a counter-punching game.  It was more a concentration thing in keeping it up, and it was only at 10/6 in the second that I relaxed at all."


Matthew acknowledged that Anjema should have won the first game:  "Things evened out he deserved to win the first, and once I snuck that I relaxed a little, but I still should have closed out the second.

"I'd never played him before in PSA so it was very different to yesterday new court, new opponent, you're not on autopilot, you have find out their game and adapt to the conditions at the same time."

Anjema Ousts Abbas In Sole Saudi Upset
Unseeded Dutchman Laurens Jan Anjema scored the sole upset on the opening day's play in the Saudi International when he defeated No12 seed Mohammed Abbas in the first round of the PSA Super Series Platinum squash event in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia.

"It's the win I've been looking for for two years," said the delighted 24-year-old from The Hague after his 11-10 (2-0), 10-11 (1-3), 11-2, 11-9 victory over the Egyptian in 52 minutes.

The Dutchman's first big win in a major event takes Anjema through to a second round meeting with England's Nick Matthew, the No7 seed from Sheffield who beat training partner and good friend Alister Walker, a qualifier from Leeds, 11-6, 11-6, 10-11 (0-2), 11-6 in 61 minutes.

Elsewhere it was a good day for the English with Matthew joined by James Willstrop, Lee Beachill, Peter Barker and Adrian Grant - though Grant needed 92 minutes to overcome compatriot Joey Barrington 3-11, 7-11, 11-8, 11-9, 11-10 (3-1).

But the longest battle was an Egyptian/Spaniard clash between Wael El Hindi and Borja Golan, in which the No8 seed from Cairo prevailed 7-11, 11-7, 9-11, 11-5, 11-5 in 96 minutes. El Hindi had been elevated to eighth seed after the last-minute withdrawal of Scotland's John White through injury.

The quickest win of the day belonged to Olli Tuominen, who lived up to the 'Flying Finn' tag as he swept Italy's Davide Bianchetti aside in just 20 minutes.

"I got a good start that lasted for two and a half games," said Olli after his 11-1, 11-2, 11-7 victory. "That just about sums it up," agreed the Italian qualifier

The battle between second seed Ramy Ashour and English qualifier Jonathan Kemp started off on the glass court - but after a quick-fire first game, where rallies over four shots were a rarity, it was decided to move the match to the inside courts, where the Egyptian completed his 11-10 (3-1), 10-11 (1-3), 11-3, 11-7 win.

"It wasn't slippery as such," said Kemp, "but neither of us could push off. If you knew where the ball was going you were ok," explained the Englishman.

Ramy was so nearly joined by elder brother Hisham, who lost out in a tense five games to Ong Beng Hee, the newly-promoted 16th seed.

After the Opening Ceremony, local wildcard Mohammed Al-Saif found Australian Stewart Boswell too much of a handful - both players struggling a little with footing.

Egyptians Amr Shabana, the world No1 and defending champion, and Omar Mosaad rounded off the day back on the inside courts with Shabana coming through 11-7, 11-6, 10-11 (2-4), 11-7 to set up another all-Egyptian clash with ninth seed Karim Darwish.




Simpson Heads English Saudi Successes

Guernsey's Chris Simpson led a group of five Englishmen who came through today's qualifying finals of the Saudi International at St George's Hill Club in Weybridge, England, and will now head to Saudi Arabia in October to compete in the richest squash tournament of the year in Al Khobar.

Simpson, the 2005 European Junior Champion, secured one of the biggest scalps of his career when he beat France's Renan Lavigne - ranked more than 20 places higher in the world - 11-6, 2-11, 11-6, 11-4 in 57 minutes.

"Lavigne was seeded to qualify and Simpson hung on in the fourth game to quash an attempted comeback by his spirited opponent - it was definitely the win of the day," said Danny Lee, Head Coach at the Surrey club.

Alister Walker, the number one in the St George's Hill's Premier Squash League (PSL) squad, delighted the local squash fans with a determined performance against fellow Englishman Chris Ryder. The World University champion looked to have the flow when he stormed through the fourth to level the match at two games all - but it was Walker who came out of the blocks faster in the fifth and, gamely though Ryder battled, the local hero's physical presence proved decisive in gaining the early lead.

Ryder was left pointless as Walker romped to a 5-11, 11-2, 11-10 (2-0), 6-11, 11-0 victory in 61 minutes.

Saudi Raises Super Series Platinum Event Prize Fund
7 May 07

Organisers of the Saudi International have raised the prize-fund of the 2007 event to $210,000 - making it the richest event of the year on the Professional Squash Association Tour.

"When we negotiated the five-year plan for the Saudi International with the PSA, we agreed that our tournament would be the highest paying tournament after the World Open every year," said Ziad Al-Turki, Vice-President of the ATCO Group.

"I feel that not only does Saudi Arabia deserve to get this recognition, but also we want - most importantly - to increase the prize money in squash," added Al-Turki. "That's one of the main reasons I got into this in the first place!"

PSA Chief Executive Gawain Briars added: "Ziad Al-Turki and Atco Group have stepped up the momentum again, with the confirmation of a $10,000 increase in prize money for the upcoming Saudi International. The players are increasingly receiving the recognition their hard work and efforts warrant - in their pockets.

"That said, this further motivation will again increase competition as players know that more world ranking points are at stake. Increased competition equates to higher levels of commitment and performance thus providing the best squash possible for spectators live, on television and on the internet."

The Super Series Platinum event will take place in the Saudi Arabian coastal town of Al Khobar from 23-28 October, with qualifying at the St George's Hill Club in Weybridge, England, between 18-19 July.

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