Davenport Virginia Pro 2008,
23-Feb to 01-Mar, Richmond, $77k

Round One
Bot 25/Top 26 Feb
Round Two
[1] Ramy Ashour (Egy)
11-5, 11-7, 11-9 (28m)
[Q] David Phillips (Can) 
Ramy Ashour
11-6, 11-10 (3-1), 11-10 (2-0) (53m)
Julian Illingworth
Ramy Ashour
11-4, 6-11, 4-11, 11-5, 11-8 (59m)
Karim Darwish
Karim Darwish
11-4, 11-10 (3-1), 11-1 (39m)
James Willstrop

James Willstrop

11-6, 6-11, 11-9, 8-11, 11-4 (83m)

Gregory Gaultier

[14] Hisham Ashour (Egy)
11-7, 11-10 (5-3), 4-11, 11-7 (51m)
Julian Illingworth (Usa) 
[6] Karim Darwish (Egy)
6-11, 10-11 (1-3), 11-7, 11-6, 11-4 (55m)
Saurav Ghosal (Ind) 
Karim Darwish
11-8, 11-9, 11-5 (40m)
Alex Gough
[12] Alex Gough (Wal)
11-6, 11-9, 11-10 (2-0) (43m)
[Q] Tom Richards (Eng) 
[4] James Willstrop (Eng)
11-7, 11-8, 11-6 (30m)
[Q] Jethro Binns (Wal) 
James Willstrop
11-5, 11-8, 11-6 (43m)
Lee Beachill
James Willstrop
6-11, 11-5, 11-0, 11-4 (56m)
Wael El Hindi
[9] Lee Beachill (Eng)
11-8, 11-2, 11-5 (27m)
[Q] Yann Perrin (Fra) 
[8] Wael El Hindi (Egy)
11-7, 11-10 (2-0), 11-3 (38m)
Aaron Frankcomb (Aus) 
Wael El Hindi
11-9, 7-3 ret. (29m)
Shahier Razik
[13] Shahier Razik (Can)
11-2, 11-6, 11-10 (2-0) (38m)
Shawn Delierre (Can) 
[Q] Liam Kenny (Irl)
11/6, 8/11, 11/7, 6/11, 13/11 (88m)
[16] Renan Lavigne (Fra)
Renan Lavigne
11-8, 11-8, 9-11, 11-5 (45m)
John White
John White
11-9, 11-7, 11-6 (30m)
Olli Tuominen
John White
11-7, 11-4, 11-7 (41m)
Gregory Gaultier
[Q] Wade Johnstone (Sco)
11/8, 11/8, 9/11, 11/7 (38m)
[7] John White (Sco)
Rafael Alarcon (Bra)
11/8, 11/13, 8/11, 11/6, 11/5 (66m)
[11] Olli Tuominen (Fin)
Olli Tuominen
11-6, 11-6, 11-8 (49m)
David Palmer
Eric Galvez (Mex)
11/5, 11/3, 9/11, 11/5 (46m)
[3] David Palmer (Aus)
[Q] Julien Balbo (Fra)
11/7, 11/5, 11/3 (38m)
[10] Mohammed Abbas (Egy)
Mohammed Abbas

7-11, 9-11, 11-10 (2-0), 11-6, 11-5 (79m)
Thierry Lincou

Thierry Lincou
11-5, 11-9, 6-11, 7-11, 11-3 (54m)
Gregory Gaultier
[Q] Robbie Temple (Eng)
11/6, 11/8, 11/9 (30m)
[5] Thierry Lincou (Fra)
Patrick Chifunda (Zam) 
11-8, 11-5, 11-10 (2-0) (40m)
[15] Cameron Pilley (Aus)
Cameron Pilley
11-5, 11-6, 11-3 (38m)
Gregory Gaultier
Yasser El Halaby (Egy)
11-8, 11-5, 11-6 (33m)
[2] Gregory Gaultier (Fra)

Qualifying finals:

Liam Kenny (IRL) bt Arturo Salazar (MEX)                    11-4, 11-5, 11-3 (34m)

Yann Perrin (FRA) bt Ryan Donegan (USA)                    11-6, 11-5, 11-7 (40m)

David Phillips (CAN) bt Arthur Gaskin (IRL)                  11-9, 11-5, 11-6 (49m)

Tom Richards (ENG) bt Jens Schoor (GER)                   9-11, 11-8, 11-8, 11-10 (2-0) (60m)

Wade Johnstone (AUS) bt James Snell (ENG)              11-6, 11-8, 8-11, 11-5 (45m)

Robbie Temple (ENG) bt Ryan Cuskelly (AUS)               11-10 (3-1), 1-11, 8-11, 11-9, 11-2 (90m)

Jethro Binns (WAL) bt Christopher Gordon (USA)        11-8, 11-10 (2-0), 4-11, 11-6 (49m)

Julien Balbo (FRA) bt Joshua Greenfield (NZL)            10-11 (3-5), 11-8, 11-8, 11-4 (44m)

Willstrop Wins Richmond Title


England's James Willstrop has extended his best-ever run on the international squash circuit by beating French rival Gregory Gaultier in a dramatic five-game final of the Davenport Professional Squash Championship at the University of Richmond in Virginia, USA, to win the third title in his fourth successive final appearance in a PSA Tour event.


It was a see-saw climax to the $77,500 PSA Super Series event in which Gaultier, the world No3, twice pegged back leads by the new world number four before Willstrop clinched the last game for the loss of just four points to claim the title after 83 minutes with an 11-6, 6-11, 11-9, 8-11, 11-4 scoreline.


The win marks Willstrop's tenth PSA Tour title - and his third PSA Super Series trophy.


The Virginia triumph caps a sensational twelve months for the 24-year-old Yorkshireman who failed to reach a single PSA final in 2006 - then began his winning Tour run in March last year with success in the ISS Canary Wharf Classic in London.  The England number one followed this with title victories in the Prince English Grand Prix and the Mamut English Open and a runner-up berth in the US Open.


After leading England to a successful defence of the World Team Championship title in India in December, Willstrop continued his Tour run by reaching the Bear Stearns Tournament of Champions climax in New York in January, before lifting the Case Swedish Open crown last month - when he also had time to retain his British National Championship title in Manchester.

Willstrop & Gaultier In Richmond Final


Gregory Gaultier and James Willstrop - ranked three and four, respectively, in the world - will contest the final of the 2008 Davenport Professional Squash Championship after impressive semi-final performances in the $77,500 PSA Super Series event at the University of Richmond in Virginia, USA.


In-form Englishman Willstrop swept through to his fourth Tour final in a row when he beat a tired Karim Darwish, clearly still feeling the effects of his marathon upset over fellow Egyptian Ramy Ashour in the previous round.


Often a slow starter, Willstrop was into his stride right away - catching sixth seed Darwish unawares as he piled up the points with gusto.


"The March world rankings pushed Willstrop up to number four in the world - and he played like it," said an event spokesman.  "Darwish simply had no answer to Willstrop’s superb length and his ability to take the ball early."


After running away with the first game in just over ten minutes, Willstrop was given more of a contest in the second as Darwish built up a 5-2 lead.  Willstrop was not fazed and continued to attack, always on the lookout for winners.  This was now evenly-matched high quality squash which drew the capacity crowd into the drama of the game.  At seven-all it looked as though this could go to five games.


Willstrop got to game ball 10-8 but Darwish did not give up and hit a backhand winner of his own to save the first game ball and was given the second when Willstrop’s volley drop hit the tin to force a tie break.  The next really ended when the referees denied Darwish a let – but Willstrop snatched at a shot and sent the ball into the tin to make the score 11-all.   Another backhand chop drop put Willstrop at game ball again and when the ball took a strange bounce in the back left corner Darwish was cruelly foxed and hit the ball into the tin to finish an entertaining 20-minute game.


Sadly, when he came back for the third game Darwish quickly showed that his gas tank was empty as the fourth-seeded Yorkshireman ran through to wrap up an 11-4, 11-10 (3-1), 11-1 victory in 39 minutes.


The win takes England number one Willstrop through to his 15th PSA Tour final - and comes hot on the heels of his Tour title success in the Swedish Open last month, followed closely by his domestic triumph in the British National Championship.


The second semi was a bit of an anti-climax; Scot John White, who recorded a stunning quarter-final victory over giant-killing Finn Olli Tuominen, was prevented from matching his achievement over second seed Gregory Gaultier.


The French star moved up several gears and everything he tried at the front of the court came off. White admitted later that he was unable to do anything:  “When you come up against someone playing as well as Gregory, there is really nothing you can do.  It’s very frustrating. Yesterday was great. Today was not.”


Gaultier's 11-7, 11-4, 11-7 victory over the seventh seed in 41 minutes takes the 25-year-old from Aix-en-Provence through to his 26th PSA Tour final - but his first since finishing as runner-up in the World Open in Bermuda in December.

Darwish Despatches Ashour In Davenport Duel


Young Egyptian star Ramy Ashour, the 20-year-old world No2 from Cairo, finally ran out of legs and was beaten in an engrossing five-game match by fellow countryman  Karim Darwish in the quarter-finals of the 2008 Davenport Professional Squash Championship, played at the University of Richmond in Virginia, USA.


Top seed Ashour has played almost non-stop for the last 22 days – tournaments and exhibitions - and this match for a place in the semi-finals of the $77,500 PSA Super Series event finally sapped his energy, his accuracy - and his will.  Darwish played well, slowing the pace down to take control in the first game, but Ashour forced himself back into competition mode and the winners started sparking off his racket as he effortlessly took the next two.


The fourth game was a disaster when, at 4-4, Ashour committed a string of six unforced errors to put  Darwish at game ball - and the 26-year-old sixth seed made no mistake in taking the game to force a decider.


Darwish led from the beginning of the fifth and it was obvious that Ashour simply could not summon up the energy to attain his normal standard.  Darwish ran out the surprising 11-4, 6-11, 4-11, 11-5, 11-8 winner after 59 suspenseful minutes.


The former world junior champion will now meet James Willstrop, the world number six and also a one-time world junior champion.  The Englishman came through to win a match marked by drama and controversy as  Wael El Hindi of Egypt became enraged by the referee’s decision in the third game to penalise him a point for dangerous play.


El Hindi had swung his racket, deliberately missing the ball, to demonstrate that - had he hit it - the ball would have struck his opponent.  "It was an inexplicable decision and although El Hindi had won the first game - showing superb style - and lost the second, he threw the third away 0-11 and despite recovering some composure, could not get back on track and lost the fourth 11-4," said a spokesman for the event.


"I was full of rage, I thought I would burst," said the eighth seed from Giza after the match.  "I thought the referee was disrespectful in the way he spoke to me.  For the last few months I have been playing good squash but I was so angry it affected my movement."


John White of Scotland, the seventh seed, took on the second round giant-killer Olli Tuominen and gave him a lesson in fast, accurate racket work.  White was in sizzling form and effortlessly slotted in the winners while all the Finn could do was chase shadows.  It was a short, sharp 11-9, 11-7, 11-6 execution - taking just 30 minutes - a performance that White judged later was nine-and-a-half on a scale of one-to-ten!


When the US-based 34-year-old was asked what he was thinking during one very long rally, he replied:  “He was doing all the running, I was just standing there hitting the ball, so I was quite happy.“


After the  all-Egyptian match there was the all-French match as Thierry Lincou tried to get revenge over Gregory Gaultier, who had beaten him in the British Open last year.  It was a ding-dong battle which kept the spectators in their seats to the last point.  Second seed Gaultier seemed to have it all under control as he took the first two games, but Lincou, the fifth seed, knew how to  subdue the tricky Gaultier, slowing the ball down and using the lob.  It paid off as the new ten times French National champion took the next two games, forcing a deciding fifth game.


Gaultier opened up a lead – but it wasn’t easy; the rallies were long and there was a real battle in the front corners as they traded counter drops.  However, Gaultier maintained his supremacy to take the game and emerge the 11-5, 11-9, 6-11, 7-11, 11-3 victor after 54 minutes.


"I knew Thierry still had yesterday’s hard games in his legs, so I was making him work.  He came back very well when he slowed the game, but I think he finally got tired,” Gaultier said between gasps of breath after the match.  He will now meet John White in the semi-finals.

Tuominen Topples Palmer In Richmond Rout


Australia's third seed David Palmer suffered a shock defeat at the hands of 11th seed Olli Tuominen of Finland in the second round of the 2008 Davenport Professional Squash Championship at the University of Richmond in Virginia, USA.  This was the second bad result in as many weeks, Palmer having to bow out of the Canadian Classic two weeks ago because of lower back problems.


But the Australian's problem in the last sixteen of the $77,500 PSA Super Series event was not his back, but the sizzling run of form that Tuominen produced to bamboozle him.  The Finn was playing at his very best, pasting the ball tight to the walls and getting to everything that Palmer hit.  There is no hiding place for the ball when Tuominen is in this form, which hasn't happened very often lately.  He was truly the Flying Finn - and there was very little Palmer could do about it!


"Palmer also found some of the decisions from the three-referee panel not to his liking and the Palmer temper started boiling," said an event spokesman.  The 28-year-old from Helsinki won the first game but Palmer asserted his authority to lead the second game 8-3 - which is when the decisions started to irk Palmer.  Unbelievably Tuominen put together a run of eight points to win the game 11-8, the final decision of the game left Palmer fuming.


In the third game, the former world champion's concentration was broken and although he managed to pull back from 3-9 to 8-10, Tuominen's drive, determination and pace was always going to win the day and he took the game for a shock 11-6, 11-6, 11-8 victory.


Tuominen tackles John White in the quarter-finals after the seventh-seeded Scot beat Frenchman Renan Lavigne, the 16th seed, 11-8, 11-8, 9-11, 11-5.


Egyptian Mohammed Abbas is now ranked 13 in the world - his highest ever ranking - and may not get higher unless he overcomes the jitters that visit him when about to beat one of the top ten.  It happened again in Richman when he outplayed fifth-seeded Frenchman Thierry Lincou for three games and stood at match ball 10-7 when the referees called a Lincou shot up when Abbas was convinced it had hit the tin.


The Egyptian fumed and fumed, but the decision stayed.  From then on, Abbas simply cold not get his concentration back again.  He lost the game 12-10 in the tie break and his nerve and determination diminished in the final two games to allow Lincou to escape with a victory that he should never have had.


"I just kept running, running after the ball," said Lincou later.  "In the first two games, he just outplayed me and I couldn't do anything.  I was always behind him on the court.  In the third I finally managed to get in front of him.  I am just relieved to have won."


Top seed Ramy Ashour of Egypt got a little revenge from Julian Illingworth, the unseeded American who had knocked out the favourite's elder brother Hisham in the first round in one of the shock wins of the tournament.  Illingworth gave a very good account of himself and although he went down in straight games, he forced a tie-break in both the second and third games, to show that he is good enough not be outclassed by the best player in the world today.  It was a well-contested match with a high standard of squash, with Illingworth shooting in his share of winners.  But the Ashour speed is startling and eventually overwhelms his opponent.


James Willstrop and Lee Beachill repeated their performance of last week's British National Championship final when Willstrop beat his training partner to retain the title. The two Yorkshireman put on a startling display of speed squash in Richmond which was pure entertainment.  The ball was cracked with accuracy down the walls and into the nicks.  This was squash of a very high order: the standard and speed were maintained for 43 minutes before fourth seed Willstrop emerged an 11-5, 11-8, 11-6 victor.  It wasn't that Beachill played badly; it was that 24-year-old Willstrop played so well.


Illingworth Becomes New American Hero In Richmond


The final match on the second day of first round action in the 2008 Davenport Professional Squash Championship brought the $77,500 PSA Super Series event at the University of Richmond to life as unseeded US player Julian Illingworth delivered a stunning display of creative intelligent squash that deservedly brought him a shock four-game victory over Egypt's 14th seed Hisham Ashour, ranked 17 places above him.


Illingworth, in the view of some observers, played the match of his life to earn a place in the second round where he will now meet his opponent's younger brother Ramy Ashour, the world number two.


Illingworth started full of confidence and took the game to the very talented Ashour.  More surprisingly he outplayed Ashour, a master shot maker, at the front of the court - which is where most Egyptians excel.  While Illingworth was hitting sublime winners, Ashour, in his usual impetuous search for winners, was making errors – five in all.  This was quality squash and the 24-year-old from Portland looked thoroughly at home.  Illingworth won the first game 11-7, and showed great poise in saving two game balls in the second to force an extended tie-break which he won 15-13 after much suspense.


It all fell apart for the American in the third game, after some strange bounces in the back corner made him miss-hit, and he lost the game 11-4 in under five minutes.  The fourth started badly with Ashour taking a quick 3-0 lead but Illingworth settled down to regain his form to gradually claw his way back in.  There were some stunning rallies with both players stretched to their fullest.  It was Illingworth’s concentration and cool demeanour that won the day and he took the game to clinch the match 11-7, 11-10 (5-3), 4-11, 11-7 in 51 minutes - thus becoming the only unseeded player to reach the second round.


Egyptian glamour boy Wael El Hindi took on the young Australian Aaron Frankcomb.  Although the score shows a straight games victory for the UK-based eighth seed, it wasn’t that straightforward.  Frankcomb displayed a fine all-round game and, if there had been any justice, should have taken the second game which he led most of the way.  He showed that he could attack with the best of them and reaped the dividends of El Hindi’s lackadaisical attitude when he thought he had the match won. Frankcomb held game ball at 10-9 but El Hindi hit a perfect length to force a tiebreak and the impetuous Australian put a drop shot into the tin to give El Hindi game ball.  The Egyptian made no mistake with a fine forehand slam to length to win 12-10.


In the third game El Hindi was a little more circumspect in his approach to the game while Frankcomb took his foot off the pedal to allow his opponent to cruise home 11-3 to end the 38-minute encounter.


"I was happy that I was going forward well and with my general play, but I was disappointed in the way I went down in the third game,” said Frankcomb, who is ranked 48 in the world.


Young Saurav Ghosal of India, ranked 49, gave the world number eight Karim Darwish a real fright by taking the first two games in just 21 minutes.  This perilous situation was a very real wake-up call for the Egyptian who finally got going in the third game and corrected the situation by taking the next three games fairly easily.


"I was asleep,” admitted Darwish, winner of last week's Oregon Open in Portland.  "He started very quickly and played well.  I got up at nine o’clock this morning which is really not early enough for a one o’clock game,” he said with obvious relief in his voice. 


Darwish will not be able to sleep for a game, or even a point, in the next round when he meets Alex Gough. The 37-year-old world number 20 took no chances when playing qualifier Tom Richards of England.  The Welshman won the first two games but had to fight hard in the third as Richards, who has just returned to action after eight months out due to injury, showed his potential and speed.  Qualifier Richards had climbed to 54 in the world before the injury and is now ranked 121, but his play suggested he is mended and should soon start climbing back up.


Gough, fresh from his efforts in the British National championships said that he didn’t take the result for granted.  "I haven’t played for a week, while Richards has been through qualifying and would be played in, so I had to be careful.  I’m just please to have won in three,” he said.


Canadian team-mates Shahier Razik and Shawn Delierre were drawn to play each other, their eighth meeting with Razik ahead 5-2 on the head-to-head.


DeLierre was far from motivated in the first two games but picked his game up in the third to force a tie break, fighting to save three match balls before finally going down.  Razik will now play El Hindi in the second round which will be played at a very different pace with a much higher level of commitment.


Former British champion Lee Beachill produced one of the most efficient performances of the day in despatching young Frenchman Yann Perrin in 27 minutes.  Beachill had been operated on for a double hernia in December, but he looked good as new as he went for the jugular with every shot, at a pace that the Frenchman could not live with.  Beachill now plays fellow Englishman James Willstrop who took a little longer to beat Welshman Jethro Binns in straight games.

Lavigne Survives While Chifunda Cheered In Virginia


The first round of the 2008 Davenport Professional Squash Championship held at the University of Richmond provided a mixed bag of players and competition.  In the most competitive match of the day in the $77,500 PSA Tour event in its fifth year in the US state of Virginia, Renan Lavigne of France survive a spirited comeback from Ireland’s Liam Kenny, who pushed the Frenchman to a tie break in the fifth game.


Despite the gap in rankings – Lavigne is world number 26 while Kenny has slipped to 52 - the players were equal in most things and played a similar game, matching each other in both defence and attack.


Kenny looked the better armed and always seemed on the brink of breaking away, but Lavigne always managed to contain Kenny’s spirited attacking.  In the decider, Kenny came back from 0-3 down to lead 6-4 - but the 30-year-old from Dublin could not stop Lavigne’s constant supply of energy.


Kenny saved two match balls, then got to match ball himself at 11-10, but it was Lavigne who persevered that little bit more to win 11-6, 8-11, 11-7, 6-11, 11-10 (3-1) in 88 minutes.


It took Patrick Chifunda, a wild card local entry, to get the crowd roaring - even before he’d struck a ball.  Born in Zambia, educated in South Africa, Chifunda now coaches at the Country Club of Richmond.  His popularity had the packed galleries roaring him on as he tried to bamboozle world number 26 Cameron Pilley, a lanky Australian.   Chifunda’s speed and acrobatics almost paid off in the third game as he led 7-4 and then was tied at 9-9 with a real chance at taking the game.  But an error put Pilley at match ball and he took the final point with a backhand drop.  The players left the court to more roars of approval.


“I just play my best squash and don’t worry about the rankings,” said the smiling 32-year-old Zambian. “I just like to hassle these players as much as I can and try enjoy myself.”


English qualifier Robbie Temple managed to give Thierry Lincou a bit of a fright in their first round match.  Temple had knocked out the up and coming Ryan Cuskelly of Australia in the qualifying round - a good win for a player who has just entered the top 100.  Left-handed Temple plays his backhand with two hands, a la Peter Marshall - and like Marshall, can keep his opponents guessing as to which way the ball is going.


Lincou, now ranked seven in the world, had it all his own way in the first two games - but suddenly found himself 6-1 down in the third.  The Frenchman managed to climb back into the game only because Temple made four unforced errors which allowed Lincou to draw level and then go on to take the game to close out the match 11-6, 11-8, 11-9 in 31 minutes.


“Concentration,” responded Lincou when asked what happened in the third game. “I just lost my concentration and when he got five quick points, I panicked.”


Australia's David Palmer, who now lives in Boston, cruised to a two game lead over Mexican Eric Galvez, ranked 36 in the world.  But the world number four and former world champion suddenly lost his flowing game in the third to allow his opponent to hustle and bustle his way to win it 11-9.  One of the most experienced men on the circuit, Palmer firmly shut the door on the Mexican in the fourth to win 11-5, 11-3, 9-11, 11-5 and assure his second round berth.

Virginia Pro Championship Provides Super Series Breakthrough For Qualifiers


Success in the qualifying finals of the Virginia Pro Squash Championship will enable five players to make their Super Series event debuts in the $77,500 PSA Tour event in its fifth year in Richmond in the US state of Virginia.


Welshman Jethro Binns beat US opponent Christopher Gordon - ranked more than 70 places higher in the world - 11-8, 11-10 (2-0), 4-11, 11-6 in 49 minutes to earn his first time in a Super Series event.  The Bristol-based 23-year-old will face recently-crowned British National champion James Willstrop, the No4 seed, in the main draw.


Another chance of further local interest in the main draw was quashed when France's Yann Perrin beat USA's Ryan Donegan 11-6, 11-5, 11-7.   The 22-year-old from Marseille, who was celebrating success in his first attempt at trying to qualify for a Super Series event, will take on Willstrop's Yorkshire club-mate Lee Beachill, the ninth seed who was runner-up in 2007.


Robbie Temple is one of two Englishmen to qualify.  The 21-year-old from London battled for 90 minutes to overcome Australian Ryan Cuskelly 11-10 (3-1), 1-11, 8-11, 11-9, 11-2 to set up a first round clash with Frenchman Thierry Lincou, the fifth seed.


The other two Super Series first-timers are David Phillips and Wade Johnstone.   Canadian Phillips defeated Irishman Arthur Gaskin 11-9, 11-5, 11-6, while Johnstone, from Australia, downed Englishman James Snell 11-6, 11-8, 8-11, 11-5.


Egypt's world No2 Ramy Ashour is seeded to win the Virginia Pro title for the first time.  The 20-year-old from Cairo - remarkably, the youngest player in the 32-man field - takes on David Phillips in the first round, and is expected to face France's No2 seed Gregory Gaultier, the world No3, in Saturday's final.