NAO Quarter-Finals

PSA World Series Davenport North American Open, Quarter-Finals:

(1) Ramy Ashour (Egy) bt Simon Rosner (Ger) 11-7, 11-6, 10-12, 11-8 (53 mins)
(3) James Willstrop (England) bt Karim Darwish (Egypt)   w/o
(4) Gregory Gaultier (Fra) bt (7) Amr Shabana (Egy) 11-4, 11-4, 11-3 (34 mins)
(2) Nick Matthew (Eng) bt (6) Peter Barker (Eng) 11-6, 11-7, 11-5 (49 mins)

Gaultier hungry for first Richmond title

Alan Thatcher reports, photos by Dan Bogosh

SP3359 French ace Gregory Gaultier is on the trail of a first success in the Davenport North American Open.Runner-up to James Willstrop in 2008, the 30-year-old world number four advanced to the semi-finals with a polished performance to beat Egypt’s Amr Shabana in just 34 minutes.

Winning 11-4, 11-4, 11-3, Gaultier continued his run of impressive form in recent weeks.

Gaultier was too tight, too accurate and too consistent for Shabana.

As the tournament moved into the closing stages, so Gaultier moved up to a new level of quality.

Striking the ball cleanly and matching Shabana for inventiveness at the front of the court, he booked his place in the semi-finals with a third consecutive straight-games victory.

It was too one-sided to be a classic, but Gaultier was generous in his praise of his opponent.

He said: “Amr is without doubt the best squash player in the world. He is the one you always look to if you are having some difficult moments, because watching him helps you to get things right in your own mind.

“I will always watch him on TV. He is the player you should watch if want to learn how to hit the ball correctly.”

Gaultier now faces rival Nick Matthew full of confidence after beating England’s former world champion in straight games in the final of the recent Swedish Open.

SP3361Matthew overcame spirited resistance from England team-mate Peter Barker to win 11-6, 11-7, 11-5 in 49 minutes.

The 32-year-old Matthew admitted to a few lucky mis-hits in the final game, saying: “I was amazed at the number of winning mis-hits I hit in that third game so I ought to apologise to Peter for that.”

However,  Matthew was being unnecessarily polite, because his all-round game was solid.Both players showed excellent court coverage, producing some astonishing retrievals, and at the front of the court they showed that Egypt does not have a monopoly on hitting nicks.Barker matched his opponent in the early stages of each game, but it was Matthew who finished strongly on each occasion.

Matthew added: “It was a really tough game. Peter has been out with an injury and I think that was the probably the main reason I was able to push through from something like 6-6 in each game.

“Obviously he hasn’t had the court time you need to build up your levels of fitness but he played very well and will only get better in the coming weeks and months.”
SP3360Top seed Ramy Ashour also overcame spirited resistance from the unseeded Simon Rosner before clinching his place in the last four.

The tall German matched Ashour’s genius for long spells of the match and fought back superbly in the third to stop the Egyptian winning in straight games, hitting three superb winners at the front before trapping his opponent in the back right corner.

Ashour took a huge tumble but returned to the court to continue.

The crowd gasped in admiration at the quality of the squash and the stupendous retrieving.

Ashour now faces James Willstrop in the semi-finals after the Englishman enjoyed a rest day following the withdrawal of Karim Darwish through injury.

Ashour said: “That was a great game and there are lots of guys around who are capable of playing top-quality squash. Simon is obviously one of them.

“James is a great player and I’m looking forward to another good match. We always enjoy putting on a great show for this wonderful crowd in Richmond.”

Ashour has featured in the last four finals, winning in 2009, losing to Matthew in 2010 and 2012, and finishing runner-up to Willstrop last year.

Semi-finals:

18.00  (1) Ramy Ashour (Egypt) v (3) James Willstrop (England)

19.00  (2) Nick Matthew (England) v (4) Gregory Gaultier (France)

| Full coverage: www.squashsite.co.uk/nao |

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