Maestro Ashour Masters Matthew in NAO Final

Davenport North American Open, Final:

[1] Ramy Ashour (Egy) 3-1 [2] Nick Matthew (Eng)    11/7, 11/8, 5/11, 11/7

Maestro Ashour Masters Matthew

Alan Thatcher reports, photos by Dan Bogosh

SP3374Egyptian maestro Ramy Ashour mastered the tenacious challenge of England’s Nick Matthew to win the Davenport North American Open.

Ashour, appearing in his fifth consecutive final of the tournament, continued his long unbeaten run to delight the full-house crowd of almost 1,000 spectators at the Westwood Club in Richmond, Virginia.

Matthew, who had beaten Ashour in the 2010 and 2011 finals, produced a spirited recovery to win the third game, but Ashour turned on the style again to clinch a second Richmond title. His previous win in Virginia had also been against Matthew in 2009.

Ashour’s 11-7, 11-8, 5-11, 11-7 victory was achieved after 65 minutes of high-quality squash from both players.

SP3378After an even start to the first game, Matthew hit back from 5-3 down to lead 7-6, but Ashour’s electrifying array of winning shots produced four points in a row to take the game. He opened up a 7-3 lead in the second, and held game ball at 10-6 before weathering a late revival from the 32-year-old number two seed from Sheffield.

Matthew made a powerful start to the third and established a 6-1 lead with some stunning winners of his own. His powers of retrieval are simply phenomenal and both players covered every inch of the court as the crowd roared their appreciation.

SP3378After winning the third game with a degree of comfort, Matthew led 3-1 at the start of the fourth before Ashour elevated the quality of his play to new heights. He moved ahead to 7-4 and, at 9-5, when Matthew was awarded a penalty stroke following a video review, the Egyptian responded with a dazzling kill shot, slamming his service return into the nick to move to match ball.

After completing his 31st consecutive victory in his ninth PSA final in a row and collecting a sixth major title in a row, he kissed the floor of the Westwood Club and thanked his opponent for a tremendous match.

Ashour said: “Nick is a great player and we seem to feed off this rivalry. We have met in so many finals and, whoever wins, the other one gets back to work to raise their game to meet the challenge.

SP3380“We are both inspiring each other to work even harder. He plays great squash in all four corners of the court and you have to be playing your best squash to beat him.

“Once again the crowd here in Richmond was fantastic, the tournament is organised brilliantly, and I think the whole show this week proves that squash should be in the Olympics.

“All the players love coming to Richmond and the Jefferson Hotel is the best we stay at anywhere in the world so we all look forward to coming back next year.”

Matthew added: “I have played well all week and didn’t really do anything wrong tonight in the final but it shows how well Ramy is playing that you can be playing your best and he can still win these big matches.

“He is on a long winning run at the moment and playing some great squash.”

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Dave Bernard rrports for the Richmond Times Dispatch

To Ramy Ashour’s way of thinking, if you’re going to fly 5900 miles over 12 hours through 7 time zones to play in a squash tournament…you might as well win the darn thing. In Saturday night’s finals of the Davenport North American Open between the world’s top two players, Ashour made sure he would have a pleasant flight home, pulling out an 11-7, 11-8, 5-11, 11-7 victory over Englishman Nick Matthew.

 It has now been almost 10 months since Ashour lost a Professional Squash Association match, with the 25-year-old ace winning 31 straight during that span. He has made the finals five years running in Richmond, winning two titles.

Always a crowd favorite, Ashour was thankful to find himself inside the “zone”, where most everything you try works.

“It’s like you’re really deep inside the atmosphere and you can feel and sense everything around you,” Ashour explained afterward. “And this feels great…It feels really great.”

While Ashour may have been in the zone, Matthew still made the Egyptian work hard for his title. Players, fans and organizer alike will tell you that Matthew is unique in his laser-like effort, fighting with absolute maximum effort on every point; while other players – even some of the top ones – might ease up on three or four points over the course of a match when the odds of success are slim.

“He has such an unbelievable perseverance,” said Ashour of his rival. “He just wants it so bad all the time…And this is actually one of the things that I’ve learned from him (as) he started (rising up) the rankings.”

Oddly enough, for someone known as the hardest working player on tour, Matthew provided the most lighthearted moment of the evening when he took the court for warm-ups in a Virginia Tech orange and blue colored T-Shirt reading, “Virginia Squash”. Upon seeing the shirt, the crowd erupted in a raucous cheer, with the gesture setting the tone for an exciting night of squash.

“You know, one of the guys bet me to wear it,” explained the Englishman. “I know Ramy’s the crowd favorite, (and) I wore the T-shirt to try and get the support on my side…It’s just a bit of fun.”

Matthew, who won titles here in 2010 and 2011, had a lot of fun this week, just not in the final. Still, he received a thunderous ovation when called to court for the awards ceremony.

“I’m disappointed that I couldn’t get the third title here,” he said. “But (to be) received like that…It’s a nice consolation prize.”

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