PSA $190k Kuwiat PSA Cup, Quarter-Finals:
 Grégory Gaultier (Fra) 3-0  Peter Barker (Eng) 11/3, 11/2 rtd (19m)
 Ramy Ashour (Egy) 3-2  Amr Shabana (Egy) 9/11, 2/11, 11/8, 11/5, 11/4 (73m)
 James Willstrop (Eng) 3-1  Karim Darwish (Egy) 11/9, 11/4, 4/11, 11/3 (49m)
Ashour escapes to reach Kuwait Semi-finals
Quarter-finals day of the Kuwait PSA up at the Qadsiya Club in Kuwait city started with disappointment for England’s Peter Barker, who was forced to retire after two games against France’s fourth seed Grégory Gaultier. It was apparent from the outset that Barker was struggling with his movement, and no surprise when, after losing the first two games 11/3, 11/2 his injured knee forced him to stop and he offered his hand to his opponent.
“I could see from my first boast that he was struggling,” said Gaultier,”I asked him if he was ok to carry on, which he did for two games but he was right to stop, any more time on court and he could have done some lasting damage.
Gaultier returns to the semi-finals which he made in the last edition of the tournament in 2011, where he will face Ramy Ashour, the top seed who escaped from two games down to beat compatriot Amr Shabana.
This was the pair’s fifth meeting in Kuwait, where the previous four, all finals, had been shared. It looked as if Shabana, at 33 eight years older than Ashour, would take the lead in that series as he took a two-game lead against an opponent struggling to find the form that has seen him win his last six major tournaments as part of an unbeaten run of 33 matches.
Shabana led 5-3 in the third, but a number of unforced errors, and a couple of decisions which went against him, unsettled the four-time world champion just as Ashour, the current world champion, was starting to pick up his game. The momentum had well and truly swung, and Ashour took the final three games, a disgruntled Shabana not even contesting the final few points.
“It was a good game, can you believe he is 32, 33” said a relieved Ashour. “I don’t think I’ll be able to play at that level at that age, he is an amazing champion, and today, I’m glad I was able to keep up with him.
“This is the toughest match I ever played in my life, mentally and physically,” added Ashour.
A second Egyptian progressed to the semi-finals as Mohamed El Shorbagy beat surprise quarter-finalist Daryl Selby in straight games. Shorbagy was well on top for the first two and a half games, but Selby threatened to extend the match as he drew level at 8-all in the third, only to see Shorbagy pull away again, finishing with an enthusiastic slam-dunk volley into the nick.
“It’s just like last year here, when I saved a matchball in the first round and did really well,” said Shorbagy. “Tthis time I saved four in my first match and now I’m in the semi-finals again, I can’t believe it!
“Of course I’m very happy with the way I played, it’s my best performance of the event.” he added. “I’m happy I won the third because I could feel I was starting to fall into his rhythm.”
The last quarter-final was a re-run of the 2011 final here, and just as then James Willstrop beat Karim Darwish in four games. The tall Englishman won a close first game, much to his relief and Darwish’s visible annoyance, then dominated the second to lead 11/9, 11/4.
Darwish fought back strongly in the third to pull a game back 11/4, but Willstrop was equally dominant in the fourth, taking it 11/3 with Darwish sensing the game was up as he barely contested the final few points.
“The intensity was up there tonight, one of the top matches, with truly severe intensity,” said Willstrop. “I think I did well to take the first, but Karim played at his best today, whatever his problem was, it’s now sorted because he was moving very well, hitting the ball very well as well, and you could see he was really up for it.”
So, the semi-finals, starting at 18.00, will feature three of the players who contested the 2011 semis here, with the addition of the world number one who missed that event through injury.