Defending champion Karim Darwish was the first player to reach the semi-finals of ther El Gouna International Squash Open, seeing off a typically determined challenge from fellow Egyptian Mohamed El Shorbagy.
Playing more consertavie squash than you might expect from two Egyptians, they shared the first four games with hardly a point to separate them, each game taking around a quarter of an hour. It was the experienced Darwish who made the move in the decider as the play opened up, moving 9/6 ahead.
As Darwish thum,ped away a winner top reach match ball, Shorbagy slipped in the back corner and looked to be in considerable pain. After three minutes recovery time he came back for one more point, which Darwish quickly finished to reach the last four.
“It was a very hard match, and we played all the way through point for point. Mohamed is a young player, so hungry, he wants to beat everybody,” said Darwish. “And today, I really had to dig in, from the first to the last point. I feel sorry for him on that last point, and I hope it’s not too bad. As for myself, I’m so happy to be in the semis, and I’m enjoying the tournament!!!!”
World Champion Nick Matthew faced a more orthodox Egyptian challenge in the form of Hisham Ashour, whose falmboyant style had delivered him a long-awaited win over Amr Shabana yesterday. The Englishman was a different proposition though as he kept a lid on things, controlling the play and limiting Hisham’s attacking opportunities.
The Egyptian’s chance came when he was 10/6 up in the second game, but a run of six points from Matthew gave him a 2-0 lead and the momentum to open a a gap in the third which, try as he might, Hisham couldn’t close down.
“I’m pleased to beat Hisham any score, but 3/0 is perfect as it keeps me fresh for tomorrow,” said Matthew. “But it was at no point an easy match, had he won the second, not sure what would have happened.”
World number one James Willstrop faced an early onslaught from Dutchman Laurens Jan Anjema, who let out a delighted yell as he took the 28-minute first game 11/9. Willstrop quickly put himself back in the driving seat though, dominating the second for 11/2 and always keeping a cushion in the third game.
Anjema held his own at the start of the fourth but the match slipped away quickly as the Englishman took a run of points to put himself into the semi-finals.
“It was very tough indeed, happy to get out 3/1,” said Willstrop. “The first game was massive, it certainly cooled down after that, it was like two different matches!!! I think the first took a long out of him, I was pleased with what I was doing, but I lost it. So, I didn’t panic, actually relaxed a bit, and loosened up.”
Ramy Ashour delighted the home crowd at the Abu Tig marina with a marvelous attacking display against second seed Gregory Gaultier in a match featuring many long rallies and some scintillating winners, plus a few slips and stoppages in the blustery conditions.
To be fair, the Frenchman was equally impressive for most of the match, but Ashour found the necessary extra when it mattered, particularly at the end of the second game when he took four points in a row to take a crucial advantage. He finished off the match in style too, with a service return into the nick.
“It was a great match,” said a delighted Ashour, “I’m very happy about everything but one; that it’s not the final! He played very well, and I’m very happy with my performance, we always seem to stretch each other. But I feel that the second was crucial, I was down, and the way I came back, I’m really happy with that. So, I’ll have to stay focused for tomorrow, and the day after …”
So it will be Egypt v England in the semi-finals, Willstrop v Darwish and Matthew v Ashour … can you really wait until tomorrow (well, later today anyway!)
El Gouna International Squash Open 2012
Wed 11th Apr, Quarter-Finals:
 James Willstrop (Eng) bt  Laurens Jan Anjema (Ned) 9/11, 11/2, 11/8, 11/5 (69m)
 Karim Darwish (Egy) bt  Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egy) 11/9, 9/11, 11/9, 6/11, 11/6 (84m)
 Nick Matthew (Eng) bt Hisham Ashour (Egy) 11/6, 12/10, 11/7 (42m)
 Ramy Ashour (Egy) bt  Gregory Gaultier (Fra) 11/5, 12/10, 11/8 (58m)