It was an unfortunate start to the El Gouna International Squash Open semi-finals when the first semi-final was suspended after one point of the second game due to slippy floor conditions on the glass court at the Abu Tig Marina.
James Willstrop had taken that game, which was interrupted several times by the players slipping and the court cleaners being called into action, but after one point of the second game the players reluctantly decided that it would be dangerous to continue.
That match was resumed on the traditional court at the Movenpick hotel – with room for maybe 20 spectators – where Willstrop quickly finished the match off in straight games.
“Mentally, it was very difficult,” admitted Willstrop. “”e get ready for 7, 7.30, extreme engaging of mind, then play one game, then down completely for an hour. This one game was to my advantage. No atmosphere, nobody watching, late, 10pm, the isolation of sport, that’s what it’s all about.
“Yes, he seemed to lose focus at the end, and I guess I made him lose it, but! One hour off when you are one game up, it had to be to my advantage. You know, when you hear about Tennis, and the weather breaks, the difference it can make in a match, well, this is what we had today, and we are not used to it.”
Meanwhile after extensive court cleaning and testing of the floor by the players, the second semi-final started on the glass court, where Ramy Ashour reached his second El Gouna final, winning a fast-paced, often frantic, always enthralling, four-game thriller against Nick Matthew to set up another Egypt v England clash in tomorrow’s final.
Ashour was unstoppable in the first as he blitzed through the first game 11/4, but Matthew managed to put a brake on proceedings in the second as Ashour’s error count rose, but still the Englishman needed four game balls as Ashour made a valiant comeback, started when he won a brilliant, scrambling rally at 10/6 down.
The third was crucial – Matthew led 7/3, containing the play well, but Ashour turned errors into winners as he took six points in a row to turnd the game in his favour and he finished it with another dropshot into the nick.
The fourth was a nip and tuck thriller, close all the way to 9-all when a despairing dive from Matthew brought up match ball and a stoppage as Matthew had treatment to a cut on his hand. There was to be no reprieve though as Ashour took the next point to reach the final to the delight of the Egyptian crowd who had waited around hoping to see their hero in action – they weren’t disappointed.
“It’s always a tough match with Nick, and tonight the start was so fast, but then it was all mixed up with all the disruption and stoppages, I really had to work hard to try to stay in my bubble and not get distracted,” said Ashour.
“Tomorrow will be a tough match against James, the conditions will probably play a part as it’s quite cold on there too, as well as everything else – you have to be very direct on this court, I slept a lot today to make sure I was ready for it!”
The final is at 20.00 on Friday.
 James Willstrop (Eng) bt  Karim Darwish (Egy) 11/7, 11/5, 11/2
play suspended due to slippy floor, match moved to Movenpick
 Ramy Ashour bt  Nick Matthew 11/4, 9/11, 11/8, 11/9 (75m)
Full Coverage: www.elgounasquashopen.com