Squash: Sensational Ashour advances to British Open final

Ramy Ashour kept on course to become the first Egyptian in almost half a century to win the British Open when he reached the final with a scintillating 8-11, 11-6, 11-6, 11-8 win over world number one James Willstrop.

Ashour, a former world number one himself, looked back to even better than the form which earned him a World Open title four years ago, as he overcame the imposing Englishman with a range of strokes which were as dazzling as ever.

They were supplemented with quicksilver movement, which often made it impossible for Willstrop to get the ball away from him, and suggested that his lengthy injury break has more than merely repaired his damaged hamstrings.

"I have to credit him for a fantastic performance," said Willstrop, a sentiment echoed by a British crowd which ended by saluting the man they had wanted to see beaten.

"It was absolutely brilliant. And amazing that he could produce a shot like that at match ball in the semi-final of a British Open. I just love that. The crowd stood up. I have to look at the positive. It was genius to produce shot-making like that."

Willstrop was referring to Ashour stepping forward into a service return and striking a volley cross court into the nick, the join between the sidewall and the floor, which it met with such pace and accuracy that the ball whipped spectacularly along the ground.

However, in many ways the penultimate point of the match was even more startling.

Ashour soaked up the slow-balling drives with which Willstrop attempted to extract errors and then made three court-length retrieves, including one in which he made a full length dive to boast the ball off the back wall and on to the front.

"I was just trying to put away my demons," said Ashour, who often seems to play on the edge of an emotional precipice.

"It's hard to handle the atmosphere. You have to raise your game and play as well you can for these good people. They deserve it. And James is a great number one. I had to do something to come close to him."

Remarkably, given the many great players to emerge from Egypt, the last player from that country to win the British Open was Ahmed Aboutaleb in 1966.

Amr Shabana, Gamal Awad, and Ibrahim Amin have also reached the final since then.

Ashour plays Nick Matthew, the world champion from England, in the final.

Matthew moved closer to another piece of British Open history by beating compatriot Peter Barker 11-5, 11-8, 11-6.

Matthew will become the first Englishman to win the title three times in the professional era if he overcomes Ashour.

Earlier Nicol David, the highest profile woman squash player ever, moved to within one win of repairing the one small blemish on her CV by reaching the women's final.

The World Open record-holder from Malaysia did that with a very impressive 11-5, 11-8, 11-4 win over Laura Massaro, the world number three from England who upset her twice last year.

David, who lost in the second round of the last British Open, now plays 16-year-old Nour El Sherbini, who became the first Egyptian woman and the youngest ever finalist in the 90-year history of the British Open.

She did that by overcoming her higher ranked compatriot Raneem El Weleily 14-12, 7-11, 11-4, 11-8.

Sherbini, who still studies six hours a day for school exams, reached the final of the world's oldest tournament more than a year younger than the legendary Pakistani Jahangir Khan, who was 17 when he played Australia's Geoff Hunt in a famous final in 1981.


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