Egyptian squash player in historic British Open finals sweep
Ramy Ashour produced a sensational performance to beat reigning world champion Gregory Gaultier
Ramy Ashour, the three-time former world champion, led a charge which ensured that Egypt will on Sunday have both British Open champions for the first time.
Ashour produced a sensational performance to beat reigning world champion Gregory Gaultier, 11-6, 12-10, 8-11, 9-11, 11-7, and reach the men’s final, where he will face compatriot Mohamed El Shorbagy, the top-seeded titleholder.
In between these successes, there were also defeats for the other world champion, Nicol David, and the other British Open titleholder Camille Serme, on a day which must rank as one of the most dramatic the 94-year-old event has ever seen.
It ended with Nouran Gohar earning a chance of being the first player ever to become British Open senior and junior champion simultaneously, and with Nour El Sherbini being favourite to become the first Egyptian woman ever to win the British Open.
But it was Ashour’s triumph in reaching a big final in his first tournament in four months which was the undoubted highlight.
His semi-final against Gaultier was full of breathtaking attacking and stunning retrieving, with the advantage swinging first to the charismatic Egyptian, then to the 32-year-old Frenchman; then at 0-5 in the decider, back to Ashour again.
“After what I have been through (with injuries) this win is a huge thing for me personally,” said Ashour, who has reached his 55th final, and won 330 of his 395 matches, a percentage of more than 83 which is better than anyone else on the tour.
If he still has petrol in the tank he could win his 37th title on Sunday for El Shorbagy, despite heading the rankings all this year, has never beaten him in a full five-game PSA Tour match.
David’s bid to win back the British Open title came to an end when she lost to the 20-year-old Sherbini for a fourth time in five matches.
The fourth-seeded Alexandrian beat the Malaysian 11-6, 2-11, 11-9, 11-5, with a flawed but aggressively impressive performance which suggested she might soon become the fourth person in little more than a year to gain the top women's ranking.
David, however, showed many signs of producing a more creative and varied short game and led 8-5 in the third game, at which stage it seemed quite possible she would atone for defeats in Qatar, New York and Chicago.
“At that stage, I felt really good and I could sense that she started to relax. Then she went for three outright winners, and I felt I stepped back slightly, and you can’t afford to do that, you have to be sharp,” David said.
“It’s a new challenge for me to build new tools, new things and, although I’m disappointed not to get to the final, there are definitely a lot of positives for me.
“I’m really fine-tuning, adjusting, bit by bit, and I have to stay as consistent as possible throughout the match. Now it’s just really trying to push through for the next step up I think.”
Sherbini might have been expecting a final against Serme, who had disposed of the current world number one, Laura Massaro, on Friday.
Instead the teenaged Gohar hit a little too hard for a little too long for her, in an up-and-down 12-10, 11-9, 9-11, 9-11,11-9 victory.
The most emphatic success was El Shorbagy’s, who mixed some fine invention in with his whirlwind attacks as he beat Karim Gawad, yet another Egyptian, by 11-8, 11-7, 11-7.
“It is such a great moment for Egypt,” said El Shorbagy.
“And it’s a great honour to be part of that. We all feel proud “we are making a piece of history. I am really happy for my country.”