It was the second time in two editions of the event that the final failed to reach a natural conclusion, but whereas in 2010 Ashour had been the one forced to pull out with injury, this time he was the recipient as he succeesed Karim Darwish as the champion to keep the title in Egyptian hands.
In the first game, which was punctuated by stoppages as the court was cleaned and the players occasionally stepped out of the side doors to clean their shoes – although there were no obvious slips – Willstrop had for the most part contained the attacking opportunities of his opponent, muh as he had done in their previous meeting in February’s North American Open final.
As the game neared its conclusion though, Ashour managed to raise the pace with often brilliant attacking play and delicate flicks and drops, and Willstrop began to struggle to contain him.
The Englishman’s slender lead was whittled away and Ashour took the game 12/10 with a joyous pump of the fist.
The momentum was with him now, and he dominated the second game to take it 11/5, and amid more stoppages built a 5/2 lead in the third.
Willstrop approached his opponent at the front of the court, explaining that he was struggling with the conditions and didn’t feel able to continue, and offered his hand to the new champion.
Horribly disappointed. At times like this, losing is not the problem. I can’t explain. Losing having given your 200% is just 20 times better than the frustration I’m feeling right now. It feels like the chance to compete in a major final has been taken away from me.
The floor, well, there is no rhyme no reason to the way it’s been reacting this week. I’m not looking for trouble, I played my matches this week, I was down 1/0 to LJ, and I came back. And there was no wind tonight, so no reason why it should have been slippery.
I just never felt steady on there from the third rally in the first game. So I found myself thinking about the floor, and not about my squash, so I’m thinking, what am I doing!!! Head not on the game anymore… And against any other player, I would have been able to handle the movement differently, but against Ramy, you’ve got to be able to move to your full capacity, haven’t you.
Ramy didn’t seem to be as much bothered, but then again, his movement is completely different from mine, he is not a lunger like I am, we don’t have the same way at all to move. He obviously handled the floor better than I did tonight. Already, last night, I just couldn’t believe they played on last night after what Karim and I went through on there.
Very unsatisfactory to say the least. Terribly disappointing. Hugely frustrating.
I feel strange happy. I feel good because I’m happy with the way I played all week, I’ve been consistent from the first match to the last one, and that doesn’t normally happen to me. With all what happened this week, on, off the court, slippery, the wind, etc, a bit of a chaotic week, a very tough week, I’m happy I was mentally able to handle it.
Playing in Egypt always add an extra pressure on your shoulders. It’s nice to know that people are following you, and supporting you throughout the matches. But it can work for you, or against you, a bit of a nightmare/fairytale all in one. Because you can be happy when you are leading and you feel them behind you, but when you are losing, you have that feeling that you are letting all those people down. Extra pressure for sure.
About the match, James played well I thought, but I managed to keep the match going the way I wanted to. I was sharp and alert. As for the ending, I know James is a fair player, and I am sure our next meeting will be harder than that one.”.
This past 5, 6 months have been a long journey that started right after the world, when I asked myself if I really should go on playing squash, or if I should stop my career altogether. And I would like to thank the people that have been helping me during those past months.
First, there is you Fram. You are the one that inspired me to go and get treated by Aspire in Qatar. It was probably the best decision I took in my life, and I really need to thank you for it. They really educated me, opened my eyes on so many elements I had overlooked up to now. How to take care of my body, my diet, how to handle the mental side of things…
I need to thank from Aspire, my nutrition Richard Allison, and of course, Dr Christiano Eraile, my orthopaedist, who sorted my joints out/bones out… And in Egypt, Anna, my physio, Ahmed Gala, Hussam Chabbad, Haitham, Amin Dabo, and I’m sure I’m forgetting others, so many people have helped me, please forgive me!
Least but not last, I really also want to thank Amr Mansi for putting up that tournament for us, so glad that Squash is now back in Egypt. And of course, Hisham and my parents.
First, for me, and I said it from the first day, when I saw Ramy at reception, stating, “Have you seen how trimmed I am Fram? I’m as fit as David Palmer. Naaaaa, that’s the biggest lie I ever said in my life!”, then jumping like a little goat in his first round, there was going to be only one winner this week. Mr Ashour Junior. That was my gut feeling. Sue me.
I do not doubt for a minute that James was not steady on there. In his first round, Nick was complaining of the same thing against Ali Reda, when I asked him why he didn’t push at the volley as he normally does, he said “I just couldn’t feel the floor under me, I was not confident on there”. And yet, most of us couldn’t see it…
And tonight, I couldn’t see the players slipping badly. I could see James wiping his feet a lot outside the court during the games on the wet towel, proof that he was not confident about his movement. And yes, the cleaners were called a few times by both players but nothing compared with the previous night, where the slipping was really obvious to everybody, thanks to that wind that was blowing us off, and that died out completely tonight.
Now, I’m not the one that has to play on there, and move my 6’4 around to try and counterattack/contain probably the fastest/most talented of the decade, to say the least. So I will not try and give my opinion like everybody seems to do on the social networks tonight: I was not on there. It’s not my livelihood at stake. So, I truly won’t pass a judgement on the “should he have kept on going, was he right to stop”. I just do not know.
One thing is sure. Like he said, James’ mind was not on the squash tonight. And my friends, against, Ramy, that’s no good.
After having to pull out of the last El Gouna final himself, Ramy Ashour is the new champion after James Willstrop pulled out during the third game of tonight’s final …
A fitting final between the world number one James Willstrop and Egypt’s resurgent Ramy Ashour …
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