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Willstrop & Matthew both bow out in New York

Posted: 24.01.13

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The crowd at Grand Central Terminal in New York was treated to brilliant and breath-taking squash on the all-glass court as the four best players on the PSA World Tour contested the semi-finals of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions.

After marathon encounters in the first PSA World Series event of the year, fourth seed Ramy Ashour outlasted favourite James Willstrop in five games to set up a final against Gregory Gaultier, the third seed who upset title-holder Nick Matthew in 93 minutes.

The first match saw former top-ranked Englishman James Willstrop and the new world number one Ramy Ashour go head to head.

The 29-year-old Englishman rose to the occasion from the very start with focus and won the first game 11-5 and jumped out to another early lead in the second game but Ashour slowly got into the game and matched Willstrop’s length to the back corners. Tied at eight-all, it was anybody’s game. But Ashour closed it out 11-8.

The third game was a seesaw, with the lead changing hands several times but the score at 10-all, a cracking forehand drive from Ashour forced an error from Willstrop and a loose Willstrop service return on game ball opened up the court for an Ashour winner to give the 25-year-old Egyptian the game, 12-10.

The fourth was another back and forth battle which had the players tied at eight-all, nine-all and ten-all. A soft crosscourt forehand drop winner and a straight drop from Willstrop that forced an error into the tin from Ashour gave Willstrop the game 12-10.

However, Ashour charged out at the beginning of the fifth with a quick hitting, attacking game and closed the match with an 11-4 fifth game victory.

“It was anybody’s match to win, and Ramy put together a couple of good rallies at the end that had a domino effect to open up that fifth game,” said Willstrop after the match. “That’s why he is the very best player in the world right now.”

Ashour will have a fight on his hands in the final when he takes on Frenchman Gaultier, who who upset English title-holder Matthew in four hard-hitting games.

The first two games saw the players trading powerful drives and cross courts, shot for shot, and exchanging the lead on almost every other point. Gaultier drew first blood, winning the opening game 11-8.

The 32-year-old world No2 from Sheffield responded by grabbing the second 12-10.

After Gaultier won the third game game 13-11 the momentum shifted dramatically to his racket. The Frenchman looked like a man on fire at the start of the fourth and went on to close the match with an 11-3 fourth game victory.

“Credit to Gaultier for never giving up the third game,” said Matthew after the match. “It was psychologically tough in the fourth; I couldn’t get my mind off not having closed the door when I was up 10-6 in the third,” added the Yorkshireman, denied a third successive appearance in the final.

RESULTS: PSA World Series J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, New York

Semi-finals:

4 Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt 1 James Willstrop (ENG) 5-11, 11-8, 12-10, 10-12, 11-4 (78m)
3 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt 2 Nick Matthew (ENG) 11-8, 10-12, 13-11, 11-3 (93m)