Egyptian squash sensation Ramy Ashour is “one of the greatest sportsmen on the planet” but his continued lack of global exposure is a “terrible injustice” to sport.
That is the verdict of Englishman James Willstrop, one of his chief rivals, despite beating the Egyptian to the PSA World Series Davenport North American Open title at the weekend. It was Ashour’s first event for three months after recovering from a hamstring injury.
Willstrop took advantage of Ashour’s latest setback in December when the Yorkshireman took over as world No1 in January for the first time in his career. Willstrop and compatriot Nick Matthew are currently the two in-form players on the PSA World Tour while Ashour, 24, has slipped to fifth.
But with squash continually missing out on an Olympic berth – the sport will be put forward for inclusion to the 2020 Games at an IOC session in Buenos Aires in 2013 – Willstrop says that the world needs to be made more aware about the Egyptian’s all-round brilliance on court.
In a new book published this month – Shot and a Ghost, an eye-opening diary account of a “brutal” year on the world tour – Willstrop writes: “He is undoubtedly one of the greatest sportsmen on the planet – certainly the most talented holding a racket in the modern generation.
“He has the ability to dismantle the very best players and he is the most unusual squash player I have ever seen or been on court with. But unfortunately the man goes relatively unannounced globally, which is a terrible injustice.
“I’m sure any one of the top 10 players would be happy to admit that the speed of his game operates on a different plane. It doesn’t make him unbeatable or even necessarily the best player, but to consider winning against him, squash of the highest calibre is required.”
Willstrop, whose win in Virginia saw him return to world No1, added that the same attributes should be applied to Amr Shabana, Egypt’s four-time world champion.
He said: “Shabana’s four major wins in two months in 2007 is regarded in squash circles as a truly mammoth achievement.
“Not only is the man the most artistic hitter of a squash ball that has ever been, and a true gentleman, he is also a winner. He stands, justifiably, as a legend of the sport.”