World No.5 Ramy Ashour cemented his place in the final of the 2016 Allam British Open, PSA World Series tournament, after a spellbinding encounter with World Champion Gregory Gaultier – just four months after the Egyptian maverick had almost called time on his career.
Ashour was last seen on the PSA World Tour back in November’s World Championship but an reoccurrence of the hamstring injury that has dogged his career in recent month’s saw him succumb to compatriot Omar Mosaad in the quarter-final, leaving him questioning the future of his illustrious career.
A capacity crowd in Hull’s Airco Arena were treated to an absolute classic of a match, with vociferous applause greeting each culmination of a series of brutal, breathtaking rallies, full to the brim with attacking artistry and frantic retrieving. Ashour looked to be heading to the final after building up a two-game lead but Gaultier fought back with improved composure and control in the front of the court to bring the match back to all square and set up a deciding fifth game.
After storming to a 5-0 lead, it appeared as if it would be Gaultier who would stride on to a fifth British Open final but Ashour, just as he did against Cesar Salazar and Ryan Cuskelly in his first and second round matches, dug in and came back magnificently to ensure that ‘The Artist’ will face either long term rival Mohamed Elshorbagy, in a repeat of both the 2012 and 2014 World Championship finals, or Karim Abdel Gawad next.
“There’s no words to describe how I’m feeling,” he said.
“It was very dreamy for me just to be back. I was planning to play the best I could from the beginning and I did, but he was better than me at coming back, he was better than me when he was motivated. When he wanted to come back, he did a great job at coming back from 2-0 down and he used a different strategy. I felt there was something different going on, on court but I didn’t really capitalise on it.
“I was thinking about losing the match in the fifth. At the same time, you’re playing the World Champion. It’s a mental battle, not just physically.
“Of course, it’s a physical battle as well and we’re both tired physically but it’s definitely a mental battle even more. A mental battle against each other and a mental battle against our own demons and own way of thinking.”
A downbeat Gaultier said: “I’m sad to lose, I did all I can during the whole week. I have no excuse, I gave it everything I had in the tank and I was trying to find a solution. I had a lack of matches and he had the same, so technically I was struggling the whole week.
“He did mistakes as well, it was a big fight physically and we were trying to fight for every point, even if we were both missing shots. I just need to get back on court and get a few fitness sessions. I came back on court only three weeks ago after having six months off so of course I couldn’t get back to tip top shape and tip top squash.”
Result – Semi-Final: Men’s Allam British Open 2016
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt  Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 3-2: 11-6, 12-10, 8-11, 9-11, 11-7 (74m)
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