One of the most fierce rivalries ever to grace the PSA World Tour will light up the final of the 2016 Allam British Open with Egyptian maverick Ramy Ashour and defending champion Mohamed Elshorbagy set to go head-to-head, with the oldest and most established title in the sport up for grabs.
Matches between the pair have become synonymous with dramatic action, scintillating squash and some exquisite exchanges with the 2014 World Championship, in which Ashour saved a match ball to win, being dubbed by many as one of the greatest matches of all time.
While Ashour is delighted to be back after four months out with a hamstring injury and is eager to catch up, ‘The Artist’ insists that there is a mutual respect between him and his compatriot.
“I’ve heard some things, I’ve read an article or two about him saying some things which I spoke to him about and I think that’s what this sport is about, it’s about respect,” said Ashour, who came through a spectacular five-game thriller against World Champion Gregory Gaultier in the semi-final.
“He said that he never said those things so, for me, this is big and this was the most important thing. Everyone plays sport but, what is important, is what you play for. The most important thing for me when I play is to understand that we are bringing the best out of each other when we go out there on court.
“Not in a hateful way but in a positive, constructive way, and that’s why we have to have mutual respect for each other all the time. I’m very desperate to catch up to everyone, not just Mohamed. All of those days and nights just sitting on my bed watching and dreaming about it, I didn’t even want to think about it because it’s not pleasant thinking about something you can’t do.
“I’m sure it’s going to be a very tough match, he’s a very tough competitor and he doesn’t let anything go on court.”
Ashour triumphed in the most recent meeting between the two in last season’s El Gouna International final on home soil but, since then, Elshorbagy has dominated the PSA World Tour in Ashour’s absence, winning four World Series titles in a row to cement his status as the World No.1.
One thing that could go in Elshorbagy’s favour as he tries to end a four-match unbeaten streak against his contemporary, is the fact that he has spent 89 minutes less time on court than Ashour, dropping just one game to England’s James Willstrop as he powered to the final.
However, the man from Alexandria is steeling himself for a difficult encounter and expects to see both players raise their games as they clash once again.
“Ramy is a completely different character to anyone else, that’s what makes him different,” he said.
“He has been playing better as the tournament has gone on and he has been raising his match. Yesterday, he played at a completely different level, you’re not going to beat the World Champion unless you’re at your best, and that’s what Ramy did yesterday. He showed what a great player he is and I’ll be expecting him to be at his best tonight, so I’ll have to be at my best and that will make it very exciting.
“The last two matches that were played in El Gouna and the World Championship we got the best out of each other and I always feel we change our game a bit. The pace we play at is one step further than the others. You always raise your game depending on your opponent.
“If I’m playing Ramy, I change my game more than anyone else but I live for these kind of matches and these kind of battles. I’m really looking forward to enjoying another match with him.”
For a taster of what's to come, check out their full 2014 World Championship final clash below!