Squash ‘of the highest calibre’ brought the 2012 Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Open to a magnificent climax when Egypt’s former champion Ramy Ashour beat England’s defending champion James Willstrop in the final of the sixth PSA World Series event of the year to regain the title he first won in 2010.
After a rain-affected semi-final session which had to be played in the Hong Kong Squash Centre, the final was staged – as planned – on a spectacular all-glass open-air showcourt erected at the Cultural Centre Piazza on the Hong Kong waterfront at Tsim Sha Tsui.
Founded in 1985, this year’s 27th edition of the championship took on greater significance than ever before as it was attended by delegates of the International Olympic Committee – ‘inspecting’ the event with a view to assessing the sport’s credentials to join the Olympic Games programme in 2020.
Both players in the final were on top of their game. Top seed Willstrop, the 29-year-old from Leeds who has topped the world rankings for all but one month of this year, opened up an 8-7 lead in the opening game – but world No4 Ashour reeled off four points in a row to take the game.
The Englishman struck back to draw level, dropping just three points as he dominated the second game.
But Ashour upped his game in the third and fourth and after 64 minutes of stunning squash raised his hand in celebration of his second Hong Kong Open title by an 11-8, 3-11, 11-7, 11-6 margin.
“What a match – squash of the highest calibre,” declared event MC Vanessa Atkinson, the former world number one and world champion from the Netherlands, as she welcomed back the players for post-match interviews.
“It’s very disappointing – I was here to win the match and I didn’t do that,” said Willstrop. “But I wanted to give my best – and I did that.
“He forced me to play loose balls and he capitalised on that brilliantly,” added the Yorkshireman after his 34th PSA World Tour final.
“It’s been an encouraging week, though, to get to the final – and the Hong Kong Open final is a serious occasion!”
Ashour was his usual voluble self: “It’s been a long week – and, as I’ve said before, every time it feels like five years!
“But to win my second Hong Kong Open is something of which I am very proud,” added the 25-year-old from Cairo.
“James was very consistent – after all, he’s been world number one for a long time.
“But things went my way tonight – and that made the difference.
“Hopefully can get back to world number one – I will do my best,” added Ashour, who now has 26 PSA Tour titles to his credit.
“I want to thank everyone who has helped with this event – they’ve done a great job.”