Cairo’s Ramy Ashour set up two Anglo/Egyptian semi-finals in the Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Squash Open after beating French rival Gregory Gaultier in today’s last quarter-final of the sixth PSA World Series event of the year at the Hong Kong Squash Centre.
But the day began with disappointing news when two of the event’s leading players were forced to concede their quarter-final matches after sustaining injuries the previous day.
Seventh seed Amr Shabana, the former world number one from Egypt bidding to win a sixth Hong Kong title, bruised his rib cage, while England’s Peter Barker, the No6 seed from London, strained a hamstring.
Shabana explained: “I fell during my match with Tom Richards, and didn’t think much of it until I went back to the hotel after the match where I had trouble breathing. I took pain killers in the morning with no improvement, and tried to have a light hit, which was a real struggle. The injury is on the left side of my rib cage, and I don’t want to risk making it worse or increasing the period of injury.”
Barker was equally downhearted: “I’m really gutted. I’m struggling today, and with the World Open coming up next week, I really don’t want to take any risks to pull my hamstring.”
But the day’s play finished in sensational style when Ashour beat France’s No3 seed Gregory Gaultier in a match described by PSA SquashTV commentator Joey Barrington as one which ‘produced the best squash of the tournament between two of the sport’s heavyweights. Ramy dominated all the way.’
Ashour, the 2010 champion (pictured in action with Gaultier), dropped the opening game but thrilled the packed crowd with his artistry as he went on to take the next two and march on to match ball in the fourth.
Gaultier, however, fell badly when going for a ball at the front of the court and after receiving treatment on court hobbled of the court as the referee announced Ashour as the winner.
The 8-11, 11-8, 11-8, 10-3 (ret.) victory in 69 minutes takes the world No4 through to a semi-final clash with England’s Nick Matthew, the world No2 who took his place in the last four after Shabana’s withdrawal.
Willstrop will now face Egyptian rival Karim Darwish, the beneficiary of Barker’s withdrawal.
1 James Willstrop (ENG) bt Borja Golan (ESP) 11-7, 11-7, 11-4 (57m)
4 Karim Darwish (EGY) bt  Peter Barker (ENG) w/o
5 Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt  Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 8-11, 11-8, 11-8, 10-3 ret. (69m)
2 Nick Matthew (ENG) bt  Amr Shabana (EGY) w/o