After overturning recent form, it will be third seed Gregory Gaultier and No4 seed Ramy Ashour who contest the unexpected final of the Delaware Investments US Open following the exit of the two top seeds from England in the semi-finals of the PSA World Series event at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
“I felt really good right from the start,” said Frenchman Gaultier after a comprehensive straight games win against top seed James Willstrop in the first men’s semi-final – his first victory over the world number one this year.
“I felt that James wasn’t quite there, a little slow … or maybe I just played too well, I don’t know!”
Gaultier was ahead throughout and always seemed to be in charge of the rallies. The Englishman came into the match following three 80-minute-plus matches in a row – but it was a fine performance from Gaultier that earned the 29-year-old from Aix-en-Provence a well-deserved 11-7, 11-2, 11-8 win, and a place in the 46th Tour final of his career.
“He’s been playing so well and making all the finals,” added Gaultier, who lost a 118-minute battle with Willstrop last month. “And in the end it just takes its toll on your body – I’ve been there myself!
“I analysed my matches at the British Grand Prix two weeks ago, and adjusted a few things.
“It was fantastic to win a major event like this in 2006, and I’m pleased to be back in the final,” said the world No3. “It would be great if I could win it again – I just hope the next two play for five hours!”
In fact Ashour claimed the other place in the final in 74 minutes – with a performance that was entirely different from his display in the previous round when he beat Peter Barker after saving a match-ball in the decider.
His opponent was another Englishman Nick Matthew, the second seed bidding to reach a second successive final.
Matthew, the world No2, took an early lead and increased it to 10-6. Ashour (pictured with Matthew) took the next five points and eventually took what proved to be a crucial lead 15-13 on his third game ball.
Matthew managed to contain his opponent in the second game to draw level. But Ashour – who boasted an 11-7 Tour record over his rival before the match, but lost the most recent encounter in the British Open in May – led throughout the next two games.
The 25-year-old from Cairo clinched victory with a trademark volley drop that brought the appreciative crowd at Drexel University to its feet one final time.
“I’m happy with how I played tonight,” said Ashour after the 15-13, 8-11, 11-8, 11-4 triumph which marks up his 40th appearance in a Tour final.
“I didn’t make the mistake I made yesterday, of concentrating on what my opponent was doing. It’s always about how I deal with it mentally, and I was happy with that too tonight.
“I’ll need to make sure I can recover and be at 100% tomorrow – Greg looks to be on top form!”
Matthew reflected on the match: “It’s not the first time I’ve lost a lead like I had in the first to Ramy, so he must be doing something right. I thought I’d won it on a video review – that didn’t go my way – but I still had four more chances.
“I think I should have won the first and if I’d gone 2/0 up it might have been different.
“He played well though – he adapted to tonight’s slower conditions better than me, and my defence wasn’t as good as Pete’s last night. The work he made me do took its toll and I faded a bit in the fourth.
“In the end he got on top and deserved to win.”
Matthew was succinct on Twitter later: “I could make excuses as to why I didn’t win but the honest truth is the better player won tonight. Well played Ramy hope it’s a good final.”