Top Seeds Advance in British Round of 32
May 8, 2008, By SquashTalk.com , Independent News; © 2008 SquashTalk LLC
Ramy Tested In British Open Debut In Liverpool
Second seed Ramy Ashour, the 20-year-old 'wonder kid' from Egypt who has already netted three PSA Tour titles this year, was severely tested by unseeded Englishman Alister Walker in today's (Thursday) men's first round of the Dunlop British Open - Liverpool 2008 at Liverpool Cricket Club.
The 'Wimbledon' of squash - being held in Liverpool for the first time - will be staged at the new ECHO Arena Liverpool from 10-12 May, following qualifying and early rounds at the Cricket Club.
Walker, a Botswana-born 25-year-old raised in Gloucestershire and now based in Leeds, led in all four games, winning the second. But Ashour - the world number two who, amazingly, was making his debut in the event - dug deep to win the first, then fought back from 10-5 down to take the third.
It took the squash star 65 minutes to finally overcome Walker 11-8, 7-11, 11-10 (2-0), 11-7 and claim a place in the second round.
Gregory Gaultier, the third seed who last year became the first ever Frenchman to win the title, successfully began his defence with an 11-8, 11-3, 11-8 win over Pakistan's Mansoor Zaman in 37 minutes.
Surprisingly described in a British national newspaper as "the biggest name in squash", unseeded Zaman was the first of three Pakistanis to exit at the first round stage.
It was a decisive win by Gaultier - only five days after cramp caused him to writhe in agony on a court in Amsterdam at the end of the match which led to England's triumph in the European Team Championships.
The 25-year-old world number two from Aix-en-Provence proclaimed before the event that he was going to ignore the fact that he was title-holder - and prepare as if he were going for the title for the first time.
"I didn't come here with any pressure," said Gaultier. "Of course, I've got targets and it would be nice to win it again, but it's wide open."
About his first round win over Zaman, the Frenchman explained: "It was 3/0, so I'm not complaining. It's good to win my first match, but now I want to relax and try to be ready for tomorrow."
David Palmer is the only other former champion in the men's field. The fifth-seeded Australian - three times winner of the title between 2001 and 2004 - despatched Malaysian qualifier Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan 11-3, 11-5, 11-6 in 32 minutes.
"I was happy to get through that - it was a good run and not too hard," said the 31-year-old from New South Wales who is now based in Boston, USA.
"But I'm expecting a tough game tomorrow - so I need to get ready for that," added the former world champion and world number one who now plays Englishman Adrian Grant.
The 12th seed is one of two left-handers from London who made it through to the last sixteen. Grant, the 27-year-old world No15 who is now based in Leeds, beat Surrey qualifier Tom Richards 11-10 (2-0), 11-2, 4-11, 11-9 - while Peter Barker, the eighth seed who kicked off England's victory trail last week by beating higher-ranked Frenchman Thierry Lincou for the first time, defeated Sussex wild card opponent Tom Pashley 11-4, 11-9, 11-8.
England's bid for success in the event is being led by James Willstrop, the fourth seed. But the world No3 expressed surprise at the lack of 'home' support from the crowd after his 11-5, 7-11, 11-8, 11-2 victory over Pakistan's 17-year-old Aamir Atlas Khan.
"I always thought that if you played in your home country, you'd get the bulk of the support - but the crowd seemed to be full of Pakistanis, all cheering every good shot by my opponent. I felt there was very little coming my way," said the perplexed 24-year-old England number one.
"But it was hard work - which I knew it would be, as Aamir is one of the most talented prospects to come out of Pakistan for a good few years. He's still young - and he's going to be very tough to beat in the future."
Sadly the Barrington name will not live on in the 2008 staging of the event after England rising star Joey Barrington crashed out after a five-game marathon. The son of squash legend Jonah Barrington - who established a six British Open title record in the early 1970s - Joey failed to repeat his recent upset over Olli Tuominen, losing 9-11, 11-5, 11-9, 3-11, 11-7 to the Finn in 77 minutes.
A major upset seemed on the cards when Pakistan qualifier Farhan Mehboob romped to a 2/0 lead over Ong Beng Hee, the tenth seed.
But the Malaysian, who has achieved quarter-final berths in the event on five occasions, fought back to claim a 6-11, 9-11, 11-8, 11-9, 11-7 win after 85 minutes.
"When you play someone who has no pressure, who's fresh, and hungry, it's never going to be easy," the 28-year-old from Kuala Lumpur told the official website www.britishopensquash.com . "In the first two games he was just too good, attacking with no fear and hitting some great shots.
"I just needed to wake up mentally, I went 2/0 down so quickly, and even in the third it was eight-all. I always knew he was very talented and fast - definitely one to watch for the future."
In the qualifying finals of the women's event, Madeline Perry led the charge to claim places in the main draw. Since reaching the quarter-finals of the event last year, the 31-year-old from Ireland suffered a life-threatening head injury in a mugging in Italy late last year and has been fighting back to full fitness since recovering from her ordeal.
The former world No6 from Belfast, who has slipped to 15th place, came back from 2/1 down to beat English qualifier Emma Beddoes 9-0, 6-9, 3-9, 9-1, 9-2 to make it through to the main draw for the seventh time in her career.
However, Perry's reward is a first round clash with Nicol David, the top seed from Malaysia who is in her third year as world number one.
Egypt's Engy Kheirallah was also seeking to return to the event in which she has starred before - after achieving a semi-final berth two years ago. The 26-year-old from Alexandria recovered from a game down to beat England's Dominique Lloyd-Walter 5-9, 9-4, 9-2, 9-4 in 67 minutes - and will now face Australia's defending champion Rachael Grinham - who is also based in Egypt - in the first round.
RESULTS: Dunlop British Open Squash Championships, Liverpool, England
Men's 1st round:
 Amr Shabana (EGY) bt Davide Bianchetti (ITA) 11-5, 11-8, 11-5 (33m)
 John White (SCO) bt [Q] Aaron Frankcomb (AUS) 11-4, 11-7, 11-5 (26m)
 David Palmer (AUS) bt [Q] Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS) 11-3, 11-5, 11-6 (32m)
 Adrian Grant (ENG) bt [Q] Tom Richards (ENG) 11-10 (2-0), 11-2, 4-11, 11-9 (49m)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt Mansoor Zaman (PAK) 11-8, 11-3, 11-8 (37m)
 Olli Tuominen (FIN) bt Joey Barrington (ENG) 9-11, 11-5, 11-9, 3-11, 11-7 (77m)
 Karim Darwish (EGY) bt Jonathan Kemp (ENG) 11-10 (3-1), 11-8, 11-7 (40m)
 Laurens Jan Anjema (NED) bt [Q] Jesse Engelbrecht (RSA) 11-6, 4-11, 11-6, 11-2 (36m)
 Lee Beachill (ENG) bt Daryl Selby (ENG) 11-8, 11-4, 11-5 (49m)
 Peter Barker (ENG) bt Tom Pashley (ENG) 11-4, 11-9, 11-8 (40m)
 Ong Beng Hee (MAS) bt [Q] Farhan Mehboob (PAK) 6-11, 9-11, 11-8, 11-9, 11-7 (85m)
 James Willstrop (ENG) bt Aamir Atlas Khan (PAK) 11-5, 7-11, 11-8, 11-2 (53m)
 Alex Gough (WAL) bt [Q] Scott Arnold (AUS) 6-11, 11-1, 11-1, 0-11, 11-9 (60m)
 Thierry Lincou (FRA) bt [Q] Jonathan Harford (ENG) 11-10 (2-0), 11-5, 11-3 (33m)
 Mohd Azlan Iskandar (MAS) bt [Q] Wade Johnstone (AUS) 11-4, 11-5, 11-5 (29m)
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt Alister Walker (ENG) 11-8, 7-11, 11-10 (2-0), 11-7 (65m)
Women's qualifying finals:
Madeline Perry (IRL) bt Emma Beddoes (ENG) 9-0, 6-9, 3-9, 9-1, 9-2 (69m)
Engy Kheirallah (EGY) bt Dominique Lloyd-Walter (ENG) 5-9, 9-4, 9-2, 9-4 (67m)
Isabelle Stoehr (FRA) bt Jaclyn Hawkes (NZL) 10-8, 9-0, 5-9, 9-0 (54m)
Kasey Brown (AUS) bt Annelize Naude (NED) 9-3, 9-2, 9-0 (35m)
Men's 2nd round line-up:
 Amr Shabana (EGY) v  John White (SCO)
 David Palmer (AUS) v  Adrian Grant (ENG)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v  Olli Tuominen (FIN)
 Karim Darwish (EGY) v  Laurens Jan Anjema (NED)
 Peter Barker (ENG) v  Lee Beachill (ENG)
 James Willstrop (ENG) v  Ong Beng Hee (MAS)
 Thierry Lincou (FRA) v  Alex Gough (WAL)
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) v  Mohd Azlan Iskandar (MAS)
Updated Women's 1st round draw:
 Nicol David (MAS) v [Q] Madeline Perry (IRL)
 Shelley Kitchen (NZL) v Vanessa Atkinson (NED)
 Natalie Grainger (USA) v [Q] Kasey Brown (AUS)
 Vicky Botwright (ENG) v Laura Lengthorn-Massaro (ENG)
 Jenny Duncalf (ENG) v Alison Waters (ENG)
 Rachael Grinham (AUS) v [Q] Engy Kheirallah (EGY)
 Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY) v [Q] Isabelle Stoehr (FRA)
 Natalie Grinham (NED) v Rebecca Chiu (HKG)