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Ramy Ashour's Quick Exit from British Open
May 9, 2008, By SquashTalk.com , Independent News; © 2008 SquashTalk LLC       

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Shock British Open Exit For Ashour

Malaysia's Mohd Azlan Iskandar pulled off a sensational upset in the Dunlop British Open - Liverpool 2008 when he beat second-seeded Egyptian Ramy Ashour in four games to take an unexpected place in the quarter-finals of the PSA Super Series Silver event at the ECHO Arena in Liverpool.

It was clear from the outset that the 20-year-old world number four from Cairo - wearing full length white surgical stockings - was suffering in some way when the Malaysian outsider romped to a first game win in just five minutes.

Despite severely restricted movement, the sport's rising star was able to use his sensational racquet skills to win the second game - but it always looked unlikely that Ashour could win the match.

"It was hard dealing with that situation - but I must admit that I found it a bit intimidating when he came onto court wearing tights!" said the delighted 11th seed Iskandar after his 11-1, 5-11, 11-8, 11-8 victory.  "You think he's injured, then he gets the ball back with interest! 

"But when you win the first game 11-1, what do you do?  I got a bit excited, I admit, but I had to remind myself to go back to fundamentals:  the player who makes the most errors loses the match!

"Six months ago, I would have bottled it - so I'm glad I was able to concentrate on the job in hand."

It was a deeply downhearted Ashour that was finally able to explain what had happened.  "My injuries include both my ham strings, as well as my ankle and my lower back.

"I feel that I'm abusing myself - abusing my body.  I think I should rethink what I do - if I keep on like this, I won't keep going for another two years."

World No3 James Willstrop will meet career-long rival and England team-mate Peter Barker in Saturday's quarter-finals to ensure home interest in the semi-finals of the longest-established and most prestigious event in world squash.

In the second round match at the Liverpool Cricket Club, England number one Willstrop despatched Malaysian Ong Beng Hee, the tenth seed, 11-9, 11-9, 11-7 in 47 minutes to reach the last eight for the fifth time in the past six years.

The adjacent second round match which produced the fourth seed's next opponent featured the two team-mates who fought alongside him in England's victory over France in last week's European Team Championships final.  It was close and seesaw encounter between the two closest seeds in the last sixteen, in which left-handed Londoner Peter Barker, the eighth seed, ultimately prevailed 11-9, 4-11, 11-10 (2-0), 9-11, 11-8 over ninth-seeded Yorkshireman Lee Beachill in 83 minutes."Lee's probably moving better than he has done for a long time - and as his ball-striking is the best in the world, I feel delighted to have won," said Barker after the longest match of the day.

"But I have mixed emotions about beating him, as we have become close friends over the past year and he has become a massive influence to me.  He was a major factor in helping me win the deciding match in last year's World Team Championship final.

"But at the end of the day, it's just a game of squash," concluded the 24-year-old Londoner.

Top seed Amr Shabana survived a tough - but entertaining - match against US-based Scot John White, beating the game's hardest-hitter 11-9, 7-11, 11-5, 11-10 (2-0) in 52 minutes.  In fact, 13th seed White came off court midway through the fourth game thinking he'd won it to force a decider.  However, the referee ruled a let and asked the players to return to the court.

The favourite went on to save two game balls before converting his first match ball to secure a place in the quarter-finals for the second successive year.

"John and I always have fun matches - in fact, it was tough to concentrate, I was enjoying it so much.  I had to keep reminding myself that the point of the match was to win - not just have fun," explained the 28-year-old from Cairo who has topped the men's world rankings for the past two years. 

"I had to raise my game in the fourth to win the match - and I'll now have to get myself prepared for my quarter-final against David Palmer, "added Shabana, who has won major PSA Tour titles all over the globe, including three World Open crowns, but never the British Open.

"It's the one I haven't won.  When I was a junior, I used to dream about winning the British Open.  It would be great to win it now - then I would have the complete set!"

White, a veteran of the Tour for more than 17 years, revealed later that this would be his last British Open.  A quarter-finalist in his debut in 1996, the Australian-born 34-year-old has taken up the role as Director of Squash at Franklin & Marshall College in the USA.

"I've had great memories of the British Open, including my best win over Canadian Jonathon Power in the 2002 semi-finals which took me to the final for the first time," said the 13th seed, a former world number one.

"But I couldn't have planned a better way to go out than with a match against Amr Shabana.  Since going through qualifiers together some 15 years ago, we've become great friends and always have really enjoyable matches.

"He's really picked up his game over the past few years and become an unbelievable player.  I hope he goes on to win the title here - I'd be delighted for him," concluded White.

The event's first upset took place in the women's event when Isabelle Stoehr, a qualifier from France, beat eighth-seeded Egyptian Omneya Abdel Kawy 9-2, 2-9, 9-6, 9-6 in 66 minutes.

Abdel Kawy - fresh from victory in last month's Hurghada International in her home country, where she beat world champion Rachael Grinham in the final - was playing her opening match of the tournament, whereas Stoehr had already battled through three qualifying rounds.

"It was her first match, so I knew I had capitalise on the fact that I'd played three times on the courts - and get a strong start," said the 28-year-old from Montpellier.  "I tried to play it really tight - she's got such good racquet skills.  But I also knew she could give me a few easy points.

"Even when I lost the second game, I still felt strong - and just had to push, push, push.

"I'm pleased with my game - I'm feeling confident and I'm happy in my life," added Stoehr, who now faces second seed Natalie Grinham in the quarter-finals on the all-glass court at the ECHO Arena.

"A few years ago I would have approached tomorrow's match expecting to lose - but now my confidence is high.  It's all about being relaxed and happy."

The longest women's match was an all-Lancashire bout between Manchester Vicky Botwright, the No7 seed, and unseeded Laura Lengthorn-Massaro, from Preston.  It was the pair's sixth meeting this year - and eventually the fifth upset by Lengthorn-Massaro over her higher-ranked county compatriot.

"I feel I've been playing really well recently - and felt I deserved to get into the quarter-finals," said 24-year-old Laura, ranked 12 in the world, after her 9-6, 2-9, 4-9, 9-6, 9-6 victory.

British Open action now moves to the brand new ECHO Arena Liverpool where quarter-finals matches on the all-glass showcourt kick off at midday on Saturday.

RESULTS:        Dunlop British Open Squash Championships, Liverpool, England

Men's 2nd round:
[1] Amr Shabana (EGY) bt [13] John White (SCO)                       11-9, 7-11, 11-5, 11-10 (2-0) (52m)
[5] David Palmer (AUS) bt [12] Adrian Grant (ENG)                    11-6, 11-8, 9-11, 11-6 (70m)
[3] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt [14] Olli Tuominen (FIN)               11-4, 11-4, 11-5 (34m)
[7] Karim Darwish (EGY) bt [15] Laurens Jan Anjema (NED)        11-7, 11-5, 11-10 (2-0) (47m)
[8] Peter Barker (ENG) bt [9] Lee Beachill (ENG)                        11-9, 4-11, 11-10 (2-0), 9-11, 11-8 (83m)
[4] James Willstrop (ENG) bt [10] Ong Beng Hee (MAS)             11-9, 11-9, 11-7 (47m)
[6] Thierry Lincou (FRA) bt [16] Alex Gough (WAL)                    11-6, 11-3, 11-5 (37m)
[11] Mohd Azlan Iskandar (MAS) bt [2] Ramy Ashour (EGY)        11-1, 5-11, 11-8, 11-8 (41m)

Women's 1st round:
[1] Nicol David (MAS) bt [Q] Madeline Perry (IRL)                      9-0, 9-4, 9-4 (37m)
[6] Shelley Kitchen (NZL) bt Vanessa Atkinson (NED)                 8-10, 9-3, 9-4, 9-2 (57m)
[4] Natalie Grainger (USA) bt [Q] Kasey Brown (AUS)                9-5, 9-3, 9-7 (36m)
Laura Lengthorn-Massaro (ENG) bt [7] Vicky Botwright (ENG)    9-6, 2-9, 4-9, 9-6, 9-6 (80m)
[5] Jenny Duncalf (ENG) bt Alison Waters (ENG)                        4-9, 9-2, 10-8, 9-1 (59m)
[3] Rachael Grinham (AUS) bt [Q] Engy Kheirallah (EGY)            9-6, 9-1, 9-2 (38m)
[Q] Isabelle Stoehr (FRA) bt [8] Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY)       9-2, 2-9, 9-6, 9-6 (66m)
[2] Natalie Grinham (NED) bt Rebecca Chiu (HKG)                      9-4, 9-0, 6-9, 9-4 (72m)

Men's quarter-final line-up:
[1] Amr Shabana (EGY) v [5] David Palmer (AUS)
[3] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v [7] Karim Darwish (EGY)
[4] James Willstrop (ENG) v [8] Peter Barker (ENG)
[11] Mohd Azlan Iskandar (MAS) v [6] Thierry Lincou (FRA)

Women's quarter-final line-up:
[1] Nicol David (MAS) v [6] Shelley Kitchen (NZL)
[4] Natalie Grainger (USA) v Laura Lengthorn-Massaro (ENG)
[3] Rachael Grinham (AUS) v [5] Jenny Duncalf (ENG)
[2] Natalie Grinham (NED) v [Q] Isabelle Stoehr (FRA)

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