SquashTalk > North American Open 2011, Richmond VA> First round, bottom half of draw
Ashour and Willstrop advance
Feb 22, 2011, by Howard Harding © 2011 SquashTalk.com , Independent News; SquashTalk LLC
(updated 22-feb-11 22:01
Assured Richards Lines Up Ashours In Richmond
Rising England star Tom Richards played some of the best squash of his career to beat Egyptian firebrand Hisham Mohd Ashour in the first round of the North American Open at the Westwood Club in Richmond, Virginia.
The 24-year-old from Surrey now aims to produce a similar performance against Hisham's younger brother Ramy Ashour, the former world champion who is the No2 seed in this star-studded $115,000 event, the second PSA World Series championship of the year.
On the day he was selected to make his England debut in next month's WSF World Cup in India, Richards triumphed 9-11, 15-13, 11-8, 11-7 in 56 minutes of non-stop attacking squash and both players deserved the ovation from an enthusiastic audience.
It was a similar story in the following match as Ramy overcame Swiss underdog Nicolas Mueller, the world No36 from Zurich, in four games of extravagant shot-making and breathtaking retrieving.
A shock looked on the cards as Mueller took advantage of a string of errors from his opponent to win the opening game 14-12 on a tie-break, but Ashour responded in dazzling style, winning the next two games 11-5 with an array of winners from all over the court.
The 23-year-old from Cairo then had to hold his nerve as Mueller fought back in the fourth and forced the game to another tie-break. This time Ramy edged home 12-10.
Richards is looking forward to meeting the Egyptian maestro and said: "Confidence is 80 per cent of what this game is all about. I feel that I am now producing the type of squash that will help me do well against the top players.
"I knew what to expect from Hisham and definitely came with a solid game plan in mind and I am pleased that it worked," continued the world No31. "It was a great game to play in and I was pleased to hang in at times when Hisham was going for everything. We all know he can hit nicks from anywhere in the court."
Ramy was full of admiration for his Swiss opponent and said: "Nic is improving all the time and one day I am sure I will be playing him in finals of events like this instead of the first round.
"I often take a while to get my concentration going in the first round but I was very pleased to get through a very difficult match. I love coming here to Richmond. It's a fantastic tournament and I have been in the last two finals, so I hope I can reach another one."
Former world No1 Gregory Gaultier made an impressive return to the PSA Tour after an injury suffered in last year's World Open kept him off court for eight weeks.
The Frenchman overcame battling Australian Aaron Frankcomb in straight games and said: "I am so pleased to be back playing. After my injury in the World Open I was out for two months and I got fed up with sitting on the sofa putting on weight. I was playing very well at the time I got injured and there was some great competition between the top five or six players."
Gaultier was striking the ball with pace and precision and his immaculate line and length gave Frankcomb few openings.
Leading English players James Willstrop and Peter Barker joined compatriots Jonathan Kemp, Alister Walker and world champion Nick Matthew in the second round after victories.
Willstrop overcame Frenchman Yann Perrin in a scrappy affair while Barker simply overpowered Egyptian Omar Abdel Aziz.
Both face qualifiers in the second round: Willstrop meets Martin Knight from New Zealand while Barker tackles Malaysia's Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan, who overcame the volatile Italian Stephane Galifi in a physical battle.
Galifi received several conduct warnings and was reported after the match by referee Wendy Danzey for unsporting behaviour.
RESULTS: PSA World Series North American Open, Richmond, Virginia, USA
1st round (lower half of draw):
 James Willstrop (ENG) bt [Q] Yann Perrin (FRA) 12-10, 11-6, 11-8 (37m)
[Q] Martin Knight (NZL) bt [Q] Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) 11-7, 2-11, 11-7, 11-7 (55m)
[Q] Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS) bt [Q] Stephane Galifi (ITA) 6-11, 11-8, 11-5, 6-11, 13-11 (93m)
 Peter Barker (ENG) bt Omar Abdel Aziz (EGY) 11-2, 11-6, 11-4 (29m)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt [Q] Aaron Frankcomb (AUS) 11-4, 11-6, 11-4 (41m)
Olli Tuominen (FIN) bt Mohammed Abbas (EGY) 11-8, 10-12, 11-2, 11-9 (43m)
Tom Richards (ENG) bt Hisham Mohd Ashour (EGY) 9-11, 15-13, 11-8, 11-7 (56m)
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt Nicolas Mueller (SUI) 12-14, 11-5, 11-5, 12-10 (43m)
2nd round line-up:
 Nick Matthew (ENG) v Shahier Razik (CAN)
David Palmer (AUS) v Alister Walker (ENG)
Mohd Azlan Iskandar (MAS) v Simon Rosner (GER)
 Amr Shabana (EGY) v Jonathan Kemp (ENG)
 James Willstrop (ENG) v [Q] Martin Knight (NZL)
 Peter Barker (ENG) v [Q] Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v Olli Tuominen (FIN)
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) v Tom Richards (ENG)
Official site: www.naosquash.com