February 25, 2012 - England's James Willstrop
produced a tactical master-class to subdue Egypt's
fiery entertainer Ramy Ashour to win the Davenport
North American Open squash title at the Westwood
Club in Richmond, Virginia.
The top seed admitted that his priority was to
contain Ashour's shot-making opportunities in the
second PSA World Series event of the year - but his
own play at the front of the court was immaculate.
Willstrop's volley-drops, especially, worked to
perfection on both sides of the court. At 6ft 4in,
the Yorkshireman is the tallest player competing on
the PSA World Tour and Ashour, like so many
opponents, struggled to place the ball beyond
Ashour had stunned England's world champion Nick
Matthew the previous evening with a dazzling display
containing a succession of outrageous winners, but
he had no answer to Willstrop's consistent, measured
Making his Tour comeback after sustaining a
hamstring injury in the World Open in November,
Ashour was celebrating his fourth consecutive
appearance in the NAO final - and beat Willstrop in
last year's semi-finals.
Willstrop had taken 97 minutes to beat Frenchman
Gregory Gaultier the previous evening, but said he
felt no ill-effects. "That gave me confidence coming
into the match. I knew what to expect with a player
of Ramy's abilities and I had to find a way to stop
him hitting winners.
"He has come back after injury to play here in
Richmond and it's good for the game to have him
back. I am pleased with my whole week, not just
today, and it's great to win the title again here in
Willstrop's performances this week have propelled
him back to the world number one position in March.
He added: "That was a wonderful feeling over
Christmas knowing that I was going to be number one
for the first time and I was very disappointed to
lose it the next month.
"It made me determined to win it back, and I was
pleased to play well enough to get back to number
one in March.
"However, you don't need extra motivation to play in
events like this," added the 28-year-old from Leeds.
"This is a superb tournament, brilliantly organised
by Gus Cook and his team, and when you are looked
after so well it helps you to play your best
Willstrop began solidly and moved smoothly into a
5-0 lead, a pointer for the dominance that was to
follow. Ashour fought back to 5-8 but Willstrop was
too far ahead and closed out the game 11-7.
The second was much tighter but from 5-5 Willstrop
tightened up to win it 11-8.
Ashour led 7-6 in the third and the Richmond crowd
were roaring encouragement every time he won a
point, especially when he flicked the ball into the
nick while off balance, but Willstrop again turned
the screw. His immaculate precision produced a
crucial run of points as he edged towards the title.
Ashour hit a volley into the tin to put Willstrop
level at 7-7, and a loose shot from the Egyptian
gave Willstrop a simple straight drive winner to the
back of the court.
Ashour was then unable to scrape a Willstrop shot
off the side wall and the tall Yorkshireman moved to
match ball with a forehand drop. He clinched the
match when Ashour conceded a penalty stroke in the
front left corner.
"I don't think many people expected that," tweeted
world champion Matthew. "James played a tactical
master-class and deserved the win."
Willstrop was celebrating his sixth PSA Tour final
in his last eight events - and has now racked up his
fourth Tour title since November, and the 16th of