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Ramy Ashour beats James Willstrop to win El Gouna Squash Open

Egypt’s Ramy Ashour prevailed over England’s James Willstrop in 2 1/2 games to win the 2012 El Gouna International, a top PSA World Tour event. This was the first PSA tournament to be held in Egypt since the 2011 Egyptian revolution. Ramy avenged his recent loss against Willstrop in the 2012 North American Open.

Ramy won a tense first game 12-10, then ran away with the second 11-5. James Willstrop conceded the match down 2-5 in the third due to slippery court conditions. Read the full finals report at elgounasquashopen.com. Watch the video highlights from PSA Squash TV here:

Willstrop had beaten Karim Darwish in the semi-final 3-0, again amidst slippery conditions. The match was suspended in the second game, with Willstrop up a game, and moved to a nearby hotel. Willstrop mopped up the match 3-0 to take out the defending champion Darwish. Meanwhile, Ashour beat Nick Matthew 3-1 in the other semi-final.

It’s a shame Willstrop didn’t finish the final. One of squash’s most striking features as a sport is that it can be played outside. There are bound to be tough conditions sometimes.

I do feel bad for all the players in this tournament having to deal with slippery courts. When I was midway through my Princeton years, they blew up the old hardball courts at Jadwin Gymnasium and put in brand new softball courts. The courts were gorgeous, but there was dust everywhere. No matter how much you cleaned the courts before the match, they would become slippery during play, because your feet pounding on the floorboards would just cough up more dust. This lasted all year. We had to keep wet towels by the door and wipe our soles off frequently, just like all the players were doing at El Gouna. Eventually we just got used to it, and it even became an unfair home-court advantage to some extent. These conditions were mentally difficult to play in. You never knew when you were going to lose your footing. Whereas in a normal match you didn’t have to spend any mental energy thinking about your footing, when playing on our courts you had to devote a good third of your concentration to making sure you didn’t fall on your ass or get injured.

So rather that being hard on Willstrop, I’ll just say congrats to Ramy for staying mentally tough.

Update: Willstrop writes about the conditions at yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk.

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