The men’s Final, of the Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Squash Championship on Sunday Dec 2, between James Willstrop of England and Ramy Ashour of Egypt was always going to be a tight match.
Willstrop, the current World’s No. 1, was aiming to retain his 2011 HK Open title; while Ashour, the World’s No. 4, was looking to regain the HK title he first won in 2010.
Rain had threatened to interfere with proceedings—when earlier in the night the women’s Final had been delayed by 15 minutes due to a drizzle—but, the clouds held and the Final progressed with a short delay due to the women’s late start on the portable glass squash courts, on Victoria Harbour at the HK Cultural Centre Piazza.
Ashour edged the first game 11-8.
Willstrop with great determination took a big lead in the second game and continued to take the game 11-3.
Although all of the rallies in the subsequent games were well-constructed by each player, Ashour produced a number of important nick shots—with his signature front-wall side-wall nick (corner of the floor and wall) smashes, he also had some favourable side-wall and back-wall bounces that were pure winners.
In big matches like this, such timely winning shots are often the crucial difference between success and failure and, on this occasion, it was Ashour’s night. And he had his second Hong Kong Open Title success.
Ashour, a worthy winner on the night, took the match 11-8, 3-11, 11-7 11-6 in 64 minutes.
“It’s my second HK Open title, I’m very proud of this achievement. And I’ll add it to my special list,” Ashour said post-match.
The annual Hong Kong Squash Open has been held since 1985 – except when Hong Kong hosted the 2005 World Open Squash Championships – and is one of the few tournaments that brings the world’s best men and women together in two top-tier tournaments.
As an equivalent of one of tennis’s Grand Slam events, winning the prestigious tournament is one of the aspirations on many professional players’ lists.
Peter Nicol from Scotland won the Open on four occasions in the Men’s category; as has Amr Shabana from Egypt, who has won four consecutive titles at this event.
Meanwhile, Nicol David of Malaysia has a more impressive record having won the last seventh consecutive titles (2006-12) in the Women’s category. She also won the 2005 Women’s World Open Squash Championships held in Hong Kong.
This year, David successfully defended her 2011 title by defeating Camille Serme of France in the Final. However, James Willstrop from England failed to defend his 2011 title falling short at the last hurdle in the Final against 2010 title winner Ramy Ashour of Egypt.
Also this year, the Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Squash Open 2012 had the honour of having the International Olympic Committee present to complete an “inspection” to determine if squash will be on the programme for the 2020 Summer Olympics.
“It has been a great week with a lot of tough matches, starting from the first match really. There was no such thing as an easy match in any tournament any more during the whole year – at least for me.
“So again, the most-hard aspect about this tournament was the mental battle about whether to give 100 per cent or not, as the World Open is coming up … And no one wanted to injure themselves before that major event—plus we all wanted to save some energy for it.”
Ashour acknowledged Willstrop’s sportspersonship.
“All I can say about the match today is that I am happy with my performance and I think that James played a good, fair, clean match as always.
“We did put on a good show, which was expected from the World No. 1,” said Ashour.
The 25-year-old Egyptian, who reached the World No. 1 ranking in January 2010, aspires to take back the mantle from Willstrop, but knows it won’t be easy.
“James has been very consistent all year; he deserves that number one spot and he is a great ambassador for our sport. He is never easy to beat, but I think that today, things went my way, and that made the difference.
The men now move to Doha, Qatar for premier tournament on the men’s professional circuit, the Qatar PSA World Open Championship 2012 starting on Dec 7, where England’s Nick Matthew will be defending his 2011 title as No. 2 seed behind top seed Willstrop.
The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 19 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.