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TODAY at the World Open Squash 2011                                                       facebooktwitter
Day SEVEN, Thu 3rd, Last 16, Part Two                                                                    
Fram and Steve in Rotterdam

The Great Illusionist
Escapes Again

First look at the Luxor and more

Day of the comeback at the Luxor ...

After a dramatic last day at Victoria which saw half of the World Open Squash 2011 quarter-finalists decided, it was on to Rotterdam's New Luxor Theatre today for the second part of the Last Sixteen rounds.

It turned out to be another long day, started with a 3/2 victory in the first women's match for Kasey Brown and concluded with both Gregory Gaultier and then Ramy Ashour coming from two-nil down to set up a quarter-final meeting (not to mention Amr Shabana coming from two-nil down in the afternoon).

Live scores and commentary will be back tomorrow ......

[6] Kasey Brown (Aus) bt [11] Raneem El Weleily (Egy) 4/11, 11/7, 11/3, 6/11, 11/8 (65m)
[1] Nicol David (Mas) bt [Q] Nour El Sherbini (Egy)                         11/7, 11/6, 11/7 (32m)

[4] James Willstrop (Eng) bt [Q] Marwan El Shorbagy (Egy)            11/8, 11/3, 11/0 (30m)
[5] Amr Shabana (Egy) bt [15] Hisham Ashour (Egy)     3/11, 8/11, 11/4, 11/9, 11/5 (48m)

[16] Wee Wern Low (Mas) bt [7] Camille Serme (Fra)          11/4, 12/10, 2/11, 11/7 (31m)
[12] Natalie Grinham (Ned) bt [4] Madeline Perry (Irl)                   11/6, 11/5, 11/8 (35m)

[6] Gregory Gaultier (Fra) bt [12] LJ Anjema (Ned)     8/11, 5/11, 11/5, 11/2, 11/7 (97m)
[2] Ramy Ashour (Egy) bt Alister Walker (Bot)             8/11, 3/11, 11/6, 11/9, 11/3 (69m)

Kasey wins the opener, to face Nicol ...

The first winner at the mightily impressive Luxor Theatre was Australia's Kasey Brown who won an up and down five-setter against in-form Egyptian Raneem El Weleily.

Raneem's shots were firing in well in the first but too many errors let her down as Brown came back to lead 2/1. Raneem levelled, Brown too a good lead in the fifth and almost saw it disappear as Raneem worked her way back in a tense finish.

But, after an hour's play Kasey finally put a ball too wide and deep to advance to the quarter-finals with a 4/11, 11/7, 11/3, 6/11, 11/8 scoreline.

There she'll play defending champion Nicol David in a repeat of their meeting in Philadelphia which the Australian won. David looked in good form against young Egyptian Nour El Sherbini who, although she managed to stay within reach of her illustrious opponent's score in each of the three games, never seriously threatened the five time champion who won 11/7, 11/6, 11/7.

Willstrop stops Shorbagy as Shabana wins shootout

The opening men's match saw 2002 world junior champion James Willstrop assert his authority over the current holder of that title, Marwan El Shorbagy. The young Egyptian stayed in touch for the first game but Willstrop was in total control for the next two, even an appeal to the video referee at 0/9 in the third was in vain as Willstrop closed the match out 11/8, 11/3, 11/0.

Willstrop's quarter-final opponent will be four-time champion Amr Shabana, who won an all-Egyptian shootout with Hisham Ashour (let's put it this way, it's not often the cameramen are better off in the middle of the front wall, but for this match it was easily the best spot), coming from two games down to win  3/11, 8/11, 11/4, 11/9, 11/5 in double quick time.
Low downs Serme, Natalie delights Dutch ...

The first upset came as Malaysia's Low Wee Wern put in an inspired performance against France's Camille Serme, the seventh seed who made the semi-finals last year. Low was always ahead in the first, and crucially saved game ball before taking a close second. Serme hit back to take the third easily but the Malaysian always had the edge in the fourth, with Serme throwing in a few errors at crucial times. Low thus makes the quarter-finals for the second year in a row, 11/4, 12/10, 2/11, 11/7.

That quarter-final will be between the 16th and the 12th seeds after Natalie Grinham delighted the ever-growing Luxor audience with a straight-game win over Irish fourth seed Madeline Perry. Irresistible in the first two games with her flicks, holds, drops and relentless running, the four-time runner-up was in charge, although Perry's frustration wasn't helped by a number of unforced errors on her part.

Perry steadied in the third, established a decent lead, but couldn't stop Grinham's comeback as she picked up where she left off in the first two, eventually winning on a stroke at the end of a scrambling rally.

Greg spoils Dutch party, Ramy does it again

By the time Laurens Jan Anjema went two games up on two-time world finalist Gregory Gaultier, the crowd had worked itself up into an even greater frenzy. Determined and solid play from LJ earned him the first, and a succession of Gaultier errors at the end of the second saw that advantage doubled.

But the Dutchman had had to work very hard thus far, and it was Gaultier who assumed control of the next two games to level. A good lead in the decider held the Frenchman in good stead as Anjema mounted a comeback, urged on by the crowd, but it was too late, and Gaultier prevailed 8/11, 5/11, 11/5, 11/2, 11/7.

As unlikely as it sounds, not only did Gregory Gaultier come from two-nil down to win, so too, in the last match of the day, did second seed Ramy Ashour. For the Egyptian of course it was the second time in a row he had escaped, having done the same to Nicolas Mueller as he did to Alister Walker tonight.

The Botswanan looked in charge for two games against a subdued Egyptian, but Ramy was increasing the tempo, making the rallies faster and more frantic, and although Walker was still holding his own, the third and fourth went to Ashour as the exchanges became more and more frenetic with both at times hurling themselves around court.

At the end of one particularly manic exchange Walker tinned, and Ramy continued running halfway up the front wall in celebration.

The fifth was calmer, Ramy took an early lead and soon enough the danger was averted as he won 8/11, 3/11, 11/6, 11/9, 11/3. Whether he can keep doing this remains to be seen, but it certainly brings a bit of excitement to proceedings ...

And the bonus is that it was even just before midnight!

[6] Kasey Brown (Aus) bt [11] Raneem El Weleily (Egy)  4/11, 11/7, 11/3, 6/11, 11/8


Raneem, former World Junior Champion, is as most Egyptian, extremely gifted with her racquet, and can find some pretty good length too. Kasey, well, is the fitness incarnated, and can run for Australia and NZ put together, and has added recently a nice short game that made her able to upset Nicol in the US Open recently.

But it’s the Egyptian that was the most accurate and patient of the two and it’s Raneem that dominates and control that opening game.

Only to lose both length and width along with her patience for the next two games. Mental? Physical? I would put my money on mental, but maybe a little mixture of the two…

Along crept unforced errors, ball that end up in the middle. Plus a few no lets that well, maybe a bit harsh, I guess the line of the refs was, not showing enough effort, which the Egyptian corrected later on by making much stronger statements while trying to go pass her opponent.

In the 4th, Kasey’s wheel’s came off completely, and she made 7 unforced errors, the only game where she made any bless her!

And if the Australian dominated the beginning of the 5th, 9/2, Raneem regrouped, dug in, lengthen the rallies and had Kasey really tired it seemed, clawing her way all the way to 8/9, only to see her efforts destroyed in a few quick shots. Raneem will be extremely disappointed with the end result, and she should. I thought she had Kasey there at the end…

If you give her any angles, she’ll chop you out, which she did in the first game! I was a bit nervous, being the World Open and all, and didn’t want to play badly in that fantastic venue.

In the second, I relaxed a bit, and then really played well in the 3rd, but in the 4th, got a bit tentative. In the 5th, she kept creeping in, and creeping in. I just kept thinking that I had to win that let, not wait for her to lose it. But then, the nerves are there, especially at 8/9… But I got through….

I had a good run at the US Open, I’m also enjoying my time in NY where I work very hard with Rodney Martin. And no, I haven’t done anything particular to lose the weight, just hard work and good diet.

I had a look around, the court, the venue is absolutely amazing, all credit to Tommy Berden and his organisation! Well done, guys, you’ve done a fantastic job.

[1] Nicol David (Mas) bt [Q] Nour El Sherbini (Egy)          11/7, 11/6, 11/7

Plenty of Skill on show
Malcolm reports

Rising young stars in both the men’s and women’s game are making a major impact at the moment, which is good for the sport and another, Nour El Sherbini ,World Junior Champion in 2009,was set to test herself against the undisputed best woman player in the world, Nicol David.

El Sherbini’s right leg was strapped below the knee, ominous against someone who moves as well as David does. Unfazed, playing very skilfully, she led 4-3 and 6-5 before David led 9-7,then served for the game winning it on a stroke.

Oddly enough it was El Sherbini who had played most of the squash, but it was inevitable that David’s athleticism would count for more and so it did. The young Egyptian continued to use the racket dextrously, but David’s court coverage builds pressure and soon it was 6-1,David looking increasingly confident, not that she had ever looked uncomfortable.

El Sherbini, however, recovered to 5-8,using her considerable racket skills, then to 6-9 before a fine rally took David to 10-6.One game ball was enough, The pattern hardly changed as El Sherbini continued to play skilfully, as David resisted with her movement.

A lovely forehand volley took El Sherbini to 6-7,then 7 all. A similar backhand drop from deep saw David to 8-7,then 9-7,an error to 10-7;a harsh no let and 11-7 it was.

I think she is feeling something with her leg, and I noted she couldn’t move to the front quite well. But still, if she can get the ball on her racquet, she just kills you!

So I had to make sure that I was putting her under enough pressure to prevent her from having any time to prepare her shots.

It’s always like that with the juniors, no fear, they are loving it all, nothing to lose, and I’m really happy to get through in 3!!!

I actually fell an injured my knee while I was warming up for the match! It wa sore but it didn't really affect me, I played as well as I could ..."

[16] Wee Wern Low (Mas) bt [7] Camille Serme (Fra)        11/4, 12/10, 2/11, 11/7


If you thought that maybe Laura Massaro had an off day in Qatar, well after seeing that performance of Low Wee Wern today against Camille, you had to change your mind.

Ok, Cam is maybe a bit under the weather, not at her top physically, lost a bit of confidence as well, but gosh, she did try everything she could to shake 21 year old WW out of her skirt and just couldn’t.

The Malaysian just counter dropped beautifully, lobbed and retrieved whatever Camille was throwing at her. And a French lady a bit lost at times tried her best, still found a few great shots, but didn’t find the correct answers today.

Camille is the higher ranked played, so I went on there, no pressure, whereas she had quite a lot on her shoulders, and that can take a lot of energy.

At the start of the year, I had a lot of pressure myself, as last year, I was top 30, and free, I played and beat a few good players, so my ranking shoot at 13, so this year was a different story. I had 2 bad losses in a few days, Emma and Dipika, so I thought, come on, I had 7 8 months of bad time, so I decided to take everything from scratch, went back to my coach in Malaysia, and worked from the basics, solos, etc. Then I had a good tournament in China – that I won – and enjoyed a good Qatar where I beat Laura and I’m enjoying my squash again.

After Qatar I rather not to go home to avoid the change of temperature between home and here, so I went to England, similar weather to here to get acclimatised, and I went and worked a bit with David Pearson.

Low Wee Wern 

[12] Natalie Grinham (Ned) bt [4] Madeline Perry (Irl)                  11/6, 11/5, 11/8 (35m)

Grinham looking good

Yet another match to savour: two highly successful players, representing the more experienced players on the tour, Madeline Perry, enjoying much recent success, Natalie Grinham, on home territory making her way back after the birth of her son Kieran.

Grinham has always been noted for her pace and that looked as good as ever as she led 7/3, much to the delight of the crowd. A stroke took Grinham to 8/5, a short backhand angle to 9/5, and at 10/6 she served for the first game, taking it at the first attempt.

A delightful crosscourt drop on the forehand deep in the court gave Grinham the first point of the second game, and she soon led 3/0, looking as good as she ever was. Mixing up her game skillfully, Grinham went 8/1 up, Perry looking a bit bewildered by it all. A heavy rally went Perry's way for 4/8, but Grinham went to 10/5 with an impressive forehand volley and then took the game 11/5.

Not easy to see a way back for Perry now, with Grinham flying. She doesn't give way easily though, and led 5/1 and 6/2 as Grinham ballooned a lob out. Grinham began a fightback which took her to 8-all, urged on by a vociferous and large crowd after an exceptional piece of retrieving.

Gathering impetus, looking determined, Grinham went to 9/8, 10/8 match ball, a stroke was enough and the home player was through to the quarter-finals after a mightily impressive performance. Playing as she did tonight she is a threat to anyone.

I think that Madeline didn’t play at her best, maybe she was a bit nervous, she was not moving as well as she can. But no complains from me. Plus, I think the court was suiting me better, I could use my movement on there quite well.

Now I’m the underdog, I’m more relaxed on court, for a few years, I was number 2, so I would go on court with all the pressure whereas now, I can get on there, nothing to lose, it’s a bit more relaxing.

Well, after having my baby, I take my energy from all the people that think I can’t come back at the top….

I love the setting, there is a great atmosphere behind in the crowd, but no distraction of the side… I hope all the people come back tomorrow!!!!

[4] James Willstrop (Eng) bt [Q] Marwan El Shorbagy (Egy)     11/8, 11/3, 11/0

Marwan for the future
Malcolm reports

Marwan El Shorbagy, world junior champion, is another of squash’s rising stars and his win over Daryl Selby announced him as a threat to his seniors.

He began well enough, led 5-2 in the first, but it was not long before Willstrop caught up with him at 5 all and then with a series of winning drop shots drew clear to win the game 11-8.

From then on El Shorbagy struggled to stay in touch with Willstrop, whose drop shots were high quality throughout. Willstrop led 9-1 in the second, won the game 11-3 and won the third without the Egyptian scoring. Willstrop has been in good form of late, was impressive here and will clearly take some beating.

El Shorbagy did enough in the early stages to confirm his promise for the future.

James is such a great player, I still enjoyed playing him today. This match shows that I’m not there yet with the top ten, even if I can challenge the 10 to 20.

I played well in the first game, I even had a lead, the only one of the match, but from the middle of the second, I just couldn’t push anymore, I had four matches already, four very hard matches, including one against top player Daryl that was nearly 100m.

I’m very satisfied with my first ever World Open, reaching the top 16, and I’ll come out of it with huge confidence. Now, I’m going to go back to Bristol and work even harder than before, and hopefully, I’ll be there soon with the top players.

Marwan El Shorbagy

I’ll gladly take a 3/0, the start of the season has been very busy already, and Qatar was only days away, so I’m grateful to stay as little as possible on the court – I was already lucky with my previous match, Shahier had to retire and couldn’t finish the match.

I definitely prefer the glass court, because I don’t like working too hard! The glasscourt seems to favour the shot makers, whereas you can see the times of the matches on the traditional court, 90m, 100m.

On here, the ball diesd better at the front and at the back, and you will see the matches being much shorter.

I’m happy to have close people around, it gives me a chance to switch off when I hear my manager Mick arguing with my dad Malcolm…

Tomorrow, I’ll have to play a gifted Egyptian, whether Shabana I played him a lot, or Hisham, a bit less, and will have to be ready to run for some shots at the front…

[5] Amr Shabana (Egy) bt [15] Hisham Ashour (Egy)      3/11, 8/11, 11/4, 11/9, 11/5


Blimey. First game 4m. 36m for 4 games. When you think that the second game between Peter Barker and Cameron Pilley lasted 51m, you are left wondering… Needless to say the ball touched the backwall probably less than 10 times during the whole match. Fast? You can say that again. Furious? Pace from hell? Yes and yes.

Now, I’m not sure that trying to match Hisham speedwise and shot wise was such a great game plan, and to be honest, initially I thought that the Prince of Egypt was trying to push his compatriot fitness wise, trying to get him tired quickly. But in the second game, I realise that nope, that wasn’t the plan, that there wasn’t any plan in fact, apart from the one “let’s try and stay alive one more rally”!!!!

Hisham played his game to perfection, a game based on skills and instinct, no building rallies, no tactic, just pure instinct. And it took all the experience of the Old Wolf to overcome that fireworks of nicks, helped with a few unforced errors that had to creep in at the end (I counted 6 in the 5th game).

I should know better than try and match up Ramy’s brother at the front. Hisham’s probably the one player that’s has really mastered the art of squash and to be honest, I just didn’t know what to do with his shots in the first two games, didn’t manage to see much of them. Then I got a bit used to the pace…

What did I tell myself at 2/0 down? Is there a flight tonight or not????

James, amazing player, he had some pretty awesome battles. We’ll both have to raise our games tomorrow, and spectators are on for a treat.

[6] Gregory Gaultier (Fra) bt [12] Laurens Jan Anjema (Ned) 8/11, 5/11, 11/5, 11/2, 11/7

Gaultier comeback denies Dutch
Malcolm reports

Dutch number one Laurens Jan Anjema came on court to a rousing reception from an almost full house, which means a crowd of over a thousand. His task against Gregory Gaultier, recent winner of the Qatar Classic, was considerable but no way would he be lacking support.

Early exchanges were long and cagey, neither player chancing his arm, Gaultier tactically maybe, Anjema, having few chances. Gaultier led 4/2, but the crowd were not giving the Frenchman any peace and Anjema levelled at 4-all. He led 6/4 on two Gaultier errors, and another surprising error from Gaultier saw Anjema 7/5 ahead then 8/6 on another. It was tense stuff, Gaultier not looking entirely at ease with the crowd.

A brilliant backhand volley crosscourt into the nick saw Anjema 9/7 ahead. An error by Gaultier game Anjema game ball at 10/8, and an exquisite forehand half-volley drop gave the Dutchman a deserved one-nil lead.

The match was beginning to open up, Gaultier attacking more. A bad error gave Anjema a 3/2 lead. The Frenchman was also battling not to say much for fear of antagonising the crowd. Keeping calmer certainly helped him and he led 5/3 when Anjema was awarded a disputed stroke. An error and Anjema was level at 5-all, a heavy rally produced another Gaultier error, much to the delight of the one-eyed crowd and Anjema led 6/5. Two more Gaultier errors and it was 8/5, yet another for 9/5.

A winner by Anjema made it 10/5, another tin from the dispirited Gaultier and Anjema was two-nil up and it was do or die for Gaultier now.

A stroke took him to 3/1, a forehand kill into the nick to 4/2, and another stroke to 5/2. The Frenchman was attacking freely now and reached 8/3 and 9/4, then 10/5 and at 11/5 he was back in the match.

Gaultier had responded, now it was Anjema's turn. His first response was a straight backhand into the nick for 1-0. Soon an argument with the referee, which did him no good and was an unnecessary distraction. Gaultier, attacking readily, went to 7/1 after a hard rally, and was now seeming to be in control. He closed the game out 11/2 and if impetus means anything he now seemed the probable winner.

An error from Gaultier, the first for a long time, 1-0 Anjema in the decider. Gaultier continued in attacking vein, leading 6/1 as Anjema was losing his way. Gaultier led 7/3 on an Anjema mistake, but a stroke made it 4/7 and a Gaultier tin 5/7.

A forehand volley into the nick from Gaultier made it 8/5, then 9/5, a slip by Gaultier 6/9, stroke 7/9. A no let took Gaultier to match ball, which he took at the first opportunity.

Some atmosphere, some match.

I was a bit too passive at the start, I was not seeing the ball that well, and I was just playing mindless length, length, and he took the ascendant, he shined… So at 2/0, Mathieu told me, two choice, or you don’t do anything and you go home, or you hurt, dig in, and no matter the result, you try and leave everything you can on there. And that’s what I did. I dug in, went through the pain barrier, I was more aggressive, and it help me to relax and let go… The momentum changed…

There were a lot of conditions to handle, the crowd, etc, he played and took his chances, that’s the best he played against me I feel.

I’m sorry for the crowd, I wish I could have play somebody who would not have put my body through so much damage! I don’t mind that the crowd cheer for the other one, we are used to it, but what’s important is that the crowd comes, and cheers for squash! And I hope they’ll come back tomorrow and cheer for me!!!!

What’s important is the win, now, a good recovery time, resting, and tomorrow, I’ll be ready…

We’ve been working on a few things with LJ on the tactical side of things, including a whole array of shots and tonight, it worked for him. That change puzzled Greg, and it shows that LJ can respect other players but he has to understand that he can beat these guys, that he can show his emotions on there, and tonight, he could have well won, it was very close, and he did his best….

Greg played really well, he kept his head when he was 2/0 down, and this was one of the best matches from an emotional point of view I ever saw – mind you, I’m bound to say that, I’m coaching LJ!

I’m so proud of him, for me he is the winner, although he lost I know, it’s sounds strange, but that’s the way I feel.


SUPERB LJ .... the French view from Framboise

I’ve known LJ for a few years now and always had the greatest respect for his determination, will to learn and work, and his enormous physical potential. For years now, he’s been trying to add the short game to his solid long one.

And tonight, it just all came together.

The Dutch was superb tonight, and I’m pretty sure Greg didn’t expect to have to retrieve as many winners at the front as that, and that could explain the slow start – to say the least – from the Frenchman.

Hat to you LJ.

Now, from the French point of view, I was very proud of my compatriot tonight, first for coming back from 2/0 against Top LJ, in front of a vociferous crowd booing him at times – hard to not let it get to you – but most of all, for not to let himself get into discussions with the refs in the 5th.

Whether he was right or not – one of his shots was called not up and it was confirmed later on with the replay that it was good for example – Greg just got on with it. And he had to, because LJ needed just that little opening in the door, and he would have rushed through it.

And for the record, I thought that LJ had that one…

[2] Ramy Ashour (Egy) bt Alister Walker (Bot)             8/11, 3/11, 11/6, 11/9, 11/3 (69m)


Would you believe me if I told you – sorry Ali – that I knew that Ramy was not going down tonight, even after he was 2/0 down? I just saw the way Ramy was moving, the way he was talking to himself, the way he was refusing certain movements at times, to do them the next rally, and not again.

The problem was, as ever, in Ramy’s head bless him. All about finding his confidence, in his body, in his movement, and when that was in place, I felt that the real Ramy would reappear and put Alister through Hell.

And he did exactly that.

Alister has as the same time an enormous respect for Ramy, but also knew if there was one underdog that could scalp the Egyptian, he was the one.

He already put him under a lot of pressure in Liverpool a few years back, then in HK a few months later [and he beat him in the Cayman Caribbean Challenge final in May]. Their matches are always the same, close, fiery, ridiculous squash, and tonight was no different!

Ridiculous rallies, to the dozens, we thought that Shabana/Hisham was fast and furious, it was slow compared to this one I promise you, with a game of three halves if you pardon me the expression, Ali stepping in front and shooting at will, then Ramy taking more and more confidence, putting Ali under that mammoth pressure that grinding his strength and confidence back, to finish with the 5th game, where Ali was running on fumes and although he gave it a big push, the writing was on the wall.

Don’t hesitate to watch the replay of this match. It was an epic show, in Ramy’s words. Ali will be crushed, but he cannot have any regret. He had a chance, grabbed it, but it was just one game too far for him today.

That was the toughest I played for three or four years…. Alister is so fit, playing well at the moment, and you’ve got to be on your toes – literally I was, you’ve seen me! This was an epic match, he came out from the starting block firing..

In the beginning, I had two thoughts. One, I knew that Ali was playing so well, and that I had to stop him and push, but the other thought was the painful recent memory of the injury, and I just was wary of getting injured again.

Ali’s pace was so high, I just couldn’t not push, so after the first two games where he played so well, I started to come back, and kept pushing and pushing, hoping that nothing bad would happen. And thank God nothing did….

As Winston Churchill once said “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”.

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