Day of the Comeback at the Luxor

4th November 2011

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.

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!