It was an unlucky Friday 13th for world number one James Willstrop as he pulled out of the final of the El Gouna International Open when trailing Ramy Ashour by two games and 5/2 in the third.
It was the second time in two editions of the event that the final failed to reach a natural conclusion, but whereas in 2010 Ashour had been the one forced to pull out with injury, this time he was the recipient as he succeesed Karim Darwish as the champion to keep the title in Egyptian hands.
In the first game, which was punctuated by stoppages as the court was cleaned and the players occasionally stepped out of the side doors to clean their shoes – although there were no obvious slips by either player – Willstrop had for the most part contained the attacking opportunities of his opponent, muh as he had done in their previous meeting in February’s North American Open final.
The Englishman’s slender lead was whittled away and Ashour took the game 12/10 with a joyous pump of the fist.
Willstrop approached his opponent at the front of the court, explaining that he was struggling with the conditions and didn’t feel able to continue, and offered his hand to the new champion.
“Horribly disappointed. At times like this, losing is not the problem. I can’t explain. Losing having given your 200% is just 20 times better than the frustration I’m feeling right now. It feels like the chance to compete in a major final has been taken away from me,” explained Willstrop.
“I just never felt steady on there from the 3rd rally in the first game. So I found myself thinking about the floor, and not about my squash, so I’m thinking, what am I doing!!!
“Ramy didn’t seem to be as much bothered, but then again, he obviously handled the floor better than I did tonight. Very unsatisfactory to say the least. Terribly disappointing. Hugely frustrating.”
“With all what happened this week, on, off the court, slippery, the wind, etc, a bit of a chaotic week, a very tough week, I’m happy I was mentally able to handle it, and I’m really happy to win this great tournament, and that squash is back in Egypt.”
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