in Al Khobar: Thu 17th, Semi-Finals
Fram reports, Steve clicks away in Sunset Beach
 Nick Matthew (Eng) bt  Adrian
11/3, 3/11, 11/6, 11/7 (61m)
 Ramy Ashour (Egy) bt  David
11/8, 14/12, 11/3 (38m)
It's another Saudi Dream Final
For the fourth time in five editions the winner of the Saudi
International will become the new world number one in January,
after Nick Matthew and Ramy Ashour kept alive their bids for two
of the top prizes in squash here at Sunset Beach tonight.
First up was Matthew, who prevailed in four games against fellow
Englishman Adrian Grant. Struggling to recover from food
poisoning, Grant tested the world number four but in the end
simply didn't have the energy to finish off the games.
Then it was the turn of crowd favourite Ramy Ashour, against
Australian David Palmer who was appearing in his fourth
successive Saudi semi-final. Palmer came close to taking each of
the first two games, but to the crowd's delight Ashour prevailed
in each before taking the third with some ease.
So tomorrow's final will see a new Saudi International champion,
and a new World Number One ...
Final is at 19.15 (16.15 GMT)
thought I was playing very well, especially in view of my
circumstances. Nick knew about my food poisoning, but that’s
life, once you get on court, you are on for a battle, no matter
"I know that at some point, I was getting to him, and that the
pressure I put him under made him a bit weary, as he started to
make uncharacteristic errors.. But I was able to push for three
or four rallies, then I would flatline … Then another few
rallies… It was a bit of a seesaw ride….
"I’m really happy with my performance really, it is giving a
lift, especially as I’ve been struggling both in my personal
life and with my squash.
"I really want to thank Ziad, for all the work he’s been doing
for us, and also for that great court, it’s a joy to play on
Matthew (Eng) bt  Adrian Grant
11/3, 3/11, 11/6, 11/7 (61m)
Matthew on course
Quick summary from Steve
Nick Matthew kept his bid to become world number one on course
as he won his all-English encounter with Adrian Grant to advance
to the final.
in control in the first game, it was somewhat of a surprise when
he dropped the second game in similar fashion, as Adrian had
been ill overnight and the consensus was that he would do well
to challenge Matthew tonight.
That he did though as he levelled with some ease, but perhaps
the effort began to tell in the next two games - from 6-all in
the third Matthew scored five unanswered points, and Grant saw a
6-3 lead disappear in the fourth as he made a series of unforced
So Matthew becomes the first Englishman to reach the Saudi
final, and knows that victory in that final will elevate him to
the top spot, whoever he ends up playing ...
not finished yet, still one more match to go tomorrow.
"I knew of his condition, but actually, he played so well! I
know, I had the same feel when I played in the British, I had
back problems, and couldn’t rely on my physical strength, and my
squash got better. I think it was the same for Adrian tonight.
He had nothing to lose, and he couldn’t rely on what makes his
strength normally, so his squash was really outstanding tonight.
"It will be fantastic to play Ramy, well, if all goes according
to script, no offense or disrespect for David of course. This
will be something I’ll remind myself of later, whether win or
lose. Tonight, I had everything to lose, in a way, whereas
tomorrow, I won’t, and will enjoy every second of it…
"Now, I’m going to try and relax, but most of all, I’ll try and
sleep!!!! And for tomorrow, although I’m aware that the crowd
will be supporting Ramy, quite rightly, I know I have a whole
team of people that support me and will be watching, and I take
a lot of strength from that…"
TAKEN FOR GRANT-ED…
Like a lot of us, we didn’t predict Adrian to play so well, and
to be honest, Nick will be very happy to get away with a 3/1
victory, and he nearly lost that second, Adrian leading 4/2, and
hitting the well there, making five unforced errors in that
I could see that Nick was starting to suffer. I’m pretty sure he
didn’t expect Adrian to play such stunning attacking squash, I
was outstanding tonight, and Nick showed the great warrior he
is, because honestly, it was touch and go for a while there. I
would suggest to Adrian what I suggested to Ali, start training
on one foot from now on, you will rely a bit less on your
physical potential, and play a more fireworks style squash.
Well done to Adrian, to have still come out and fight tonight….
And congratulations to Nick, for yet again, avoid a
biiiiiiiiiiiig banana slip…
Ashour (Egy) bt  David Palmer (Aus)
11/8, 14/12, 11/3 (38m)
Ramy sets up dream final
Quick summary from Steve
Palmer can count himself desperately unlucky not to have at
least taken a game here tonight, as Ramy Ashour overcame
deficits of 7/8 in the first and 7/10 in the second to reach his
second Saudi International final, thus setting up a
winner-takes-all clash with Nick Matthew tomorrow.
Whereas Mohamed El Shorbagy virtually played into Ashour's hands
last night, trying to match him in an open game, Palmer tried to
keep it tight, and it worked, giving the Australian ample
opportunity to win either of the first games.
he didn't win either was down to some unforced errors on his
part and some brilliant attacking play from the Egyptian top
seed, and the packed crowd at Sunset Beach (where did they all
come from?) loved every bit of it as Ramy took the second on his
first game ball.
The third was over in a flash, and for the fourth time in five
editions the Saudi International winner will become world number
one at the turn of the year.
Can you wait ?
"I’m very happy with that result, I cannot complain… It’s the
biggest event, it’s the biggest prize money, it’s the biggest
"I don’t want to think about the world number 1 ranking, but I
guess I have to start thinking about it now… Tomorrow will be
the most important match of my career, and for Nick too. The
only thing I can do it do my best…
"At the start of the match, I just forgot to breathe. It happens
you know, when you get so stressed that you forget to breathe…
"I could see that David got tired at the end of the match, it’s
the end of the season. But I made an error, in particular in the
second that was an absolutely crucial game. I had in my mind the
idea that David was older, and had the experience, and that I
was young and probably fitter, and just tried and outrun him.
That was not the way to do it. I had to keep on playing my game,
my shots, and find a good balance between making him run and
going for my shots.
"At the end of that second, I told myself to keep pushing and
pushing, and to not think about anything…
"Now, I’m going to eat well, rest, and tomorrow, back to basics.
I’ll try my best not to think about the match, not to think
about the rankings, and my game plan will be, whatever pops into
my head, I’ll do it.
"And not to think, not to think, not to think…"
got better as the season went, but I still didn’t do the right
amount of work at the start, it was a busy period for us, with
the move and all. Now that the pressure has gone down again, and
that we are settled down, I play much better, and the last two
three tournaments have been good for me….
"At the end of the day, playing a semi of the biggest event of
the year cannot be bad, and I can’t be disappointed, although
this is my 4th semi in 5 events, I don’t seem to be able to
crack it to get to the final…
"Tactically, I think I played the right game plan, I spoke with
Shawn just before the match, and I played the right tactic, but
I fell short a bit physically, and in the 3rd, I had the
dangerous feeling that I had before, that I was physically so
run down that I could have injured myself if I’d pushed any
"Next year, I’ll be doing four tournaments at the start of the
season – unless new ones are appearing on the calendar – ToC in
NY, then Halifax, Richmond and Canary Wharf. That will give me
the time to rest a bit before the end of the year in Australia,
and then, back to training at the start of the year…
"But I can go home with my head high, I can still play big
matches in front of big crowds, and although the audience was
supporting Ramy, I know I have a bit of a following here, thanks
to Ziad who invited me to come here a few times with Shawn to
train people. I enjoy being here a lot, and I’m looking forward
to coming back here next year for the World Open."
I have to say that if David did what he could tonight – he’s
been a bit injured since his slipped in an earlier round, plus
the end of a long season – stuck to it, pushed Ramy as hard as
it was humanly possible, but Ramy, well, Ramy is on a little
cloud of confidence, flair and close to genius at the moment.
Another good battle for the Marine, who couldn’t transform the
five game balls he had in that crucial second, “I would have
been under much more pressure” admitted Ramy, “had David taken
The strongest weapon of Ramy today? The lob. He uses it as he
would with a winner, and it put his opponent under a pressure
I’ve rarely seen before…