Ashour seeks record money
at his second home ...
by Richard Eaton
World number one Ramy Ashour will have the richest pay
day any squash player has ever had if he regains the World Open
title this week and next.
The brilliant Egyptian will earn $45,600 - part of a
record-breaking $327,500 prize fund in a tournament staged by
the largest Arab country in the Middle East partly to help
enhance its global image.
With the World Open hosted by a Gulf state for a third time, and
Egypt capable of winning it a fourth successive time, the centre
of influence in squash appears to be shifting still further
towards the Middle East.
Among Ashour's closest rivals are two compatriots - Karim
Darwish, a former world number one, and Amr Shabana,
the defending World Open champion, who overcame Ashour in last
year's final in Kuwait.
But the ambushing attacker from Cairo is so talented that he was
once described by one of former coaches, Anthony Hill, as
“capable of being number one for the next seven years if he
wants to be.”
Certainly Ashour seems capable of winning his second World Open
title, especially as he says playing at Al Khobar is like
experiencing “a second home.”
The 23-year-old from Cairo may feel that way because the
Chairman of the Professional Squash Association, Ziad Al
Turki, is the Saudi businessman who set up his sponsorship
with ATCO, and who has now acquired the World Open for his
Al Turki also founded the Saudi International Championships at
the same Al Khobar venue where 12 months ago Ashour became
year-end world number one before an enthusiastically supportive
The man he beat in the final was Nick Matthew, the
Englishman who has been made the World Open's top seed because
he was ranked number one when qualifying matches happened back
Matthew relinquished his chance of regaining the top spot from
Ashour by focussing on the Commonwealth Games in Delhi where he
became the only squash player to win two gold medals. However
the ambience of the Gulf venue probably means that Ashour is
unofficial World Open favourite.
Another Englishman, James Willstrop, still has time to
show that he can win the World Open. But it is probably a last
chance for two 34-year-old squash greats – David Palmer,
the most successful Australian player since the legendary Geoff
Hunt nearly three decades ago, and Thierry Lincou, the
only Frenchman to have won the World Open.
Lincou's achievement could yet be matched by Gregory Gaultier,
the 27-year-old former world number one from Aix-en-Provence who
has four times gone the full distance with Ashour this year and
may be returning to near his best after gradually recovering
from injury problems.
Extra Transport for 2010 World Champion
Saudi PSA World Open kicked off with the opening dinner at
Sunset Beach, where Ziad Al-Turki announced an extra prize for
the new World Champion ... a new car courtesy of Volkswagen
Transport at the dinner itself was limited to a Camel, which the
Egyptian contingent, amongst others, thoroughly enjoyed.
Lots more photos in the gallery ...
GALLERY: progress in Sunset Beach & The