UPDATE:
Mon 14th, First Day at the O2

Mon 14th, First Day at the O2

The Allam British Open hits the O2 Arena for the top half of the men’s main draw today. Over at St George’s eight matches will determine the qualifiers for the women’s event, while at Coolhurst the Masters continue apace, but attention will be concentrated on the return of the Open to a spectacular new venue.

[note]Round One, top half:
[5] Amr Shabana (Egy)  bt Tarek Momen (Egy)   11/7, 7/11, 6/11, 11/3, 11/6 (55m)
Olli Tuominen (Fin) bt Ali Anwar Reda (Egy) 11/6, 12/10, 11/6 (39m)
Borja Golan (Esp) bt Cameron Pilley (Aus) 12/10, 12/10, 11/5 (63m)
[4] Ramy Ashour (Egy) bt Daryl Selby (Eng) 8/11, 11/7, 11/5, 16/14 (55m)

[7] Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egy) bt [Q] Mathieu Castagnet (Fra)  11/7, 9/11, 11/7, 12/10 (61m)
Adrian Grant (Eng) bt Adrian Waller (Eng)  11/6, 11/8, 11/5 (36m)
Alister Walker (Bot) bt [Q] Chris Simpson (Eng) 11/7, 11/6, 11/7 (43m)
[1] James Willstrop (Eng) bt Simon Rosner (Ger) 11/3, 11/5, 11/7 (49m) [/note]

Lots more photos in Today’s Gallery

Roundup: Shabana Survives at the O2

After a long wait the British Open returned to the tournament scene in a fantastic setting in London’s O2 Arena.

First up was four-time world champion Amr Shabana, who has won everything the sport has to offer with the exception of the British Open. He started off well enough, taking a 6-0 lead against his young compatriot Tarek Momen, but the youngster fought back to close the gap in the first game before taking the next two to set up the prospect of an early upset. Shabana was having none of it though as the took the next two games to keep his hopes of completing that collection alive.

He’ll meet Olli Tuominen in the last sixteen after the Finn beat Egyptian Ali Anwar Reda in straight games.

Spain’s Borja Golan also won in straight games, but he had to save game balls in the first two, coming from 10/5 down to win the second much to Cameron Pilley’s frustration, b efore taking the third against a somewhat dispirited opponent.

The afternoon session concluded with a win for another Egyptian who has wone most things going but not a British Open, as Ramy Ashour saw off a spirited challenge from Daryl Selby. The Englishman pulled away to take a tight first game, but Ashour started finding his winners to take a 2-1 lead. Selbe led the fourth, and had several game balls before Ashour finally took it 16/14 with a nick at the back of the court which only added to Selby’s frustration.

Fresh from a two hour marathon last night, Mathieu Castagnet always had the odds against him as he took on Mohamed El Shorbagy, but the Frenchman did well, took the second game and had a decent lead in the fourth before the seventh-seeded Egyptian stormed back to avoid a decider.

The first Brit to progress was Adrian Grant, who was always in control as he beat fellow left-hander Adrian Waller in straight games, swiftly followed by Botswana’s Alister Walker, who was always ahead against Chris Simpson.

Top seed and world number one James Willstrop wrapped up the day with an impressive straight-games win over Simon Rosner, the big German unable to make an impression on the equally-big Englishman bidding to reach his fourth British Open final.

[hr]

Framboise reports …

I WANT TO DAMAGE THE PEOPLE IN FRONT…

[5] Amr Shabana (Egy)  bt Tarek Momen (Egy)   11/7, 7/11, 6/11, 11/3, 11/6 (55m)

When you look at a Shabana’s matches these days, it’s all about motivation. All about body language and attitude. And when he lost the 3rd, Shabana was quickly back on court. And that meant business… And from that moment on, Shabana was in control.

Shabana took an excellent start, 6/0 8/1, to take the first one rather comfortably, 11/7, went on with the momentum till 6/6 next game, but from that point on, Tarek, warmed up and more at his ease on the glass court, switched on the “magic move” and didn’t give much chance to the Legend to get to the ball fast enough.

The 4th was the turning point, Shabana on a war path hunted the ball down 6/1, Tarek, taken back just couldn’t stop the rollercoaster, losing that game 11/3. And in the 5th, full motivation and confidence around the racquet, zoomed to 9/4, taking the match 11/6…

[quote]”I think this was an amazing match to win. But when I saw the draw the first time, I was not very happy really.

Today, I had a game plan, and even if it didn’t really work for me in the 2nd and 3rd, I stuck to it, trying to close the corners down and making sure of the placement of the ball, front or back, because he is so fast to the front.

In the 4th, I think he took the foot off the gas for a few minutes, and I used it to my advantage, I know because it happened to me in the 3rd, left the foot off, and found myself out of the game.

On the glass court, each shot matters, especially as it’s cold. On a traditional, you can get away with it, but here, you’ve got to be focused at all times.

Squash is now very healthy, there is now a very small gap between the top 50 players, and it’s good to see people here that know their squash, they are making the tournament !!!

After El Gouna, I had a big think, and realised that I didn’t want to fade out. Before, I didn’t mind if I was doing well or not, I was casual about it. Now, when I lose, I get really angry. So, I changed my training, a few things, and I want to damage the people that are in front. It comes from having kids really, you want the best for them, and the best for them is actually for me to win…”

Amr Shabana

“This is the third time I get to 2/1 up against him, and that I don’t score more than 3 points in the 4th!!!! Not sure what’s wrong with me… When I got to that point, I really focused, I remembered that last times, but still, he just played some great shots, and I found myself 6/0 down… And that was the key of the match

In the fifth, I don’t think I could have done better, because he played 6 amazing shots, nothing I could do about that. I keep stalling, that’s not good. But I want to congratulate Shabana, he played an amazing match, and I wish him the best of luck for the tournament.”

Tarek Momen[/quote]

[quote]

We are very close ranking wise (23 v 26), but more interesting, we never played each other. This was the first time… But after the first couple of rallies, I thought that if I kept playing well, I would probably be alright. I played very well in the first, and thought I would use my experience on the glass court, keeping it deep in the back corners, and it worked.

In the second, he gave it a big push, tried very hard to come back in the game, but I kept steady, and I managed to keep the control of the game most of the time.

I’m very happy indeed to win 3/0, it’s very important for me point wise, as I keep losing a lot at the moment, and I’m looking forward to playing Shabana in the next round….

Olli Tuominen [/quote]

CAM NOT HIS USUAL SELF

Borja Golan (Esp) bt Cameron Pilley (Aus) 12/10, 12/10, 11/5 (63m)

Not sure what was going on in the Australian’s head, but I didn’t see on there the usual Cameron, who hits so hard, very positive and taking chances. Today, Borja was hitting harder than he was, and contained him beautifully, that’s for sure.

Still, normally, Cameron goes for his shots, and take initiatives that today, I never felt that he did today. A bit of a lack of confidence after a few losses, maybe he played a bit too safely today. Not sure what happened there, but I guess credit goes to Borja…..

“I needed the win, I had a few losses, I keep on playing some hard 3/2, which I keep losing. So, I so needed this win today.

Normally, we always have very hard games with Cameron, and today again, he was up 10/5 in the second, it’s really unusual that I would manage to come back and win seven points. I guess that I was playing really tight squash, trying not to put anything in the middle, as he is so good at volleying. And I think that was the key to the match, winning so many points in a row gave me a heck of confidence, and it was the opposite for me….!

Borja Golan

DARYL THE EGYPTIAN

[4] Ramy Ashour (Egy) bt Daryl Selby (Eng) 8/11, 11/7, 11/5, 16/14 (55m)

Oh well, it couldn’t have been a worse draw for the Englishman really. Ramy, at 3pm, on the first day. Mmmm. Sure that Ramy was overjoyed as well when he read the draw.

Still, let me stress how great of a match that was. It was a completely different Daryl we saw today from the “normal” Daryl, who likes to make the rallies last, and up and down a bit, and we know he can play till the cows come home.

He was a bit helped by a Ramy who, like he normally does in the first round, sometimes in the second, played a bit with the court, to see how it was reacting, and went a bit junior like in the first game, offering his shots on the 2nd or 3rd rally in the front corners to a very grateful Englishman.

And from that point on, Daryl, my Lord, just went Egyptian on us, attacking those short balls, and really putting Ramy under extreme pressure, taking the game 11/8 in 10m, which is for Daryl, probably a bit of a record! Joking Daryl….

If Ramy became a bit wiser, and accepted to rally a bit more, Daryl was on a roll, and realised that his opponent was opening the court nicely at times, and kept on pushing, even he is lost the next two, the battle was on, and he made Ramy doubt at times..

In the 4th, Daryl got himself 2 game balls at 10/8. He was going to get another one at 12/11, but never was able to transform them into a decider. Ramy got four match balls, the suspense was tangible, and the English crowd was pushing for their man. Great atmosphere.

There were a lot of decisions in the last part of that match, a few that were a bit surprising to me and others, but hey, what do I know. And to add insult to injury, Ramy takes the match on a lucky nick on the backhand wall… Raising his eyes to the sky, thanking God for his good luck, he exchanged a few kind words with his opponent, who was, as ever, gracious in defeat.

[quote]“First time I came and saw the venue, I thought whoaaaa, it’s just huge, it’s different, and I’m so happy to be back, I haven’t played in the tournament for a while, and it’s nice to be back. England sets up the model for the rest of the world, and all the players are so happy to come and playing in the prestigious British Open.

Well, playing Daryl Selby, number 8 in the world, in the first round, I never expected a lesser battle as that.

Funny, I did relax a bit after I saw him limping a bit, and stretching his leg, I thought there was something wrong with him, and I guess I gave it a big push a bit too soon, relaxed maybe a bit, only to realise that there was absolutely nothing wrong with him!!! And I needed to keep a grip on my head to come back and win that 4th.

After my injury, I was more proud of just coming back than wining actually. And when I lost against James in Virginia after I just came back, I was not disappointed at all, I was happy for James, and really thought it was very positive.

Of course, El Gouna was massive, the pressure there was enormous, I should have much less pressure here that I had there, so hopefully I’ll do well here… Once again, I was so happy to come back, a bit of a “zero to hero” really. You know, that feeling of success that comes not from wining but from being able to overcome the troubles. And the fact I was able to recover from that injury, that I changed my life, the way I see myself, gave me more confidence in my abilities…

And as long as I keep doing what I’m told, that I’m careful with what I eat, with my regime, that I take care of my body – which is probably a bit more fragile than others my doctors told me – things will be fine…. I can’t be ok, it’s 0% or 100%….”

Ramy Ashour [/quote]

IN AND OUT

[7] Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egy) bt [Q] Mathieu Castagnet (Fra)  11/7, 9/11, 11/7, 12/10 (61m)

If Mathieu was pretty tired from a loooong 112m yesterday in St George’s in Weybridge – on the way to Heathrow off the M25 for those who wouldn’t know – for Mohamed, like Marwan his brother, it’s exam time, never easy to mix study and competition.

The game was up and down concentration wise for Mohamed, who kept losing a string of points to win the next string a few minutes later. He’s got such a touch, such amazing hands, but he made errors enough to allow Mathieu to find a bit of confidence to go for a run around the court and a few drop shots of his own that put the Egyptian under pressure.

The 4th, well, was so close again, 8/3 down, Mohamed clawed back to 9/9, we had some stunning rallies, I tell you. Mathieu saved a match ball, flying away on the court as he does – he doesn’t retrieve the shots, he flies for them bless him – but Mohamed just went for his shots, and as ever, it paid off.

A beautiful match, played in an excellent spirit. Well done to both.

[quote]”Mathieu had a very hard match yesterday, and I could see at times that he was struggling physically, which was to be expected. But then again, I was struggling too, I had a three hours exam this morning in Bristol, only arrived here this afternoon, and since El Gouna, didn’t have any time to train, and had about 5 hours sleep per night!

Why does he play that well against me. He always plays so well against me! You know, yesterday in his post match interview to you, he mentioned that he didn’t have the talent to play short game, but he has a great talent, it’s the mental strength, the same that Nick possesses, and in squash, the mental strength is the game.

I think that once he gets a bit more experience, he is going to go right up there very quickly, and climb up the ranking. Today, it’s my experience that saved me I think, as to start with, I was struggling to see the ball, and found myself 6/2 down. I used my experience on the glass court to get me through that first game, and that gave me huge confidence. Plus the cold conditions really suited me, as I didn’t want to get into long rallies.

In the fourth, although I was 8/4, I kept pushing because in the state I was, and with his mental toughness, I thought a fifth would probably turn to his advantage. I’m really happy that I won this one, and I’m happy to live another day.”

Mohamed El Shorbagy

“I felt that I had a chance, but he is so strong mentally. You can have worked hard and set up a 4, 5 points lead, you relax a fraction thinking that should be enough, and he comes back, and it goes so quickly.

Today, most of the games were just so close, it came down to nothing really. And not that I’m complaining, it’s my fault, I shouldn’t stay 300mn in two days on court, but still.. I played on three different courts, plus spending a lot of travelling to go from one venue to the next, two hours here, two hours there, and on a close match like that, it can play a role. I just hope that I’m going to get to go up in the ranking at some point, to be able to arrive fresh and 100% in the first round.

Still, honestly, very happy with the match, I didn’t have any practice this morning, as I arrived too late from St George’s, but I think I’m starting to play a bit better on the glass court, that’s encouraging.

It was a pleasure to play Mohamed today, himself was not as his best, with his exams and all, and he is such a fair player on court, he called all his balls, that’s what the squash needs, he is such a great guy, I really wish him the best for the rest of the tournament.”

Mathieu Castagnet[/quote]

[quote]“Life is great! I’m now settled between NY and Greenwich, it took me a bit of time to get settled, and now, consistency comes from that peace of mind. I train in Greenwich with Paul Johnson, which is a nice continuity from DP as he stayed with him for 10 years. And when DP comes to the States for Chris Gordon, I get to train with him as well. Plus I come often to Harrogate to train with the boys.

We played a training match last week – we have the same coach, David Pearson – and we played a very tough 85m match in Berkshire recently on a warmer court, I won 3/1, but it was hard work. I know how well he hits the ball, and today, the conditions probably suited me better, it was easier to get on top and put the ball away.

This court is a true court, it takes a good shot but also it’s very unforgiving court if you hit a loose shot. I will have to play better tomorrow against whoever, James or Simon.”

Alister Walker

“It’s the 4th time we played this year and we trained last week. Before he went to NY, we used to train all the time together, so we know each other game inside out.

Today, it was the best he ever played against me, he made only one error the whole match. And I could see what he was doing to me, but I couldn’t do enough to change it. I think the conditions suited him, he likes cold conditions, I prefer warmer ones.

But very happy with my tournament, a lot to learn from this match, and since January, I had a good and positive time.”

Chris Simpson[/quote]

[quote]”I’m very pleased with my performance. Today, because of the conditions, and Simon being such an attacker, I knew that I had to move fast, not like last week where I was happy to stay at the back, today, I was ready for it.

The cold conditions suited us both I think. And happy with the way I played on there, but then again, if I want to beat Simon –who has had a lot of good results recently – the way I did, I had to be pretty accurate.

I try and block any kind of pressure out, I take every match to its own merit, not thinking about what the whole event means….

Simon deserves credit to come back as strong as he did in the 3rd, he never lay down….”

James Willstrop

“Too good. I can’t anything else really. I don’t say that too often, but to be honest… he was just too good, too accurate, at the back, at the front… I would play what I thought was an amazing shot, and he got it back and transformed it into an event tighter shot!

In the 3rd, I got better, but the reason I did, the reason why I got to 7 is because he made 3 errors, whereas he barely made any – maybe one – for the rest of the match. Like I said, too good.”

Simon Rosner[/quote]

Day One at the O2 mini-Gallery