Saturday, November 7, 2009

It's Four for Shabana

[4] Amr Shabana (Egy) bt [3] Ramy Ashour (Egy)
         11/8, 11/8, 11/5 (51m)

Amr Shabana claimed his fourth World Open title with a comprehensive victory over defending champion Ramy Ashour in the final in Kuwait.

It was the type of performance we've come to expect from the 'Prince of Cairo' when it really matters, and only in the first game did Ashour seriously threaten.

Shabana took an early lead in the opening game, 4-1, and although Ashour struck back to lead 6-4 Shabana was not to be denied, playing fast, accurate squash to take the game, while Ashour persisted with his tactics of going short whenever the chance arose.

Shabana was dominating those exchanges at the front though, making far less errors than his young compatriot, and although many rallies ended in lets, Shabana was reaping dividends from that area of the game.

He took the initiative in the next game as well, 6-2. Ashour closed the gap, but try as he might he couldn't get on level terms.Towards the end of the second they exchanged three consecutive two-shot rallies, first Ashour slammed a serve into the nick, Shabana returned the favour, then Ashour tinned as he attempted the trick again.

Ashour's frustration showed as he was issued with a conduct warning for ball abuse as he lost the second. The third game saw the same pattern, Shabana opened up to  5-2, Ashour closed to 5-4, then the three-time champion pulled away again, fittingly finishing the match with another service return into the nick.

2003, 2005, 2007 and now 2009, he really does like the 'odd' years, doesn't he ...

"I felt nervous before the match, and I'm sure he was feeling the same," said the champion. "The final always feels different. And playing such a great player like Ramy, you don't know what to expect.

"It was a very mental match - I felt I had to take it point by point. I was really focussed. I think it was just my day - I'm 100% sure he's going to get days when it's all him!"

"Winning four world titles, it's a dream. You don't think about it - you just dream about it - it will take a month or two for it to sink in."

The Final Showdown

[3] Ramy Ashour (Egy) v [4] Amr Shabana (Egy)

A three-time winner against the defending champion, who could ask for more ...

Many think this is Shabana's year, since he 'always wins in the odd year', and his form over recent months certainly suggests he's been building up to this one, looking to add to his 2003, 05 and 07 titles.

But on the other hand, many think this is Ramy's era. Two-time world junior champion, adding the senior title last year, if he is to fulfill the expectations of world dominance that many thought was coming, now would be a good time start.

Whatever the outcome, an Egyptian winner is guaranteed, and anything other than a spectacular match would be a surprise.

They've met 12 times, with Shabana leading 7-5, but the last six have been shared - Ramy in Hurghada 08, Shabana in Kuwait, Ramy in Manchester, Shabana in Super Series 09, Ramy in Hurghada, and most recently Shabana in the US Open in Chicago just weeks ago.

Stay tuned ...

NB: In today's poll to pick the winner 71% went for Shabana