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The rise and rise of Ramy Ashour

SQUASH-AUS

“The Artist”, as he is fondly called by his fans and admirers all over the world, Ramy Ashour is arguably one of the best sportsmen ever to hold a racket. When I say this, I am putting him in the league of the likes of Jahangir and Jansher Khan, Roger Federer, Pete Sampras and others.

His talent was evident from the get-go. Winning the World Junior Squash Championships twice, the first one coming at a ridiculously young age of 16, was a distinction only he had at the time. This prompted many greats to expect wild things from the Egyptian. On his arrival to the International circuit, he made an instant impact by reaching his first final in 2006, where en route to the final, he beat the pillars of world squash at the time, World Number ten John White, World Number three Thierry Lincou, and World Number two David Palmer. He eventually lost to fellow Egyptian and World Number one at the time Amr Shabana, but the talent was for all to see and admire.

What was most fascinating to see was the way he made squash look ridiculously easy with his incredible shot-making, even when he was under the pump. His movement was better than most, and add to that his racket skills, which have lit up the sport and got him and the sport world-wide acclaim from fellow sportsmen.

After reaching his first final in 2006, he won his first major tournament in 2007, beating David Palmer in the final of the Canadian Squash Classic. In the same year, he went on to win the ATCO Super Series event, by beating Gregory Gaultier in the final. After this, in a period of two years between 2009-2010, he began his power struggle with then World Number one Nick Mathew, and his compatriot James Wilstrop. None of them could impose their dominance on the other and this saw a constant shuffle in the top three rankings during this period.

Ashour, with all his incredible and unmatched racket skills, was unable to live up to the standards that he set for himself when he started out as a 16-year-old. Experts in the sport were starting to wonder if he was ever going to live up to the hype of being the next big thing to come into the sport since the Pakistani duo of Jahangir and Jansher Khan. Adding to his problems was a recurring hamstring injury which threatened to shorten his playing career. His injury concerns meant he had lower fitness levels, lower confidence in his game, and higher reliance on his shot-making abilities. A disappointing 2010 season was capped off by another hamstring injury which meant a longer lay-off period. The doubts were turning into worries for ‘The Cairo King’.

But Ashour remained focus on the task ahead and changed his training regime, and came back in stunning fashion onto the International circuit. After an injury-stricken 2011 season, his 2012 season was the best and a delight for everyone to see. He won a total of 5 tour titles, including the year-ending Qatar World Open. He was a completely changed athlete, one who had much more calm about himself and was willing to go that extra mile for victory, traits that weren’t exactly associated with him earlier. Such has been his domination since returning to the sport that he has won everything in 2013, and is on a 41-match unbeaten streak after winning the recently concluded British Open and the World Team Squash Championships, where surprisingly Egypt finished runners-up.

The domination of Ashour has been such that at instances he has made his fellow rivals look like amateurs in big tournaments. In the recently concluded British Open semi-final against James Wilstrop, he made Wilstrop look like a rookie, dispatching the Englishman with utmost ease in the first game in front of his home crowd. The Egyptian has finally come of age, and is on track to dominate the sport and increase its global appeal by a great extent. These remarkable performances clubbed with his extreme humility off court have brought him applause from all corners of the sport.

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To quote Malcolm Wilstrop, coach and father of Ashour’s rival James Wilstrop - “Ramy Ashour is something else – his movement is better than anyone in the game, and allied to his unique racket skills and vision, he lights up the sport. Not only that, but his modesty, and engaging smile, make him a rare commodity.”

At 25, he has achieved quite a lot in the sport, and in the process of accomplishing those feats, taken squash one step closer to securing a spot in the 2020 Olympics. With the talent that he has put on show in the last twelve to fifteen months, great things lie ahead for this Egyptian Pharaoh and his followers.

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Edited by Staff Editor
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