Sunday, 19 October 2008

Ashour defeats Darwish to take first title

Ramy Ashour v Karim DarwishEgyptian Ramy Ashour lost the first game to fellow countryman Karim Darwish, but came through to take the next three to become World Champion in Manchester today.

His 5/11, 11/8. 11/4, 11/5 victory was characterised by wristy shot making that was matched for much of the game by Darwish ...

Mistakes from Ashour gave Darwish an early 3-0 lead in the first. A couple of lets followed, which briefly halted Darwish's progress, and it struck me how few interruptions I had seen during their matches this week. There are far fewer lets than there used to be (how much of this due to the PAR scoring I am unsure), but it is far better for the game and the spectator to see the match uninterrupted.

Ashour v DarwishDarwish took some risks during the long rallies, with low, skiddy, cross-court drops stretching Ramy and mostly paying off. At 9-4 up, Darwish's confidence was evident as he pounced early on the ball (his speed was not something I'd noted in the past), and a tin from Ashour followed by a stroke gave Karim the game 11-5.

The second started off rather scrappily with a number of strokes given away. Darwish was persisting with a percentage game interspersed with deceptive attacks, but Ramy was beginning to loosen up and attack more frequently. At 7-6 to Ashour there was a let called after he tried to run around Darwish who was in the process of hitting a drop in the front-court. This seemed hard on Karim (who - half-jokingly - protested that the shot was "the best (he'd) ever done").

A high cross-court backhand kill that nicked seemed to sap the remainder of Darwish's enthusiasm for the rest of the game, and Ashour opened his account 11-8.

Ashour at the moment of victoryRamy obviously had decided that he was in no mood to be constrained by Dawish's more patient game in the third, and began to hit more audacious shots. His impish pleading for a let at 3-1 amused the crowd, and it was evident that Ramy's character was to endear him as much as his style of play (is it just me or does Ashour look a bit like Pete Sampras when he delivers the innocent shrug?).

Darwish was beginning to run out of attacking ideas, as Ashour second-guessed almost everything thrown at him. Ramy was by now chucking in attacking boasts from very deep that had Darwish wrong-footed, and his greater variety told in taking the game 11-4.

At the start of what was to be in the final game, Darwish was visibly frustrated, staring down the barrel as he was. He stuck in the game to 4-4, before Ashour began to give an exhibition in how to turn defence into attack, turning seemingly lost causes into instant attacking positions.

From this point Ramy ran away with it, and quickly raced to his first (or what are likely to be many) World Championship titles. After the winning point he fell to his knees, racket above his head (see photo above) before being congratulated by Darwish.

In the post-match interview he spoke of the great spirit that exists amongst the Egyptian players, and that he "tried not to express emotion too much" as he was playing a friend and compatriot.

His comment that is was "always important to keep a good spirit on court" will have gone down well with the IOC representative who was watching both finals - as will the absorbing display highest class sport, professionalism good behaviour that many have witnessed this week.

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