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Squash: Ramy takes his passion to World Championships

07 December, 2012

DOHA: Ramy Ashour is hoping that his bid to win back the world title will be a bit of a morale booster during Egypt's ongoing political revolution.

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The 25-year-old from Cairo has made visits to join protesters in Tahrir Square, and has been tweeting his support of them whilst preparing his bid to raise the trophy again in the world championships from December 7-14. Ashour is as passionate about the state of his country as about proving that he is again the world's best player. If he achieves that, more people may listen to his words. "I love my country but we are struggling at the moment," he said. "I feel for the less fortunate people, as the revolution was basically raised to help them. But now they are the ones who are suffering the most."

Despite this heartache – or perhaps because of it – Ashour has been in outstanding form this year, winning three Super Series tournaments, the most recent being the Hong Kong Open title on Sunday. It has made the fifth-seeded Egyptian the unofficial favourite for the title, even though two Englishmen, world number one James Willstrop and World Open champion Nick Matthew are the top two seeds. Ashour beat both in Hong Kong last week, having also overcome Matthew while winning the US Open title in Philadelphia last month, and Willstrop in the El Gouna International final in Alexandria in April. That was Egypt's first tournament for 18 months since the revolution. "This is how the true real moderate Egyptians unite and stand up for themselves," he tweeted on Wednesday, showing quotes and images from people before the Presidential palace. Ashour could hardly be more ambitious about his profession. "I am doing my best to get back to the top," said Ashour, who has just raised one place to fourth in the world rankings but can reach number one again if he wins the world title. "I am proud of my achievements, but more is yet to come."

Even Matthew acknowledges the revival of the Ashour threat, partly an outcome of avoiding injuries, which have plagued him in the past. "While Ramy doesn't have consistency within matches – he has more peaks and troughs in terms of winners and errors – overall his end product is getting more consistent by the day," the world champion said. If the 32-year-old Matthew does triumph again, it will be for the third successive time, something no Englishman has ever achieved.

However both he and Ashour may be hindered by an unkind draw, which lands them in the same half, along with Gregory Gaultier, the former world number one from France, and with Amr Shabana, the four times former World Open champion from Egypt. Ashour and Gaultier, whose form has improved since becoming a father three months ago, should meet in the quarterfinals, with Matthew likely to face Shabana, the enduring 33-year-old legend, at the same stage. An easier route appears to have appeared in the top half for Willstrop, who could have a semi-final with Karim Darwish, the former world number one, or another Egyptian Mohamed El Shorbagy, the former world junior champion.

Leading seeds:

1. James Willstrop (England), 2. Nick Matthew (England), 3. Gregory Gaultier (France), 4. Karim Darwish (Egypt), 5. Ramy Ashour (Egypt), 6. Peter Barker (England), 7. Amr Shabana (Egypt), 8. Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egypt).


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