Richard Eaton, AFP
Last updated: 8 December, 2012

Brilliant Ramy denies he is world title favourite

Ramy Ashour, the world’s most in-form player, denied he is the popular favourite to win the title back despite another exhilarating performance to begin his world championship campaign on Saturday.

Ashour was in as fine form with words in his second language as with his increasingly impressive deeds in an 11-7, 12-10, 11-8 first round win over Marwan Shorbagy, the world junior champion.

The man from Cairo illustrated some of the reasons why he has been winner of three Super Series titles this year, with moments of outrageous skill against his dangerously promising fellow Egyptian.

When told that many players regarded him as the likely forthcoming champion, Ashour replied: “they want me to think that I’m favourite, so that they can win.

What they really think is ‘he’s a good player, but I will be world champion myself.”

Asked if he thinks he is the favourite, he evaded the question smilingly by saying: “I don’t think they think it.” It was notable though that he did not deny the suggestion.

Shorbagy nevertheless had his moments, saving a game ball to reach 10-all in the second game, and brilliantly saving four successive match points in the third.

But Ashour always seemed to be able to accelerate, masking his intentions with his unorthodox swing-less drives and flicks, and feeding off the adrenaline gained from his more spectacular efforts.

He also revelled in the fitness which has inspired him with new-found belief, after finishing both the last two world championships with injuries and very public tears.

“I look back at how things were and I see myself now with my whole perspective changed,” the 25-year-old said. “My perspective on squash and on life in general is different.

“It’s so pleasing just to be healthy, and to play in a tournament, and to be among these incredible athletes. It’s something for real you know. You really appreciate things after they have been taken away from you.

“I have different priorities now. Of course I want to become world champion again, but my priorities are my health, to be able to play and my sanity.”

Ashour next plays Adrian Grant, a top 20 Englishman, and if he wins again he could have a quarter-final with one of his greatest rivals, Gregory Gaultier, also a former world number one.

The third-seeded Frenchman similarly started well, winning 11-5, 11-5, 11-1 against Mohammed Abbas, an experienced former top 20 Egyptian who has been struggling with injuries.

Gaultier was struck down by injury himself a week ago, when he quit at match point down with a damaged ankle against Ashour in Hong Kong. But now his movement looked reassuringly good.