World top three players Ramy Ashour and James Willstrop set up an eagerly-anticipated NetSuite Open Squash Championship semifinal after despatching their quarterfinal opponents in straight games on the opening night of action in the PSA World Tour International 70 event spectacularly staged on an all-glass court erected on the South Lawn at Justin Herman Plaza on the San Francisco waterfront in California, USA.
“Before an enthusiastic and sold out crowd, the opening night of glass court competition of the 2013 NetSuite Open at the outdoors arena in downtown San Francisco—backed by views of the renowned Ferry Building and Bay Bridge—brought out the best in the world’s No. 1 and No. 3 players,” said tournament founder and promoter John Nimick.
Third seed Willstrop, the 30-year-old former world number one from England, faced Dutch rival Laurens Jan Anjema—the world No. 18 from The Hague against whom he boasted a 9-0 career head-to-head record.
“I was having difficulty getting my eye on the ball,” said the 30-year-old Dutchman (pictured in NetSuite Open action with Willstrop), referring to the first two games in which Willstrop conceded just three points.
But the third game was much more hotly-contested by the two veterans as Anjema seemed to settle into the court conditions. Despite several stoppages for mopping and cleaning, mostly due to Anjema’s prodigious physical effort, Willstrop pulled through after an equal contest for the first six points to a earn a decisive 11-2, 11-1, 11-5 win after 36 minutes.
Ashour, the world number one from Egypt who has won the last eight PSA World Tour events in which he has competed, faced Tom Richards, the world No. 22 from England returning to Tour action after a hamstring injury.
“Ashour and Richards painted a beautiful and highly respectful 44 minutes of awe inspiring squash,” continued Nimick. “Seemingly elevated by both the intensity and fairness Richards brought to the court, Ashour opened the jewel box and showed San Francisco and the cameras of PSA’s Squashtv.com the gems the current world number one owns.
“The match generated extraordinary applause and gasps, and Richards was nearly as good as his opponent throughout.”
Asked whether he had fun on the court, Ashour said: “Well it was nice to play Tom since we know each other from 13 years old and, yes, well, we could hit some special shots while still focusing on the win.”
Ashour’s 11-8, 11-6, 11-7 victory extends his unbeaten Tour run to 43 matches.
Monday’s semifinal will mark Willstrop and Ashour’s 24th PSA Tour meeting since March 2007—and their ninth on US soil—with the 25-year-old from Cairo currently enjoying an 18-5 head-to-head lead.
NetSuite Open image courtesy of Ma Patapoff
Quarterfinals (top half of draw):
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt Tom Richards (ENG) 11-8, 11-6, 11-7 (44m)
 James Willstrop (ENG) bt Laurens Jan Anjema (NED) 11-2, 11-1, 11-5 (36m)
Article courtesy of the Professional Squash Association