AFP – Ramy Ashour broke a 47-year jinx when he became the first Egyptian player since 1966 to capture the British Open title, winning a sparkling and unpredictable final against Gregory Gaultier, the former champion from France.
Ashour’s 7-11, 11-4, 11-7, 11-8 win followed his recapture of the world title at Doha in December and the world number one ranking earlier that year, and underlines him as the undisputed best player in the world.
Earlier in the women’s final, world number one Nicol David suffered her most surprising defeat in four years when she lost her British Open title with a second successive loss against England’s Laura Massaro.
David was beaten 11-4, 3-11, 12-10, 11-7 by the tenacious and loudly supported world number two, who thus repeated her win over the Malaysian in Kuala Lumpur earlier this year.
The men’s championship match saw Gaultier deliver a fine performance, leading 7-5 in the third game and by 7-6 in the fourth. But when it mattered most, Ashour usually came up with something unstoppable and often something unorthodox.
Ashour made two dedications for his long-awaited triumph. One was to his compatriot Assem Allam, the multimillionaire sponsor who rescued the British Open from oblivion two years ago, and who described the new champion’s remarkable movement as “like a bellydancer’s.”
“I had a lot of hard times back home and I am really proud that I have accomplished this,” Ashour said. “There was a lot of negative energy around me.
“There have been a lot of hard times. This is one of the happiest times of my life, if not the happiest, because I have experienced waking up in the morning each day with such a heavy heart and heavy spirit.”
Ashour began as though he might fail to make up for the long Egyptian wait since Abdelfattah Aboutaleb won it in 1966.
He let slip a 5-2 lead with four errors, encouraging Gaultier to pick up the pace and cut some sharp, neat drops for winners in some nimble front court exchanges.
However Ashour’s focus appeared to improve in the second game, and a sequence of brilliant winners carried him to 7-3 and created an impetus which could not be stopped.
“I did what I could and I think my level was very good,” concluded Gaultier. “But when Ramy is like this he is very hard to stop.”
Earlier, Massaro, the world number two became the first home female player to win the British Open since 1991.
It was a shock defeat for David and the first in a major event since her British Open loss to Ireland’s Madeline Perry in 2009, raising the question of how much longer the 29-year-old will hold on to top spot.
“She was playing very well. Sometimes things don’t go your way and all these girls are getting stronger,” said David.
The third game was a dogfight, which David looked likely to win when she earned herself three successive game points. But Massaro saved the first with a fierce boast, angled off the forehand side wall, and the second with a tight wall-clinging backhand drive.
When she reached game ball there was a traffic problem near the front which prompted the referee to award a let, only for Massaro to make an appeal to the video review system and get the decision overturned.
The resulting penalty point got her the game 12-10 and changed the psychology of the match.
Massaro’s win made her the first home female winner of the famous title since 1991, a statistic which apparently caught her by surprise.
“I can’t believe that, but that just shows how hard it is to win it,” she said. “It wasn’t till I got to 8-4 in the fourth game that I started to think I might have a big enough lead to win it.”