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Ashour Survives Scare in Manchester

Ramy Ashour is still on course to be crowned World Champion in Manchester, but will be hoping he faces no more scares after his first round game.

Ramy Ashour is still on course to be crowned World Champion in Manchester, but will be hoping he faces no more scares after his first round game.

This is because Dutchman Laurens Jan Anjema took the first game from the Egyptian World No.1 and had two gameballs to take the second too.

In fact, Ashour, while not as magical as he can be, did not do much wrong - the result being far more down to solid, deep rallying from Anjema.

But Ashour saw off the pressure - just - to eventually progress 10-12, 13-11, 11-3, 11-4.

After one point late in the second game he shouted several words, gutturally and in his native tongue, showing just how on edge he was, as, unlike some other players, Ashour rarely loses his cool (in truth he's not often in a position where he needs to).

After Ashour had saved two gameballs, Anjema called two consecutive lets at 11-11, and was a little hard done by on the second - a drop shot which Anjema was clearly there to play in some capacity, probably easily enough to merit a stroke.

He certainly thought so, protesting to the ref "why is that a let? I was there!"

The fact he slowly fell maybe made him seem a bit desperate, but on the other hand it illustrated the extent of the obstruction and his willingness to play the shot. The officiators, however, thought there was "distance" between player and ball.

From the replayed point, Ashour showed precisely why he holds this title twice - the grit and desire behind all the trickery.

He could only scrape a very tight ball slow into the middle of the court, from where Anjema seemed to have the shutout to the backhand corner. But not only did Ashour get there, with a near full cross-court run, he had enough time and wrist flexibility to get the ball back down the line, then go on to win the point - and, on the next point, the game.

The next two games were somewhat more comfortable - Ashour growing in confidence and Anjema not being able to keep his level - but Ashour's roar at the end of the game let everyone know he had been in for a battle.

"LJ played very well, it's always like that, all the players play well very well against me. I haven't had a player play badly against me for about three years," Ashour said.

"It's kind of hard for me, but on the other hand, it motivates me..."

Ashour's compatriot and sixth seed Mohamed Elshorbagy also nearly fell to a surprise loss, as Adrian Waller was at one point 2-1 and 7-7 up - a "winning position" which he was "disappointed not to convert".

Though, from his protestations to the officials - there were points where he would open the door to speak to them every three or four rallies - he certainly felt they didn't do him any favours.

At 7-7, Elshorbaby hit a ball that was "so far down" that Waller hardly played it, losing the rally when it turned out the ref deemed the ball good - which it probably wasn't. (Lesson to all the kids out there: play the whistle!)

Such was the regularity and obstinance of his objections, that he earned himself a point violation to lose the game 11-7, after he had a (borderline) let appeal for a ball in the corner rejected.

"I'll talk as long as I think it's right, and I was right," he protested.

"You're losing control of this. Speak between yourselves; he's running into me."

They traded blows again up until 8-7 (to Elshorbagy) in the fifth, where Waller was given a no let, which was upheld after a review, and then only received a let on his appeal in the next point.

Again, he was not happy about this, and, this time at least, had good reason to be - not only due to the decision itself but its importance.

He went on to lose the replay and the matchball after, and the game 11-6, 6-11, 6-11, 11-9, 11-7.

"I Played quite well tonight. It's always hard playing someone who's so highly ranked," he said.

"I feel like I can compete with the top guys but it's just having the opportunity to do that on a regular basis."

Fellow Englishman Chris Simpson, World No.21, also lost in an agonising five sets to a top 10 player - losing out to Spaniard Borja Golan 11-9, 6-11, 9-11, 11-8, 11-5, in by far the longest game of the round at 110 minutes.

He said: "I played well, and had my chances in the fourth and the first. I think it came down to the fourth really, as I was quite tired in the fifth, and a bit disappointed with how I faded physically.

"So obviously I am very disappointed at the moment, but hopefully I can take some positives out of it."

Other home hopefuls fared better, however. 3rd and 4th seeds - and arch rivals - James Willstrop and Nick Matthew both progressed fairly comfortably against compatriots in straight games - Willstrop beating Joel Hinds 11-4, 11-4, 13-11 and Matthew beating Zahed Mohamed 11-5, 11-4, 11-5. Essex's Daryl Selby also won 3-0 - victorious 11-7, 11-5, 11-4 over Surrey's Charles Sharpes.

Things were not so easy, though, for 7th seed Peter Barker, who took 72 minutes to see off Australian Ryan Cuskelly. 11-4, 8-11, 11-4, 11-5.

And nearly take Cuskelly's hand off in the process - Barker going perhaps hitting too close on a cross-court and Cuskelly moving across maybe a tad too early.

Other high seeds to win in straight games were Gregory Gaultier (2nd), Karim Darwish (5th) and Amr Shabana (8th).

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