Ramy Ashour, Nicol David win U.S. Open Squash Championships

Article courtesy of The Philadelphia Inquirer
By Sam Carchidi
Nicol David (front) defeated Raneem El Weleily to win the women's title. "I think tonight was the best I've played," David said afterward. U.S. OPEN SQUASH

Nicol David (front) defeated Raneem El Weleily to win the women’s title. “I think tonight was the best I’ve played,” David said afterward. U.S. OPEN SQUASH

Egypt’s Ramy Ashour and Malaysia’s Nicol David won their first U.S. Open Squash Championships before a sellout crowd of more than 800 at Drexel University on Friday night.

Overcome with joy, David flipped a ball into the crowd after her methodical women’s victory over Egypt’s Raneem El Weleily. David, 29, ranked No. 1 in the world by the Women’s Squash Association, defeated El Weleily, 14-12, 7-11, 11-7, and 11-7.

“I’m overwhelmed,” said a smiling David after she earned $10,830 for her first-place finish.

David seemed to thrive when playing from behind. She overcame a 6-0 deficit in the fifth and decisive set in Thursday’s semifinals, and then wiped out 3-0 and 5-0 deficits in the finals.

In the third set, she scored eight straight points to take a 10-6 lead and never looked back against the 23-year-old El Weleily, who is the world’s third-ranked player.

“I think tonight was the best I’ve played” in the tournament, David said.

Having played at Drexel in last year’s Open improved her comfort level, David said. “I felt at home,” she said. “I could hear the Malaysians cheering, and I saw them waving the flag. I had great support here.”

She is hoping squash becomes an Olympic sport for the 2012 Games.

“If it does, I’ll get my walking stick out and get there,” she said with a smile. “We’re making a huge campaign to get it in there.”

Ashour, who finished second in the 2009 U.S. Open, blitzed to the men’s title by whipping France’s Greg Gaultier, 11-4, 11-9, 11-9. He set the tone by winning the first set in six minutes.

“It’s always hard against Greg. It’s a matter of who’s going to dominate first,” said Ashour, 25, the world’s fourth-ranked men’s player. “So if you start out weak, he’s going to be tough. I was trying to treat every point as if it was the last one. That’s why I’m so proud. I’m going to learn from this.”

Ashour won $16,625, while the third-ranked Gaultier – a 29-year-old who graciously lifted his opponent’s arm to the crowd after the last set – took home $10,925.

Like David, Ashour is hoping squash becomes an Olympic sport.

“It would mean everything to me,” he said.

Ashour and David are celebrities in their countries, said Kevin Klipstein, chief executive director of U.S Squash. “When you’re a world champion from a smaller country, you’re very big,” Klipstein said. “They both have their own billboards.”

Klipstein said the U.S. Open Squash Championships will return to Drexel next year and that there are discussions to make it “the long-term site.”

This year’s tournament featured the top 10 players in the world and had $185,000 in prize money, the most in U.S. Open history. The semifinals and finals were shown online by ESPN3.