WATCH: Ashour opens up about injury concerns

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Ramy Ashour was forced to retire from his semi-final match against Greg Gaultier at the British Open on Saturday.

The Egyptian lost the first set 11-9 and was unable to carry on. The decision to withdraw from the encounter couldn’t have been easy for the 2013 British Open champion who came back brilliantly to beat Mohamed Abouelghar 10-12, 7-11, 11-9, 11-5, 11-5 in the quarter-finals on Friday.

Ashour, arguably one of the most talented players to ever pick up a squash racquet, spoke to Joey Barrington in a video on PSA – World Tour’s Facebook page about the condition of his hamstring.

The fifth-seed revealed the unique circumstances of his injury that has left doctors and physios bamboozled.

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French duo Derail Egyptian title defence

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French duo Gregory Gaultier, Men’s World No.3, and Camille Serme, Women’s World No.4, derailed the challenge of 2016 tournament winners Mohamed ElShorbagy and Nour El Sherbini to come through two dramatic and enthralling semi-final encounters at the 2017 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions on Wednesday.

Inside Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall, Gaultier, the 2009 champion, prevailed 12-10, 11-9, 9-11, 4-11, 11-7 in an 84-minute encounter with 2015 and 2016 winner ElShorbagy that had the theatrics, drama and intrigue befitting a Broadway classic.

The 34-year-old strutted extravagantly around court, playing with pace, precision and guile to take a 2-0 lead, delighting the crowd with his theatrical celebrations before a contentious referee decision at 8-7 in the third swung the match. The Frenchman capitulated, first mentally and then physically – as a troublesome left glute hampered his movement – allowing ElShorbagy to level 2-2.

But a stunned crowd, silenced by what they were witnessing, watched on as Gaultier, playing on one leg, displayed all the traits of his ‘General’ moniker to regain control and seal a dramatic victory.

“I felt my glute go during my match with Tarek (Momen) and it was sore this morning – but after warming up today it was fine and I had no problem in those first two games,” said Gaultier.

“In the third game I could feel it tighten and then at 8-7 that decision should have gone my way and I lost my dynamic. I could have gone through to win 3-0 and then it was 2-2. At that point I just wanted to shake hands – I was in a lot of pain.

“But my coaches told me just to fight for every point.

Gaultier will face Egypt’s World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad in the title-decider after he produced a sublime performance to beat James Willstrop in straight games while it was Gaultier’s compatriot Serme who captured attention in the Women’s draw with a 3-1 defeat of World No.1 El Sherbini.

Serme beat World No.2 Nouran Gohar on Thursday and injected pace from the off on Friday to unsettle El Sherbini, working her favoured backhand with relentless accuracy, to win 11-7, 7-11, 11-6, 11-6 and secure her first appearance in the iconic event’s title-decider.

“I was so focused on the match and making sure I played as well as I could that it hasn’t really sunk in that I’m into the final yet,” said 27-year-old Serme.

“I dreamt of playing this event – the venue is unbelievable – so it’s amazing to know I will be playing in the final here tomorrow with a chance to win. I’ve beaten the #1 and #2 players so I have to take confidence that I’m playing some of my best ever squash.

“I feel like there’s still improvements to be made but I’m on the right track. Tomorrow will be a different challenge again so I’ll give it my best and see what happens – it’s very exciting.”

Serme will face England’s Laura Massaro, 2014 runner-up, in the decider, ensuring a new Women’s champion will be crowned.

Results – Men’s Semi-finals: 2017 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions
[3] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt [1] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) 3-2: 12-10, 11-9, 9-11, 4-11, 11-7 (84m)
[2] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt James Willstrop (ENG) 3-0: 11-6, 11-8, 11-6 (42m)

Draw – Final
[3] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v [2] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY)

Results – Women’s Semi-finals: 2017 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions
[5] Camille Serme (FRA) bt [1] Nour El Sherbini (EGY) 3-1: 11-7, 7-11, 11-6, 11-6 (49m)
[4] Laura Massaro (ENG) bt [11] Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 3-0: 11-6, 11-6, 11-9 (40m)

Draw – Final
[5] Camille Serme (FRA) v [4] Laura Massaro (ENG)

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Gawad and Serme victorious at Tournament of Champions

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New names were etched into the record books of both the Men’s and Women’s J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions on Thursday as Egypt’s Karim Abdel Gawad, World No.2, and France’s Camille Serme, World No.4, were crowned 2017 champions on an electric night inside New York’s Grand Central Terminal.

The pair, both competing in the PSA World Series tournament title decider for the first time in their careers, prevailed in thrilling encounters with Gregory Gaultier and Laura Massaro, respectively, to take the spoils and add their names to an illustrious list of past winners.

The 25-year-old Gawad came from behind against World No.3 Gaultier to win 6-11, 11-6, 12-10, 11-6, extending his unbeaten streak to 16 matches to win a third consecutive major title – adding to the Qatar Classic and World Championship titles he won last November.

“Winning the Tournament of Champions, here in this venue, is an amazing feeling and I feel absolutely fantastic right now,” said Gawad.

“It’s been an amazing week. I’m over the moon. To win three big titles like the World Championship and Qatar Classic is a great feeling and I have to thank my coaches for the support and hard work that has been put in for the past few years.

Reflecting on the tournament, beaten finalist Gaultier said: “I had a great week here and I gave it all that I could. I gave beyond 100 per cent.”

Serme meanwhile proved that she truly is the player to beat at present on the Women’s Tour by downing No.2 Nouran Gohar, No.1 Nour El Sherbini and No.5 Massaro to add the Tournament of Champions title to the U.S. Open crown she won last October.

The 27-year-old French World No.4 started strong against Massaro, taking a tie-break opening game 13-11, but faded fast as the Englishwoman’s will and determination came to the fore. But at 2-2 Serme responded impressively, stepping up the court to get the better of Massaro and run out an 13-11, 8-11, 4-11, 11-3, 11-7 winner.

“I can’t believe it,” said Serme.

“Winning this title and winning two World Series titles in a row, beating the World No.1 and No.2 and coming from 2-1 down today to beat Laura, it is absolutely amazing.”

“I’ve been working hard in training and to see it all pay off like this is so encouraging – I’m delighted.”

Results – Men’s Final: 2017 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions

[2] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt [3] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 3-1: 6-11, 11-6, 12-10, 11-6 (64m)

Results – Women’s Final: 2017 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions

[5] Camille Serme (FRA) bt [4] Laura Massaro (ENG) 3-2: 13-11, 8-11, 4-11, 11-3, 11-7 (73m)

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