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TODAY at the Saudi International 2007:
Steve Cubbins in Al-Khobar ...

Sunday 28th Oct 2007, THE FINAL:

[1] Amr Shabana (Egy) bt [2] Ramy Ashour (Egy)   
           11/5, 11/5, 1/11, 11/9 (50m)

Saudi Showdown ...

They don't come much bigger than this - the winner would not only pick up the biggest cheque in the history of squash, but would also become world number one come the November rankings.

At the start it looked as though the pressure might have got to Ramy Ashour, as Amr Shabana eased into a two-game lead without having to do anything special.

It was good, steady squash from the world number one and defending champion, no flashing winners, but it was good enough. Ramy was denied the pace, the action that he thrives on and mistakes came as his frustration grew.

From 3-all four tins helped Shabana along the way to a 9/4 lead, and the first game shortly after.

More tins at the start of the second and Ramy was soon 6/1 down and still no sparkle. A tin to make it 10/3 brought an "aarrgghh" of frustration from the wunderkid, one echoed by the crowd which was largely favouring the young pretender.

They were given reason to cheer in the third. This time Shabana started with two unnecessary tins, Ramy took heart and the rallies became faster, more varied, more to his liking. 5/0 and Shabana soon realised he wasn't going to win in straight games, letting the game go once he was 7/1 down.

Shabana was back on court early for the fourth, keen to get back on top, but Ramy too was up for it now. Level up to 5-all. Shabana pulls ahead 7/5, Ramy gets one back then has a ball called not up - "you can't do this to me now, guys ...".

The youngster gets it back to 8/7 with a straight drive that leaves Shabana stranded, then tins an easy ball - "aargghh."

A straight volley gets it back to 9/8, then Shabana's boast off the serve is too tight. Match ball and Shabana clenches his fist. He wants this.



Shabana puts in a drop and starts to celebrate .... let. A tin brings it back to 10/9. Shabana thinks he's won it again ... let.

A straight drive, Ramy desperately tries to get past Shabana into the corner. A winner. Shabana hears the "no let", Ramy doesn't. There's a brief confusion, it's Shabana who breaks the news to his opponent ...

So Shabana wins the showdown. He's still the champion, still the number one. Ramy is close, very close, but today was Shabana's.

He earned it.  

"Oh man, what a big match, so much at stake.

"You have to keep it as simple as you can against Ramy, or he's going to eat you up. The first two games were good, I played simple, steady squash and contained him. I could see in his eyes as he came out he was up for the third, but I mixed it up too much and he played too good.

"I got it back in the fourth, but Ramy's such a good player, it was hard, very hard.

"It meant a lot when I got to match ball . I've been thinking a lot about getting to match ball in a big tournament, thinking about it for some time, it's been a long time for me. I knew I had to push, really push then, it might not come again

"It's going to be so hard playing Ramy over the next few years, but I'm really pleased to win this one again, it's massive. I'm not thinking about three for now, two is enough "

"He played much better than me I played well, but he was better.

"I was a bit loose in the first and second, I couldn't feel the shots, but I came back well in the third.

"In the fourth he had that mental toughness. I got close but he forced me to push myself as hard as I could and in the end he was that bit tougher, and he played better than me "

"I'm very happy with the tournament, very happy.

"Amr Shabana won it again, he's a deserving champion, and for the second time in three years the final decided who would be number one.

"Overall it was a great event. It would have been nice to see Ramy win, but the future is his "