Ramy Ashour: What Will 2013 Behold?

After enjoying the most successful year of his career, Egypt's Ramy Ashour has reclaimed the World No.1 ranking and was honoured as PSA Player of the Year for the second year in a row at the recent annual World Squash Awards.
 
The Egyptian, whose unique style has made him one of the biggest draws on the international squash circuit, first topped the rankings three years ago and held it for all but three months of 2010. However, a series of injuries led the 25-year-old to slip to World No.5 early last year, before setting off on a remarkable 2012 campaign which saw him reach the finals in seven World Tour events, with title triumphs in five, including the Australian Open, US Open and Hong Kong Open.
 
Ashour became the first player since Pakistan's legendary Jansher Khan in the mid-nineties to make the final of every event in which he competed in a calendar year and it was success in December's Qatar PSA World Championship in Doha, where he was seeded five, that clinched the world number one ranking.
 
Despite his remarkable form on court however, the young Egyptian’s has courted controversy off which, combined with a frustrating lack discipline, is rumoured to have resulted in him losing a lucrative racket sponsorship.
 
Always one of those who is brilliant-erratic rather than brilliant-steady, Ashour is more Jonathon Power than Peter Nicol; more Qamar Zaman than Jonah Barrington, or in today’s terms, more Ashour than Nick Matthew.
 
Ashour’s squash is about free-wheeling beauty, slashing attack rather than grinding and percentages. He can win major championships at a canter and throw them away in equal measure, or simply fail to turn up at some of the leading events by siting a mysterious string of injuries as he did at this year’s opening ATCO PSA World Series Finals. But in many ways that is part of his attraction - the roller-coaster is more exciting than the slow train.
 
There are plenty of reasons for Ashour’s inconsistency: his concentration and focus is at best erratic and sometimes nervy; his technique is anti-mechanical and liable to slip out of kilter; he often finds it harder to motivate himself against all but his fiercest rivals and can often appear not to be bothered.
 
Nevertheless, the young Egyptian has improved his all-round game in the past twelve months which has enabled him to win more and more and his falls from grace have been less frequent and spectacular. As a result, he has ascended to the top of the world rankings, superseding the ultra-steady and consistent Matthew and holding off an impressive roster of challengers, most notably former World No.1’s James Willstrop and Gregory Gaultier.
 
For Ashour, 2013 should be business as usual, which means the occasional descent into the ordinary and plenty of occasions when he will astonish the world.

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