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Squash World Championships – Round Two

In Sport on October 30, 2013 at 12:31 AM

Ramy Ashour will be glad of a rather more comfortable second round game here in Manchester, after nearly finding himself one game away from exiting the competition at the first hurdle yesterday.

He eased to a 11-6, 11-6, 11-4 victory against compatriot Fares Dessouki in just 23 minutes, never looking rushed and the game often looking like an exhibition for the Egyptian.

Especially in the third, where Ashour pulled off a couple of volleys that it seemed the laws of physics would not permit.

He has this unique ability to make volleys few, if any, others could, and return with interest – deep the back court, as here, or very tight to the front wall – those that his peers could only hope to scramble back.

He will face Cameron Pilley in the next round, who beat Nafiizwan Adnan 11-9, 11-3, 9-11, 11-6

Peter Barker suffered some horrid luck, as a calf injury forced him to bow out from a winning position.

The Essex player, seeded 7th, would have had high hopes for the tournament given his form this year, which has seen him beat Nick Matthew to reach the final of the Canary Wharf Squash Classic and win his fourth Colombian Open, beating Omar Mosaad in the final.

And he had won the first two games comfortably here – his opponent, Henrik Mustonen, moving fairly well but having little to really hurt Barker with.

So the frustation etched on his face, when he pulled up sharply running for a front-court ball at 9-6 down in the third, was understandable.

After letting out a big shout, he stood still and silent for around 20 seconds before hobbling off for the designated three-minute injury break.

On returning he hit an ambitious smash nick attempt – the only really viable option in his state – into the tin, and had to retire.

The Finn, obviously pleased to go through even if in “not the nicest way” to do so, will face Indian Saurav Ghosal, who beat the higher-ranked Alister Walker in four, with Mustonen expecting a fast-paced game between two players with impressive retrieval.

Amr Shabana, four-time World Champion, who is returning from a long spell on the sidelines, showed signs of his best in beating Mathieu Castagnet 11-8, 11-7, 12-14 11-6.

The Egyptian displayed his vast array of flicks and tricks to outfox the Frenchman, but looked far from his past glories at times so it will be interesting to see how he fares against more slightly stronger opposition.

And his next match against Miguel Rodriguez, who beat Leo Au in three, promises fireworks – Shabana’s tricks against the Colombian’s legendary movement of super-quick, almost crab-like steps and outrageous full-length dives.

The opposition after that will be Nick Matthew or Omar Mosaad, both of whom won fairly comfortably in straight sets.

There were no major shocks in the lower half of the draw, which will please James Willstrop who has got other things on his mind at the moment, with his partner one week overdue with their first child.

Thankfully for the pair, she is former former World No.1 Vanessa Atkinson, so understands the demands on his time and his desire to win.

He said: “It’s a decision I made with Vanessa that I would play; she is not on her own which makes it easier. I’m not sure exactly how we will react when the baby comes.

“If it’s in the middle of the night, what should I do? We’ll play it by ear, really.

“At the moment I try and stay focused for the hour or two during the match and around it – and the rest of the day it’s all about Vanessa.

“I guess it puts everything in perspective and in the big scale of things, squash is not that important.”

Willstrop will play Spaniard Borja Golan, who beat Cesar Salazar in a straightforward 11-4, 11-6, 11-3.

Big-hitters Simon Rosner and Mohamed Elshorbagy will also meet in the last 16 after recording straight-games victories.

Elshorbagy wasn’t posed much difficulty by Omar Abdel Aziz, but the story was nearly very different for Rosner, who took just under an hour – very long for three games – to see off his tenacious opponent, Abdullah Al Mezayen.

First the German was forced to win the game deep into the tie-break, then Al Mezayen went through the wars to salvage the second set.

First he took Rosner’s not inconsiderable shoulder to his eye then diving full out and unsupported for what was, frankly, a lost cause. His efforts told slightly in the third, which he lost 11-5.

Karim Darwish also won in three, 11-7, 11-5, 11-3 against Finn Olli Tuominen.

He will play Darly Selby, who won a tense 75-minute match against tall South African Steve Coppinger, who got very frustated with the officials.

It probably had a fair bit to do with Selby too, who must have seemed like a fly Coppinger couldn’t swat – regularly retrieving balls he had no real right to get, and coming back from 9-7 down to take the crucial 2nd game 12-10.

Coppinger played some impressive squash to take the third 11-9, but seemed spent by his efforts, as he lost the fourth 11-3.

Number two seed Gregory Gaultier was once again in fine form, beating Australian qualifier Matthew Karwalski 1-9, 11-3, 11-5, and will face Tarek Momen, who beat Nicolas Mueller 5-11, 11-5, 11-4, 11-3.

TV watchers now enlightened gurus

In Satire on October 2, 2013 at 1:34 AM

People once considered ‘fat slobs’ are now thought of as cultural gurus thanks to the ‘golden age of television’, according to new research.

The Institute of TV Studies has found the esteem in which serial TV watchers are held has jumped by an impressive 35%, due to the proliferation of big budget American imports such as Breaking Bad, Dexter, Game of Thrones and Mad Men.

A spokesman for the institute said: “Our research shows the type of people who were once seen as lazy, unambitious, degenerates even, are now enjoying their role as cultural tastemakers, as television is increasingly seen as high art, as opposed to something to obviate the need for families to actual talking at dinner or as a Marxist tool for controlling the proletariat.”

We spoke to some of the newly enlightened fellows (the research shows they are nearly always male) about their new role at the top of the culture tree.

Mike Jones, a seasoned TV watcher, said: “It’s great. Where once I was just this guy who lay prone, eating Doritos perched on his rather considerable belly and neglecting his children, I am now treated like Brian fucking Sewell. Even though I haven’t really changed my behaviour.”

“It’s pretty easy really. All you have to do is watch a show, say how great the cinematography is, how complex the characters are, and chuck in a line about how it’s ‘like modern-day Shakespeare’, and you’re golden.”

“Old William wrote 53 fucking plays – of course a half-decent show is going to be like something he did. It’s a meaningless enough phrase that no-one will really query – I just made that figure up for example. But it makes you look clever.

“So basically I do the same thing I’ve always done, but now it’s as if I’ve read the complete works of Dostoyevsky and I’m thought of as this enlightened dispenser of wit and wisdom.

“And, as I’m nearly always watching TV anyway, I’m even seen as ahead of the crowd, instead of a bandwagon-jumper. Like with Breaking Bad, I just stumbled across it way back when the first season was shown on Channel 5 ‘cos I just left the TV on after watching World’s Deadliest Sharks or summin.”

“Then I told people about it and that it was about family, finding one’s passion, I think I even said mortality…I was treated as if I’d actually given them this fucking life-changing drug.”

“So cheers, Vince Gilligan!”

Tom Phillips, another well-watched person, said: “It’s all about the minorities. TV shows love minorities, through some combination of offering escapism and filling ethnic quotas, and they give half-arsed critics like myself a great chance to sound intelligent and right-on.”

“Just say ‘such and such a show really deconstructs the stereotype of such and such a minority as such and such a thing’, and explain it a bit or maybe develop it a little bit further with some counter-arguments…trust me, they’ll be eating out of your newly-sophisticate hands.”

“All you’re doing really is pointing out the obvious – that groups and even individual people are complex and varied things. And who, apart from UKIP voters, seriously doesn’t believe that?! But the important thing for the wannabe critic is to remember that the stereotypes do exist and TV shows offer people a way to challenge them in a seemingly intelligent way.

“Little tip here: ‘zeitgeist’ – look it up – is a good word to use here because it’s foreign and begins with a z so it makes you makes you sound smart.

“Orange Is the New Black is great for this – black people, hispanic people, immigrants, lesbians, drug addicts, and all of them women, locked up in a prison run by mostly lecherous and corrupt male guards (the ‘patriarchy’). It’s like minority central.

“It’s pretty good too.”