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Sunday, 13 October 2019

A losing battle: Egypt squash icon Ramy Ashour announces retirement

Ahmed Abd El Rasoul , Tuesday 23 Apr 2019
Ramy Ashour
Ramy Ashour (Photo: PSA's official website)
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Losing his final battle against his injury-plagued body, Egypt squash icon and one of the most talented players ever Ramy Ashour announced his retirement late on Monday.

“I’m not the biggest fan of beginnings and endings,” former World No.1 Ashour said in a video posted on his Instagram account.

“During my 25 years on the squash court, I won a combined eight World Championships (including senior, junior and team), and I never loved anything more than I have loved the game of squash. Squash has given me so much but also took a lot from me physically and mentally," he added.

The 31-year old Ashour, who is widely regarded as one of the most talented squash players ever, unfortunately suffered a series of hamstring and knee injures throughout his whole career, but the battle finally came to an end after a severe knee injury since last May.

"Many of you may know how much I have been struggling with injuries throughout my whole career especially my knee injury since 2004," he explained.

"While it was deeply stressful for me to play with the constant threat of my injury resurfacing, my body triumphed many times and lead me to great victories.

"But sometimes the universe will be conversing with us in a very subtle way and we just have to be honest with ourselves. To be able to listen and see the signs that we don't want to accept or face.

"In the recent months my knee was hurting intensely and showed no signs of healing for good. Between 8 doctors, multiple cortisone injections and a failed stem cell surgery, my body still wasn't responding.

"As an Athlete, it is deeply traumatising to see your body, your greatest tool, turn into the thing that's holding you back.

"I never wanted it to happen this way, but I have always believed that life gives us what we need rather than what we want.

"And tonight, out of respect to my fans, the squash community, and to myself, I announce my retirement from the professional world of squash," he added.

Ramy Ashour 1

Next step

Ashour needs a physical and mental break but he doesn't intend to cut his ties with his beloved sport as he still have a lot of ambitions to achieve.

"This will be a big change for me in so many ways but I hope my gut feeling is leading me in the right path and that this decision will give me the mental freedom I deserve and the ability to give back to the sport that has been so rewarding to me whether through exhibition matches, different level camps, helping the younger generations get what they want, developing the sport, help get the sport in the Olympics or anything else that would be in the best interest of the sport and would bring me joy," the Egyptian star said.

"I am finally ready to share the secrets and knowledge I have gained for the first time ever from the past 25 years with the squash world.

"To that end, I'm excited to also announce that I'll be putting up a small squash tournament next month, on the 19th of May, here in New York to introduce a new scoring system that I created.

"I believe it will raise the bar, and will take our beautiful game to gorund-breaking new heights and might end up revolutionising the squash sport.

‘“While I look towards the next stage of my journey, I have to thank the people who have been with me every step of the way. First of all, my parents and my brother, who have always been there, have always been my biggest supporters and motivators, and who shared with me my best and worst times.

“I also want to thank my close friends, who have stood by me. Thank you to all my coaches, who helped me get to the next level. Thank you to all my sponsors. Last but not least, I want to say that I am grateful for all of you [the fans], the people I don’t know personally, who have always believed in me, you guys are the biggest reason I was always pushing to win," he concluded.

Success story

Back in 2004, Ashour made his professional debut in PSA World and he quickly established himself among the best ever names in squash courts.

The most prominent achievements of Ahsour were winning three World Championship titles in 2008, 2012 and 2014, and spending 21 months at World No.1 between 2010-2013.

The 2014 world Championship title was a special one for Ashour as he entered the competition after spending six months on the sidelines due to injury, but he was in his top form; cleverly beating countryman and long-term rival Mohamed El-Shorbagy in the final.

Withdrawing from decisive stages and finals at different tournaments due to injuries was a repeated scene throughout Ashour's career, but surprisingly he returned to top form every single time he reappeared on the court.

In 2010, he was eliminated from the round of 16 at the World Championship due to injury. The same happened in 2016 when he was also injured but in the fourth half of the World Championship final against Egypt's Karim Abdel-Gawad.

In 2017, he withdrew from the Gouna Squash Open as he had not totally recovered from the injury he picked up during the British open semi-final.

Ashour has won 40 PSA Tour titles all over his career; reaching 59 finals, while he won 358 of his 435 matches on the PSA Tour.

Ashour also became the first Egyptian for 47 years to win the sport’s oldest tournament – the British Open – in 2013. The victory came in the midst of a 49-match unbeaten run as he won nine successive PSA Tour titles.

He was also voted as the second greatest male player of all time behind Pakistan’s Jahangir Khan in the summer of 2018 according to a poll conducted by the Professional Squash Association (PSA).

Ashour’s final PSA appearance was at the 2018 British Open, while his last title came at the Grasshopper Cup in March 2018.

Wide reactions

The departure of Ashour form squash world left wide reactions from many of the sport stars and officials.

PSA Chief Executive Alex Gough said: “Ramy has inspired countless of aspiring squash players around the world and is without a doubt one of the most talented players the game has ever seen.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank Ramy for his contributions to the PSA Tour over the past 15 years and everyone at the PSA wishes him well for the future.”

 

"One question I get asked a lot is ‘Who is the toughest opponent you’ve ever faced?’ & the answer I always give is @RamyAshour. Feel very privileged to have played as many times as we did. He helped raise the game of Squash to new levels. A true great of the game," said English squash star Nick Matthew.

Australian player Cameron Pilley said:" One of the all time greats has announced his retirement. Possible/probable GOAT! So many things to say about Ramy but I loved the spirit in which he played the game and the way he carried himself both on and off court. Once in a generation player."

"You will always remain a true inspiration for the whole squash community and for me personally.. You will be truly missed!," Egyptian squash player Noran Gohar said.

 

"Simply the most talented player of all time is saying good bye to the psaworldtour," French player Gregoire Marche added.

USA'S highest ranked squash player ever Amanda Sobhy also heaped praise on Ashour saying: "Sad to read, but what a privilege it was to grow up & watch RamyAshour play. One of a kind squash talent & overall human being. The squash tour will surely miss you, but at least I can still see you in NYC."

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

 
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