In Manchester, Rami Ashour beat back the best in squash
Egyptian Rami Ashour and Malaysian Nicol David shared the honours in the Hi-Tec World Open Squash Championships after victories in the finals of the first joint staging of the Men's World Open and Women's World Open in the UK at the National Squash Centre at Sport City in Manchester.
The men's event climaxed in an all-Egyptian clash between Ashour, the fourth seed from Alexandria who removed compatriot and defending champion Amr Shabana in the semi- finals, and close friend Karim Darwish, the No 7 seed who ousted Australia's two-time champion David Palmer.
Both were playing in their maiden world final, and 27- year-old underdog Darwish took the opening advantage by winning the first game.
But the exuberant Ashour, the 21-year-old world No 4 and twice winner of the world junior title, changed his tactics and clinched the second game to draw level.
By now the younger Egyptian was in the ascendancy and to the joy of the vociferous Egyptian section of the crowd, beat Darwish 5-11, 11-8, 11-4, 11-5 in 60 minutes to become only the second player in history (after Pakistan legend Jansher Khan) to win both the junior and senior world titles.
"Putting me in the same category as Jansher is a huge thing for me," said new champion Ashour. "I have been watching his videos on YouTube recently, and have used some of his shots in my game.
"I didn't think about becoming world champion during the whole match," added Ashour. "Karim is a very tough player. I had to keep my focus the whole time."
Manchester is clearly a lucky city for the 21- year-old, who won the PSA's flagship Super Series Finals last year at the National Squash Centre. "For sure I'll be back to try and win another title in front of this great crowd."
Ashour, who now has 10 PSA Tour titles to his name, admitted that he had played conservatively in the first game. "I did it on purpose but he came out doing the things I should have been doing, and this provoked me."
When asked what winning the world title would mean to him, Ashour said: "It will mean a lot but it will mean more to my mother and father."
Another Egyptian teenager Mohamed El-Shorbagi also emerged in Manchester. He defeated world number eight Thierry Lincou of France in the second round of the Hi-Tec World Open in which the world's leading players from more than 30 countries were competing in.
The 17-year-old qualifier from Alexandria, who beat experienced Frenchman Renan Lavigne in the first round, shocked the crowd when he took the first two games against sixth seed Lincou, a former world champion and world number one.
But the seasoned Frenchman came back to take the third game and led 4-1 in the fourth. El-Shorbagi, a pupil at Millfield School in the UK and coached by the British legend Jonah Barrington, defied his youth by fighting back to serve at match ball at 10-9.
However, Lincou again had to call upon his vast experience to keep the world junior champion at bay, forcing the match into a decider.
But still El-Shorbagi battled on and, after failing to convert two further match-balls, clinched his fourth of the match to record his stunning 12- 10, 11-6, 7-11, 10-12, 13-11 victory in 81 minutes.
"He was playing really aggressively. I was always behind, chasing the ball, and this made me tired," said a disconsolate Lincou afterwards. "He showed that, at his age, he's able to produce a good pace, and he maintained it without making too many mistakes. He's potentially a top 10 player."
El-Shorbagi admitted that his first thought was to telephone his mother in Egypt. "I had promised her I would get into the last sixteen. She was crying on the phone.
"That was the best win of my career, for sure. I was playing to win each point. I didn't concentrate on the score at all. In fact the only time I heard the score was when I was 10-9 in the fourth.
"I had to make it tough for him. I had no pressure on me today. Nobody expected me to win. I had to play more than my best to win -- and I did.
"My aim is to be world number one, one day," added the young Egyptian star.
While a new era in squash beckoned in this competition, an old one came to an end when John White announced his retirement. The 35- year-old Australian-born Scot, who lives in the US, extended James Willstrop for four games before the England number one prevailed 11-2, 3-11, 12-10, 11-9 in 49 minutes.
"It was as I shook James's hand at the end of the match that I decided, this is it," admitted the Tour favourite afterwards. "I've had a great career, but now have a full-time job as a coach in the US and a family of four.
"James and I have had some great matches, many of which have been finals and many on this court, and I feel it's time for it all to come to a halt here.
"Being number one in the world is something they will never take away from you and I'll always be proud of that."
Spurred on by a capacity home crowd in the English city in which she was born and raised, England's Vicky Botwright took the opening game against favourite Nicol David in the women's final but failed to prevent the world number one from reclaiming the title she lost last year in Madrid.
Botwright, the 11th seed playing in her last competition before retiring to take up a position as head coach at the National Centre, led throughout the opening game to take a surprise lead.
But, after dropping her first game of the tournament, David raised her game in the second to draw level after the loss of just a single point.
The Malaysian superstar extended her lead by taking the third. It was nip and tuck in the fourth before David clinched the match 5-11, 11-1, 11-6, 11-9 in 44 minutes to win the world title for the third time -- and extend her unbeaten Tour run to 43 matches since October last year.
"I knew I had to play my best squash of the week. After all she's world number one, the best player in the world," said the 31-year-old local heroine who made her breakthrough when beating Australia's defending champion Rachael Grinham in the second round.
"It's been a fantastic week. The crowds were fantastic. When they started shouting as I went onto court, I felt a bit emotional. But I am definitely not going to play on the Tour anymore," Botwright confirmed.
David, who has massive support in her home country, acknowledged the significance of the crowd. "I now know what it's like for people to play me in Malaysia."
But she was full of praise for her opponent, ranked 12 in the world. "Every shot she played, every drive, was so tight," said David of her unexpected opponent in the final. "She really kept on fighting. It was a great achievement to get to the final."
Less than 24 hours after competing in the world final, Botwright will be back at work for her employers Manchester City Council, running a coaching session at the city's Abraham Moss Recreation Centre.