BY ALAN Thatcher
Ramy Ashour may have lost the final of the Aon US Open in Chicago to compatriot Amr Shabana, but he certainly won plenty of friends with his sportsmanship and transparent love of the game.
During the fifth game of his final battle with Shabana, Ashour was clawing back the points as his more experienced opponent seemed like he was powering to the title.
After one explosive rally, Ashour played a ball into the front left corner that the three officials saw good only for Shabana to complain furiously that the ball was down.
After much heated debate between Shabana and the referees, Ashour completely diffused the situation by calling his own shot down. It was an extraordinary act of sportsmanship because that put Shabana on match ball.
Although Ashour claimed one more point, Shabana duly finished off the job to secure his first US Open title.
That act of sportsmanship was not the only moment of generosity shown by the 21-year-old Ashour during his week in Chicago.
Following a sponsors’ reception a few miles away from the city centre, Ramy was being given a lift back to the tournament hotel by event official Jill Domke, with the PSA’s US official Gus Cook also on board.
Suddenly the car struck a large pothole and a tyre blew out. I’ll let Gus take up the story from here: “As it was around midnight, Jill wanted me to take Ramy back in a cab and not hang about, but Ramy was having none of it and so we changed the tyre together.
“It took a while because we did not have any tools until a friendly neighbourhood cop stopped to see what was happening and lent us what we needed.
“All told it took over 30 minutes and we were both filthy by the end. It just goes to show what kind of guy he is, though, and I hope he stays that way.”
I can’t think of many world champions from other sports who would behave in such a humble and helpful manner, and long may it continue in our wonderful game. We may have lost the Olympic bid, but we can continue to set a shining example to other sports that do not enjoy the same levels of honesty and sportsmanship.
Alan Thatcher is a journalist, Squash’s No.1 TV commentator, a tournament promoter and a club coach. He is also busy with a sports club he recently co-founded in England (called TriSports) which provides sporting opportunities for young people, especially those who are homeless, unemployed or disadvantaged.