England’s James Willstrop will return to the top of the PSA world rankings in March after reaching the semi-finals of the North American Open. The top seed’s quarter-final opponent, Egypt’s Amr Shabana, was forced to concede the match in Richmond early in the 2nd game – after just 12 minutes – because of a knee injury. By reaching the last four, Willstrop earned enough ranking points to regain the world No1 position from English world champion Nick Matthew. “It’s great news to be back on top”, Willstrop said.
Willstrop meets French ace Greg Gaultier who overcame young Egyptian qualifier Karim Abdel Gawad, winning 11-6, 11-2, 11-6 in 39 minutes. “I am feeling good this week,” said the Frenchman.
In the other semi-final, Matthew meets Ramy Ashour in a re-run of the last three NAO finals. Ashour won in 2009 but Matthew has won the last two events – and is hunting down a hat-trick of titles this year. Ashour confirmed his return to peak fitness with a devastating 12-10, 8-11, 11-5, 11-3 victory over fellow Egyptian Karim Darwish. Ashour said: “It’s never easy to beat Karim. We had breakfast together, but as soon as reached the court we know that we have a job to do.”
Matthew, who had struggled to hit top form in the first two rounds, beat battling German Simon Rosner in four hard games (11-7, 11-6, 9-11, 11-6). The current world No1 dominated the opening 2 games and seemed as things end quickly as he led 8-4 in the 3nd, but Rosner recovered fought backt to win the game 11-9. But the effort clearly took its toll as Matthew stayed in front throughout the 4th.
 James Willstrop (ENG) v  Gregory Gaultier (FRA)
 Nick Matthew (ENG) v  Ramy Ashour (EGY)
 James Willstrop (ENG) bt  Amr Shabana (EGY) 11-5, 2-0 ret. (12m)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt [Q] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) 11-6, 11-2, 11-9 (39m)
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt  Karim Darwish (EGY) 12-10, 8-11, 11-5, 11-3 (56m)
 Nick Matthew (ENG) bt Simon Rosner (GER) 11-7, 11-6, 9-11, 11-6 (63m)