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Squash: Shabana into British Open quarter-finals

Amr Shabana, the most successful male player of the 21st century, kept alive his chances of becoming the oldest British Open champion of the professional era when he strode into the last eight on Thursday.

KINGSTON UPON HULL, United Kingdom: Amr Shabana, the most successful male player of the 21st century, kept alive his chances of becoming the oldest British Open champion of the professional era when he strode into the last eight on Thursday.

The four-times former world champion from Egypt played close to his best in the third and fourth games to win 11-5, 9-11, 11-4, 11-6 against Gregoire Marche, an in-form French qualifier.

Shabana is 35 in two months' time, yet still showed more than enough movement to impose a fluidly expressive style which has made him one of the game's greats.

He also adapted well, something that became necessary when the tenacious Marche made significant headway in the second game.

"He began to suck me into his game plan, and by the time I reacted in that game it was too late," said Shabana. "I got a bit carried away with the hitting, but after that I got back to playing better points."

Better points involved moving Marche forward without taking too many risks, and then striking the ball to a destructively accurate length.

Once Shabana started to do that the character of the match changed, and spectators warmed to the exciting patterns which the Egyptian master was then able to create.

He made them gasp with the deft drop shot with which he wrapped up the third game and the bursts of applause became more frequent as he became increasingly successful in deciding when to hit short or long.

There was also one curious moment where the referee awarded a penalty stroke, and Shabana called out "no -- a let," the decision which was duly allowed.

It was a contrast to the previous round in which Shabana received a conduct stroke for an incident which saw Max Lee, the Hong Kong player, knocked to the ground from behind.

"The referee kept telling me to go through to the ball, so I just tried to do that," Shabana said after the Lee match. "He was in front of me and I just did what I was told, to go through him to get the ball."

Both incidents highlighted some of the controversies raised by a referees' directive for a new emphasis in decision-making. Lets are to be given less frequently, better to maintain the continuity of rallies.

"It's easier to do this when you have two fair players," Shabana said. "But referees will struggle when players become spikey with each other.

"It will take time. Referees have been doing it the same way for 20 years and now they have to change, which is not easy."

Shabana, who surprisingly has never won the British Open, now has a quarter-final with Gregory Gaultier, the second-seeded world number one from France, who won 11-3, 11-7, 11-9 against Miguel Angel Rodriquez, the Colombian who is the first South American in the world's top 20.

Men's second round:
Amr Shabana (EGY) bt Gregoire Marche (FRA) 11-5, 9-11, 11-4, 11-6

Women's second round:
Alison Waters (ENG) bt Tesni Evans (WAL) 11-7, 11-9, 11-6
Joelle King (NZL) bt Joshana Chinappa (IND) 11-6, 11-7, 8-11, 11-1
Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY) bt Camille Serme (FRA) 8-11, 9-11, 11-6, 11-9, 13-11
Nicol David (MAS) bt Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 11-6, 13-11, 11-4

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