Early in the third game of the Men’s Finals at the Tournament of Champions, I ask my table mate at the ToC bar why she likes Ramy.
“He just has a certain aura about him that’s very . . .” She pauses and tilts her head. “Yummy.”
Yup. Maybe some of you can’t relate. But I definitely didn’t look away when he lifted his shirt mid-match to swipe his face. And with his cross between teddy bear and leading man looks coupled with a way with a racquet that makes not only his opponent’s blood race, I can see why so many of us are smitten. His opponent, Greg Gaultier’s own on-court wizardry may be impressive as well, but there is something quite cool about it, in direct contrast to Ramy’s heat.
Up until this point in the match, however, Gaultier (FRA) had been the leading man at 11-7, 11-6 and while points had lasted for year-long minutes, Gaultier was not giving Ramy (EGY) many opportunities to show his forecourt magic. For every drop dead beautiful shot, he had hit many more heart sickening tins. Although I’m sure they were music to Gaultier’s ears. And by the beginning of the third game, it was enough for another bar mate to declare of Gaultier, “I think he’s got this locked up.”
To which, the first said dreamily, “Ramy, I want to make you dinner.”
I’m not quite sure what she meant by that, but by coincidence or not, Ramy did seem to appear more hungry from that point on. And just when Gaultier looked like he was going to pull off a three zip win, something in Ramy finally turned on and revved up. At 10-10, he cranked up the pace, as if to say ‘if I’m going down, I’m going down with everything I’ve got.’
But to my delight – and I’m sure to everyone who came out to Grand Central on this Mongolian winter-like night – he didn’t go down. He tallied up two more points to 12-10 and inspired a late arriving bar mate to shout, “Yay! More drinking!”
I’d like to say that she got in a few more pints after that, but Ramy, clearly, didn’t want to waste anymore time. The points weren’t played in glacial time, as they were earlier in the match; it was as if the ball and racquets had stepped out for a quadruple shot latte between games. In perhaps the most memorable point of the match, with Ramy leading 5-2 in the 4th game, the ball flew between the wall and the players’ racquets at the front of the court and there was gasp after gasp as both Ramy and Gaultier’s reflexes reacted in what seemed impossible retrievals. They juggled the ball back and forth, the rest of us at the edge of our seats, until Gaultier punched left and Ramy deflected it with a jab to the corner. For those of you who can press memory replay better than I, you can let me know what that winning shot was…. a nick or was it a reverse corner? In any case, it was stunning – and perhaps literally so, because Gaultier pretty much gave up that game after that (3-11), saving himself (or so we thought) for a fifth game battle.
But it wasn’t to be. Ramy smelled blood . . . and leaden limbs. Gaultier’s victory the night before had cost him a fresh set of legs and Ramy just plowed what was left down with a confidence and accuracy in his array of shots that he hadn’t had in the first two games. Although it wasn’t totally that Ramy was on fire, as much as Gaultier was no longer able to put the flames out. Ramy seared through the last game 11-1.
A come-back? Certainly. Yet also a collapse. And after the grueling play of a tournament, certainly not surprising. But after five games (7-11, 6-11, 12-10, 11-3, 11-1) and an admirable fight, we must congratulate our new leading man for 2013 and it’s Mr. Ramy Ashour.
For some amazing highlights of both the men’s and women’s ToC finals, eat your squash heart out here