NICK Matthew remains on course for a third North American Open title - but must overcome the stiffest of obstacles in world No 1 Ramy Ashour.
Ashour dispatched of Matthew’s fellow Yorkshireman and defending champion James Willstrop in the first semi-final in Richmond, Virginia, before Matthew achieved the same 3-1 winning margin against Gregory Gaultier.
It means the top two seeds will contest an eagerly-anticipated final, throwing together contrasting styles and temperaments that have clashed so regularly over the last few years.
In recent meetings, top seed Ashour - who has been runner-up for the last three years after winning the event in 2009 - has the upper-hand over Sheffield-born Matthew, coming out on top in seven of their last eight contests.
Matthew’s solitary success over the Egyptian in that time came, satisfyingly, in last year’s British Open final.
After defeating France’s Gaultier 11-6, 11-3, 8-11, 11-7 in a fiercely-fought semi-final that lasted just over an hour, Matthew said: “I’m looking forward to the final because we’ve played each other plenty of times here over the years.
“It’s an interesting contrast in styles and should be a great match. I have lost to Greg a couple of times recently so it was good to get the win.”
Willstrop, from Leeds, went down 11-5, 11-8, 9-11, 11-8 in 54 minutes to an impressive Ashour, now set to contest his ninth straight final on the PSA Tour.
“I feel like a little mouse every time I play him,” Ashour said of 30-year-old Willstrop after his victory.
“He is so big that I am always running round him, trying to find a gap to run through to get to the ball.
“He is not doing it deliberately but he is such a big guy that he is tough to play. He is always fair.”
The final is scheduled to start at 10.30pm UK time, with live coverage being provided online at http://www.psasquashtv.com