Yorkshire duo maintain Richmond challenge

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NICK Matthew believes the continued rise in quality of squash in the USA can only benefit the sport as a whole in the long run.

The 32-year-old, from Sheffield, safely negotiated his way into the last eight of the North American Open in Richmond, Virginia, on Wednesday night, setting up a quarter-final clash with England team-mate Peter Barker.

Matthew was made to fight hard for his place in the last eight, taking three-quarters-of-an-hour to win 11-7, 11-8, 11-6 against Egypt’s Tarek Momen - who caused an upset back in 2011 when beating the Yorkshireman in the second round of the Qatar Classic.

Momen may have been affected by his near-90-minute marathon in the first round the previous day against America’s Chris Gordon, a further sign, Matthew believes, that US squash is on the up.

“Chris and I share the same coach, David Pearson, and I discussed tactics with him when he was drawn against Tarek,” said Matthew, the current world No 2 and winner of the event in 2010 and 2011.

“But it’s one thing to offer advice and another to follow it yourself. The scoreline doesn’t do Tarek justice. It was a very hard-fought match and it’s not easy to get a three-love against such a good player.

“I was pleased for Chris the previous night. I told him not be content with just qualifying for the main draw and he took it on board.

“With so many important tournaments in the States nowadays, it’s good to see a US player contributing so much and engaging the crowd as Chris did last night. It’s certainly good for the game.”

James Willstrop also progressed - twice in one day effectively - enjoying a slightly more comfortable time on court than his fellow Yorkshireman when dispatching of Colombia’s Miguel Angel Rodriguez 11-7, 11-7, 11-1.

It initially set up a quarter-final duel with Egypt’s Karim Darwish, who had beaten Hisham Mohd Ashour only to then pull out with a calf injury to give Willstrop a bye into the semi-finals on Friday.

The 30-year-old, from Leeds, will face either top seed and world No 1 Ramy Ashour or Germany’s Simon Rosner, who overcame No8 seed Omar Mosaad in their second round encounter.

Elsewhere, Barker beat Olli Tuominen 11-4, 11-6, 9-11, 11-4, while Gregory Gaultier overcame Adrian Grant 11-4, 11-4, 11-6. Seventh seed Amr Shabana defeated fellow Egyptian Karim Abdel Gawad 11-9, 9-11, 11-3, 11-8.