For the second time in five years, a qualifier has reached the final of the EBS Dayton Open in the USA after unheralded Pakistani Yasir Butt removed top seed Adrian Grant in the semi-finals of the PSA World Tour International 25 squash event in its eighth year at the Dayton Squash Center in Dayton, Ohio.
It was in 2006 that a young 19-year-old Ramy Ashour fought his way through two qualifying rounds, became a crowd favourite with his flashy play and determination to win, and found himself in the championship match against world No10 John White. Ashour lost that final but came back the next year to avenge the loss and beat White in the final of the 2007 championship.
In 2011, history has repeated itself: Qualifier Butt, a 23-year-old from Lahore ranked 95 in the world, now finds himself in the final with No2 seed Alister Walker, the world No20 from Botswana.
In the opening semi-final, in front of a packed gallery at the Dayton Squash Center, Butt defeated England's world No17 Adrian Grant 11-6, 11-8, 11-9 in 47 minutes.
The English left-hander looked tentative in the first game and wasn't moving as well as the night before. Down 5-9, the crowd could see that Grant knew he had a problem on his hands and Butt won the first game.
"The second and third games were eerily similar," reports tournament organiser Charlie Johnson. "Butt sensed that Grant was vulnerable and got off to early leads in both and kept the ball in the front of the court and applied constant pressure with incredible attacking drops. The final rally was a 45-second youtube video of the whole match: a long rally that Butt finished off with a winner."
Butt later acknowledged that his strategy from the start was to attack the front of the court on every loose ball: He knew Grant's game from the back of the court was strong and that if he tried to play a length and power game against Grant, he'd be out on the court too long and playing to Grant's strengths.
"Grant admitted he started tentatively and a little tight in the first game and could never find his stride after that," added Johnson. "Grant had seen some of Butt's earlier matches, respected his shot-making ability and knew that the front was going to be attacked - but just couldn't find the right counter strategy on this night in Dayton."
In the other semi, former England international Alister Walker beat fourth seed Chris Simpson, the world No54 from England, 15-13, 11-7, 12-10 in 43 minutes.
The final will be Butt and Walker's first meeting since September 2005, when the pair contested a first round match in the Kolkata International in India - where Walker prevailed in five games.
Butt is marking the ninth PSA World Tour final of his career - but his fourth this year - while Walker is celebrating his eighth, but first in 2011.
RESULTS: PSA International 25 EBS Dayton Open, Dayton, Ohio, USA
[Q] Yasir Butt (PAK) bt  Adrian Grant (ENG) 11-6, 11-8, 11-9 (47m)
 Alister Walker (BOT) bt  Chris Simpson (ENG) 15-13, 11-7, 12-10 (43m)
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