Ashour said the rehab taught him to be good with his hands. “I knew when I had a loose shot I had to win it,” he said. “I can’t hit an O.K. shot and run around. Injuries have been so valuable. They taught me patience, how to deal with struggling. They taught me to take chances, to be more alert, to be more self-conscious.”
Recently, Ashour has sustained numerous injuries, notably a rare hamstring problem that he has sought help for in England, Germany, Qatar and the United States. Because of the hamstring injury, Ashour did not play competitively from May to November in 2014. In his first event back, he captured the World Championship. Then he had meniscus surgery and didn’t play again for five more months.
In the past three years, he has retired midmatch because of injuries six times and has won four tournament titles. In September, after a four-month layoff because of a liver infection, he returned to sweep through the China Open in Shanghai. Joey Barrington has nicknamed him the Maverick, because everything he does on and off the court is unorthodox.
“I am staying positive,” Ashour said. “But I didn’t realize that staying positive was so hard. I thought it was just a sentence: ‘Be positive.’ It is not easy to be positive. People say, ‘Wake up with a smile.’ I have to have a plan for me to wake up with a smile. We are not prophets. I hate this idea that everything has to be perfect.
“Changing yourself is tough. I am a perfectionist. People say all the time that I smile a lot. Why do I smile? Because it makes life easier.”
Ashour said that if he does well in the Tournament of Champions, he might finally settle down and commit to a one-year lease on an apartment. He’s eying one in Queens.