World No.1 and top-seed James Willstrop of England during a practice session at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex yesterday. Willstrop will face compatriot Chris Ryder in the opening round match of the $325,00 PSA World Championship which begins from today. CENTRE: Qatar’s Abdulla Al Tamimi during a practice session yesterday. Tamimi will clash with India’s Saurav Ghosal in his first-round match. RIGHT: Nick Matthew of England. Matthew won the last two PSA World Championship titles in Holland and Saudi Arabia. PICTURES BY: SYED OMAR
Doha: World No.1 and top-seed James Willstrop of England - keen to end the year with a flourish - will face compatriot Chris Ryder in the opening round match of the $325,00 PSA World Championship which begins from today at the Khalifa International Tennis & Squash Complex.
Willstrop, who won the North American Open and finished runner-up in seven other tournaments this year, is bidding to become only the third world junior champion to add the senior title.
The Yorkshireman has got a good draw for the Qatar championship, as his major rivals all languish in the bottom half of the 64-man draw.
But, Willstrop doesn’t agree that he will have it easy in Doha.
“I do not thing there is anything as a kind (easy) draw nowadays. The PSA Tour is so strong; all the players are so strong. All the players pose big threats everywhere. Every match I play is a challenge. I just (aim to) take each (opponent) one by one.”
Runner-up to Matthew, two years back in Saudi Arabia, the Englishman is determined to lay his hands on one trophy which is missing from his collection.
“I am focused on my first match. Right now, I am not thinking about Nick (Matthew), Greg (Gregory), Ramy (Ashour) or Karim (Darwish) in such a long event involving six rounds. I just look at my opponents (round by round) and I have to beat them and I have to be ready for every single one.”
For the 29-year-old the biggest hurdle will come from yet another Englishman Matthew whom he displaced from the top of the ranking summit. Matthew, who topped the world rankings throughout 2011 but saw Willstrop succeed him for most of this year, is in the running for a hat-trick of PSA World Championship titles having won the last two editions in Holland and Saudi Arabia.
If the 32-year-old wins in Qatar, he will become the first player since Pakistan’s legendary Jansher Khan to claim the trophy three times in a row.
“It’s been my main focus the whole year really,” said Matthew.
“Obviously I have been chasing hard to be consistent enough to get back the world number one ranking, but if I had a straight choice between the two, I would choose this every day,” he added.
Matthew begins his title defence against the Switzerland number one Nicolas Mueller, the highest-ranked Swiss player of all-time.
“Winning the title three times in a row would be career-defining – but I also think it’s important not to get too far ahead of yourself. I have a tough first round match with Nicky and that’s all I’m looking at for now,” said the man from Sheffield.
But, the two Englishmen will face a challenge to the predicted all-English final from the Egyptians. Former champions Ashour and Amr Shabana are both in Matthew’s half of the draw.
Ashour despatched Matthew in the US Open semi-finals in Philadelphia in straight games - and will be looking for a second world title after success in 2008.
But Shabana already boasts four title triumphs - in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009 - and will be celebrating his 13th successive appearance in the event since 1998. Fifth seed Ashour faces compatriot Marwan El Shorbagy, the world junior champion, in the first round whilst the illustrious seventh-seeded Shabana takes on a qualifier.
With three runner-up finishes over the past six years, Gaultier will be hoping to add his name to the trophy for the first time. Seeded three, the recent US Open runner-up begins his bid against Egyptian Mohammed Abbas.
Egypt’s former World No.1 Darwish is also seeded to reach the semi-finals. The No.4 seed from Cairo is in the top half of the draw, with a qualifier as his first test.
Players from 21 countries will contest the 64-man main draw and a further 11 nations were represented in the qualifying competition which ended yesterday.
This is the third time Qatar is hosting the World Championship, formerly known as the World Open. Qatar first hosted it in 1998 and then later in 2004. The championship reaches its climax on December 14 with the winner picking up a cheque of $45,600. The Peninsula