• Kuwait PSA Cup  • 23-29 Nov 2011 • Kuwait •  








Matthew’s world title follow-up
preview from Richard Eaton

Nick Matthew hopes to follow his successful defence of the World Open title in Rotterdam a fortnight ago by becoming year-end world number one for the second successive time.

Although the 31-year-old Englishman is officially only 338 ranking points ahead of Ramy Ashour, the Egyptian has withdrawn from this week’s Kuwait PSA Cup, which may now allow Matthew to consolidate his lead until the end of 2011.

Ashour remains sidelined by the hamstring injury which halted his bid to regain the world title, and may cause him to miss the year’s last major tournament, the Punj Lloyd PSA Masters, in Delhi next month as well.

Matthew by contrast is favourite to win the $165,000 World Series event starting here today, which is the joint richest tournament outside the World Open, and part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of Kuwait’s independence.

Staged under the patronage of Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Jal Sabah, the Amir of Kuwait, there will be an element of new frontiers about it, with the quarter-final line-up being drawn out of the hat after the last 16 matches have finished.

But even though Matthew is the man of the moment he was beaten in last week’s World Series event in Hong Kong by Greg Gaultier, the Frenchman who also extended him to four highly dramatic games in the World Open final.

This revenge for the former world number one from Aix-en-Provence may again be Matthew’s biggest threat, especially as he called out “je reviens” as he did.

Gaultier, who has done well to get recover painstakingly from injury this year, said later: “Everyone knows we were playing in the final of the World Open, and I was dying for revenge.”

He would love to repeat that achievement here, to underline that he is again a long-term contender for the sport’s biggest prizes after an interval of several months.

Matthew meanwhile claims he does not intend to let up. “I just want a couple of days rest after Hong Kong, and then to finish the year strongly,” he said.

There are several other potential threats, including two other Egyptians - Amr Shabana, the four times former world champion, and Karim Darwish, the former world number one, who has moved up to second seed.

However the in-form man is the other leading Englishman, James Willstrop, who has climbed to world number three after beating Darwish in the final and Gaultier in the semis in Hong Kong.

Willstrop’s additional reward is a ranking points total which places him ahead of Ashour at the moment and behind only Matthew, thus equalling his highest ever position.

That will not officially put Willstrop in second place until the rankings are released next month, but he would love to finish the year with a strong challenge to his fellow Yorkshireman and to his long-time rival’s occupation of the pinnacle.

New look for Kuwait Cup draw

A brand new event format, reflecting the open draw style of English football's prestigious FA Cup, will be launched by the Professional Squash Association this week in Kuwait.

The Kuwait PSA Cup will feature the top 48 players in the world - but the top 16 will receive byes into the second round, and the draw for the quarter-finals will not be made until the last 16 round has been completed.

The event, from 23-29 November, is being held to honour the 50th anniversary of the sovereign Arab state of Kuwait, and will be staged under the patronage of HH Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Jal Sabah, the Amir of Kuwait. The players will be competing for the HH Sheikh Saad Abdullah Al-Sabah Trophy, created in honour of the late Patriarch Amir of Kuwait.

"The top eight players in the PSA world rankings are so close today that matches between them are often too close to call," said PSA Chief Operating Officer Lee Beachill.

"Without at this stage making the complete draw open, we wanted to introduce some variety in the final stage of one of our major events - squash fans want to see different line-ups from those that fixed draws often set up.

"We feel the 48 draw format really highlights the tremendous depth currently on the PSA World Tour and with players from 21 different countries all competing in Kuwait, I don't think our top 50 has ever been so universal.

"Kuwait really wanted a showcase event and I think the Kuwait PSA Cup delivers just that," added the former world number one. "A unique draw format, the very best players in the world, and the added twist of a random draw for the quarter-final line ups."

The quarter-final draw will be made at a Gala Dinner in Kuwait on a rest day once the line-up has been resolved - with the highest-ranked player drawing his opponent, then the next drawing his, etc, until the following day's schedule is confirmed.

Jahangir Khan, the record ten-time British Open champion who is the event's vice chairman, said: "The Kuwait PSA Cup will be a major event in Kuwait as the country celebrates the 50th anniversary of its independence in 1961.

"It will also be a tribute to Sheikha Fadyah Al-Sabah, who has personally done so much to raise the profile of squash in Kuwait."

Sheikha Fadyah Al-Sabah, daughter of the Patriarch Amir HH Sheikh Saad Abdullah Al-Sabah, is the event's Chairman. The Sheikha has played a major role in supporting squash in Kuwait over the past ten years, and is currently responsible for five men's and women's events each year.