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withdrawn from this week’s Kuwait PSA Cup, which may now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
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
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.