Saturday, October 31, 2009

Welcome to the World Open Squash Blog

Since SquashSite isn't present at the World Open in Kuwait, and therefore will not be providing our usual coverage, we thought we'd put the bulk of the tournament  in Blog format ... easier to post for us, easier to search for you.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Palmer bids for third world title

Australian number one David Palmer will be bidding for his third world title when squash's biggest tournament gets underway in Kuwait City on Sunday. The Men's World Open brings together the top 64 male professionals in a purpose built venue at Kuwait's Green Island Resort.

Palmer, from Lithgow in New South Wales, will spearhead Australia's challenge and is joined in the field by Canberra's Stewart Boswell, New South Wales pair Cameron Pilley and Scott Arnold and Hobart's Aaron Frankcomb.

The 33-year-old Palmer, now based in Boston, won the title in 2002 and 2006 and, despite being written off as a force many times over the past few years, he still presents a formidable challenge to his more fancied rivals.

Nicknamed The Marine for his phenomenal fitness and resolve, Palmer relishes the challenge of major tournaments and seems to get stronger the longer he remains in contention. He will play French qualifier Julien Balbo in the first round and, if the seedings go as expected, he would face world number three Amr Shabana in the quarter-finals.

Boswell will play Arnold in the first round with the winner expected to face former world number one Thierry Lincou in a tough second round encounter.

Pilley should progress to the second round after he drew young English qualifier Joe Lee, where he would probably play Egyptian wonder kid Mohammed El Shorbagy, the reigning world junior champion.

Frankcomb, who like Arnold had to qualify for the tournament, has been drawn against classy Malaysian Azlan Iskandar.

Frenchman Gregory Gaultier remains favourite for the title after he reached the worlds top ranking earlier this month. However, he has to get past a trio of Egyptian challengers in Karim Darwish, Shabana and Ramy Ashour, and British Open champion Nick Matthew from England. Other threats to the Frenchman come from Palmer, who beat him in five games to win the 2006 title, and resurgent Englishman James Willstrop.

Ashour & Shabana In Third Final Bid In Kuwait

Leading Egyptians Ramy Ashour and Amr Shabana will be hoping to contest their third successive final in Kuwait in next month's Kuwait Men’s World Open 2009, after sharing honours in the 2007 and 2008 Kuwait Open finals.

The pair are seeded three and four, respectively, in the premier event on the PSA World Tour which will be staged at the Salmiya Club and Green Island Resort from 1-7 November.

After winning the World Open title for the first time last year in England, 22-year-old Ramy Ashour will be bidding to become the first player to successfully defend the title since the legendary Jansher Khan in 1996.

Meanwhile Amr Shabana is also seeking to emulate an achievement of the great Pakistani player of the 80s and 90s.  World Open champion in 2003, 2005 and 2007, Shabana is hoping to become the first player since Jansher to win the title four times - a feat only otherwise achieved by Australian Geoff Hunt and Pakistani Jahangir Khan.

Currently ranked four in the world, Ashour made history in July 2006 when he became the first man to win the world junior title for a second time.  Less than a year later, the formidable youngster had leapt to a career-high No2 in the world rankings.

Ashour faces unseeded Mexican Jorge Isaac Baltazar Ferreira in the first round and is expected to meet Dutchman Laurens Jan Anjema in the last sixteen before a predicted clash with England's seventh seed Peter Barker in the quarter-finals.

In the lower half of the draw, the reigning World Champion is expected to line up against the sport's new French World Number One Gregory Gaultier in the semi-finals.

Amr Shabana will be celebrating his tenth successive appearance in the World Open in Kuwait - and has reached at least the quarter-finals in every event since 2003.  Despite ending a remarkable 33-month reign as world number one in January, the 30-year-old left-hander from Giza has continued to dazzle on the PSA World Tour - picking up the Malaysian Open and US Open titles in the summer before clinching his fourth successive Hong Kong Open crown earlier this month.

Shabana takes on English qualifier Shaun le Roux in the opening round, before a likely confrontation with Malaysia's 12th seed Mohd Azlan Iskandar in the last sixteen round.  The draw predicts a clash with Australian rival David Palmer, a two-time World Open champion, in the quarter-finals before a meeting with top-seeded compatriot Karim Darwish in the semi-finals.

However, should Ashour and Shabana confound the seedings to contest the 2009 World Open final, it will be the pair's 13th PSA Tour meeting.  And it is the senior of the two who leads the current head-to-head standings, at 7-5.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Darwish Bids For Double Revenge

Egypt's world number one Karim Darwish will be after revenge next month in Kuwait where he is seeded to win the Kuwait Men’s World Open 2009, the premier event on the PSA World Tour which will be staged at the Salmiya Club and Green Island Resort from 1-7 November.

Darwish, who has topped the PSA world rankings since January, is expected to face second seed Gregory Gaultier in the World Open final on Saturday (7th November).  The anticipated meeting will give the 28-year-old from Cairo the chance for double revenge against the Frenchman, who is expected to replace Darwish at the top of the November PSA world rankings which will be announced on the eve of the championship.

But Darwish will also want to avenge the outcome of his last Kuwait clash with Gaultier - in the quarter-finals of the 2008 Kuwait Open, which the Frenchman won in straight games.

However, the Cairo King celebrated a notable victory over his European rival in their last meeting on the international circuit, in the final of the Sky Open in his home town in September - when Darwish won 11-6, 7-11, 6-11, 11-9, 11-3 to record the 16th PSA World Tour title of his career and his third Super Series crown.

"This is the first big tournament I've won in Egypt," said Darwish afterwards.  "I had full confidence in myself in the final and really wanted to win.

"I think Greg and I played a good game, but the difference came probably from my motivation to win," added the charismatic Egyptian star.  "And winning a tournament is such a great feeling!"

Darwish's incentive to win the Kuwait Men’s World Open 2009 - which boasts a prize-fund of US$277,500, the largest ever offered by any World Tour event - is further boosted by his runners-up finish in the 2008 World Open in England.  The favourite begins his campaign against experienced Pakistani Mansoor Zaman, the former world No11 from Peshawar.

A tough last 16 encounter with 11th seed James Willstrop, the former world number two from England, should be followed by a quarter-final encounter with eighth-seeded Frenchman Thierry Lincou, the 2004 World Champion.

And - according to the draw - awaiting the favourite in the semi-finals will be third seed Amr Shabana, Darwish's Egyptian team-mate who is bidding to become only the fourth player in history to win the title for a fourth time.

Monday, October 26, 2009

World Open Hails New World No1 Gaultier

Next month's Kuwait Men’s World Open 2009, the premier event on the PSA World Tour which will be staged in Kuwait from 1-7 November, will herald the first appearance of a new world number one in Squash.

According to the Fédération Française de Squash, the achievement of reaching the Hong Kong Open final last week will lead to Gregory Gaultier being named as the new world number one when the PSA issues its next ranking list on the 1st November, which coincides with the opening of the World Open.

Twice a runner-up in the World Open, Gaultier will become the second Frenchman to top the world rankings - after Thierry Lincou.  The success also makes France only the fifth country (after Pakistan, Australia, England and Egypt) to boast two world number ones.

"We are delighted that Gregory Gaultier will make his first appearance as world number one at the Kuwait Men’s World Open 2009," said Robert Edwards, Kuwait Men’s World Open 2009 Technical Director and Presenter.

"The championship already features the very best players in the world - and we will now have five players who have been world number one!"

Second seed Gaultier will meet Scot Alan Clyne in the first round and is expected to face Egypt's defending champion Ramy Ashour in the semi-finals.  The 26-year-old from Aix-en-Provence is scheduled to line up against current world number one Karim Darwish, who is also from Egypt, in the final on Saturday 7 November.