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• Canary Wharf Squash Classic • 18th to 22nd March 2013 • London •  

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28-Feb-2012:
WILLSTROP WARMS UP
WITH RICHMOND WIN

By ALAN THATCHER

James Willstrop warmed up for the Canary Wharf Classic by winning the Davenport North American Open in Richmond, Virginia.

Willstrop, who is bidding for a fourth Canary Wharf title this year, is enjoying the best form of his career.

He has reached the final of six of his last eight tournaments and has racked up four PSA World Series titles since November in the game’s elite series of events.

He is returning to world No.1 in the March rankings but his great rival Nick Matthew is top seed at Canary Wharf.

London’s premier squash tournament is being staged at the superb East Wintergarden venue from March 19-23 and tickets have already sold out for the semi-finals and final.

Squash fans are clearly intrigued by the massive rivalry between England’s two leading players, who are both from Yorkshire. Despite Willstrop’s current success, Matthew has beaten him 15 times in a row, including the final of the Tournament of Champions in New York and the British National Championships in Manchester.

They avoided meeting in the North American Open as Matthew crashed to a rare straight-games defeat to Egyptian Ramy Ashour in the semi-finals.

Willstrop went on to beat Ashour with a commanding performance that denied his opponent any opportunities to display his outstanding shot-making abilities.

Willstrop said: “I had to find a way to contain Ramy’s attacking play. He will hit winners all day if you let him but I was very pleased with the way I played.”

Willstrop had removed No.3 seed Gregory Gaultier of France in a 97-minute semi-final and added: “That gave me a lot of confidence going into the final. It was a wonderful feeling over Christmas knowing that I was going to be world number one for the first time and I was very disappointed to lose it the next month. It made me determined to win it back, and I was pleased to play well enough to get back to number one in March.”

World champion Matthew Tweeted: “I don’t think many people expected that result in the Richmond final. James played a tactical master-class and deserved the win.”

He was realistic about his own form and shortcomings in Richmond, especially in his loss to Ashour. The first two games went to tiebreaks and Matthew, who blew leads of 10-7 in the first and 8-4 in the second, admitted: “I have got some important lessons to learn from that. It was hard to push on in the third when I could and possibly should have been 2-0 up. I was weak in the third, though.”

Egyptians in waiting ...

There are plenty of Egyptians lying in wait in the Canary Wharf draw, including No.4 seed Mohamed El Shorbagy and his younger brother Marwan. Marwan succeeded his bother as world junior champion and both have made significant impact on the senior rankings, with Mohamed rising to number six earlier this year.

Mohamed has been drawn against wild card Joe Lee, from Surrey, and Marwan meets fellow Egyptian Tarek Momen, who enjoyed a shock victory over Matthew in Qatar last year.

Matthew meets Mohamed Ali Anwar Reda in the first round and is seeded to meet England team-mate Daryl Selby in the quarter-finals.

Willstrop has been drawn against his Leeds-based training partner, Saurav Ghosal, the Indian number one.

East-Ender Peter Barker, the number three seed who has been struggling injury since Christmas, is in line for a tough quarter-final against German number one Simon Rosner, who gave Matthew a hard time in Richmond. Fellow Londoner Adrian Grant is scheduled to meet Mohamed El Shorbagy in the quarters.

Tickets for the 2012 Canary Wharf Classic cost from £15 and are available from Ticketmaster. The fabulous East Wintergarden offers superb opportunities for corporate hospitality, with the gallery restaurant offering “the best view of squash anywhere in the world” according to Nicol.

The qualifying competition takes place at Wimbledon Racquets and Fitness Club on March 17-18 with four winners joining the top 12 seeds in the main draw.

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Nicol's View

Joint promoter Peter Nicol said: “It is an intriguing draw with the top English players and so many talented Egyptians coming over this year.

"I am sure it will guarantee another week of entertaining squash for our loyal and knowledgeable audience at Canary Wharf.”

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