New York hosts Year’s first World Series challenge!

The Tournament of Champions has been played for several years at the prestigious Grand Central Station in New YorkThe Tournament of Champions has been played for several years at the prestigious Grand Central Station in New York

Englishmen James Willstrop, the new World No1, and Nick Matthew, who was at the top of the world rankings throughout 2011 head a world-class field at next week’s JP Morgan Tournament of Champions (18th to 22nd of Jan), the 1st PSA World Series event of the new year at Grand Central Terminal in New York.

The 32-player draw features 24 of the world’s top 30 players, with the remaining eight spots to be determined by a 32-player qualifying draw. The 2012 draw features 6 players who have topped the world rankings, and 3 returning titleholders – England’s 2010 champion James Willstrop; Frenchman Greg Gaultier, the 2009 winner; and Egypt’s Amr Shabana, the champion in 2006 and 2007.

It was on the eve of the event that Ramy Ashour, the defending champion and 2008 winner from Egypt, announced his withdrawal due to on-going hamstring problems.

After finishing as runner-up on 3 occasions, top seed Nick Matthew will be hoping for 4th time lucky! The 31-year-old will be making his Tour comeback after sustaining an adductor injury in Kuwait in November.

New World No1 James Willstrop will also be a serious title contender. Winner of the last three World Series events of 2011, the 28-year-old is seeded to meet Matthew in the final. Rounding off the top 6 seeds are former world No1 and 3-time semi-finalist Karim Darwish of Egypt, and England’s Peter Barker, one of the most consistent performers over the 2011 World Series.

Julian Illingworth, the highest-ever ranked US player on the PSA Tour, will take on Canada’s Shahier Razik in the first round. The only player among the top 24 making his JP Morgan Tournament of Champions debut is Aamir Atlas Khan of Pakistan – whose uncle Jansher Khan won the Tournament of Champions the first year it was contested in Grand Central Terminal.

Other activities during tournament week include the ToC Junior Invitational Tournament with the finals of all draws on the ToC glass court on January 22. NY Squash will host the Grand Open amateur tournament, a qualifying event for the US National Skill Level Championships. Participants from New York City urban youth enrichment charities StreetSquash, CitySquash and PowerPlay NYC, will participate in clinics with the tournament competitors.

1st round draw:
[1] Nick Matthew (ENG) v Omar Mosaad (EGY)
Adrian Grant (ENG) v Qualifier
Cameron Pilley (AUS) v Olli Tuominen (FIN)
[7] Mohamed El Shorbagy (EGY) v Aamir Atlas Khan (PAK)
[5] Amr Shabana (EGY) v Mohd Ali Anwar Reda (EGY)
Hisham Mohamed Ashour (EGY) v Qualifier
Nicolas Mueller (SUI) v Qualifier
[3] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v Borja Golan Santin (ESP)
[4] Karim Darwish (EGY) v Daryl Selby (ENG)
Tarek Momen (EGY) v Simon Rosner (GER)
Tom Richards (ENG) v Qualifier
[8] Thierry Lincou (FRA) v Qualifier
[6] Peter Barker (ENG) v Qualifier
Julian Illingworth (USA) v Shahier Razik (CAN)
Alister Walker (BOT) v Qualifier
[2] James Willstrop (ENG) v Qualifier