James Willstrop new World No1!

Englishman James Willstrop displaced fellow country-man Nick Matthew and became World No1 for the first time in his career (photo: Paderborner Squash Club))

The top of the PSA Men’s World Squash Rankings will feature a new look with the England’s James Willstrop (pic) makes his debut as World No1 in the first list of 2012, published on New Year’s Day by the Professional Squash Association. The 28-year-old succeeds England team-mate Nick Matthew, who has headed the world rankings since January 2011.

It was a stunning end-of-year run on the PSA World Tour that led Willstrop to overtake his great rival and become the 17th World No1 of all-time – and the 4th Englishman, following Matthew, Lee Beachill, and Peter Nicol.

Willstrop completed the best four-week run of his career this month in India when he won the PSA Masters in New Delhi – immediately following World Series title triumphs at the Hong Kong Open and the Kuwait PSA Cup. “It’s been a tremendous week since India,” said the new World No1. “It came at a good time as it gave me the opportunity to think about it, to celebrate it and enjoy it.

Willstrop competes in his 1st event as World No1 next week at The Queen’s Club in London, where he is the top seed in the ATCO PSA World Series Finals – the flagship PSA event which features the 8 players who have earned the most points from the 9 PSA World Series championships in 2011. “Being introduced as World No1′ at my first event next week in my home country will be very special – I can’t pretend otherwise,” added Willstrop.

Matthew is at 2 in the January rankings, ahead of Frenchman Greg Gaultier at No3, and a trio of Egyptians Ramy Ashour, Karim Darwish and Mohamed El Shorbagy, who is celebrating a career-high No6 ranking in the new list.

Dutchman Laurens Jan Anjema and Malaysian Mohd Azlan Iskandar have both moved up to career-high-equalling positions of 9 and 10, respectively. But also in the list are Egyptian Tarek Momen, who moves up two places to a best-ever No18, and two top 20 debutants Simon Rosner and Tom Richards.

Rosner leaps an impressive five places to take up 19th place – thus becoming Germany’s first top 20 player for more than 16 years. The five-time German champion achieved last 16 finishes in the last 2 World Series events of the year, and at the Kuwait PSA Cup claimed one of the best scalps of his career when he beat Egypt’s Amr Shabana in straight games.

Richards leads the next wave of top England players and made his senior international debut in 2011. The 25-year-old from Surrey made the second round of the PSA Masters after upsetting Egypt’s Hisham Mohamed Ashour.

January 2012 top 20 (incl. points average):
1 [2] James Willstrop ENG 1,373
2 [1] Nick Matthew ENG 1,299
3 [3] Gregory Gaultier FRA 1,159
4 [4] Ramy Ashour EGY 1,073
5 [5] Karim Darwish EGY 981
6 [8] Mohamed El Shorbagy EGY 672
7 [7] Peter Barker ENG 644
8 [6] Amr Shabana EGY 616
9 [12] Laurens Jan Anjema NED 498
10 [10] Mohd Azlan Iskandar MAS 465
11 [16] Daryl Selby ENG 370
12 [11] Thierry Lincou FRA 369
13 [15] Omar Mosaad EGY 368
14 [13] Hisham Mohamed Ashour EGY 348
15 [17] Alister Walker BOT 337
16 [18] Cameron Pilley AUS 320
17 [19] Adrian Grant ENG 311
18 [20] Tarek Momen EGY 290
19 [24] Simon Rosner GER 277
20 [21] Tom Richards ENG 276