England’s James Willstrop (pic le) celebrated his new World No1 ranking in perfect style in London by beating Egyptian Karim Darwish (pic ri) 11-6, 11-5 in 25 minutes in the 1st pool round of the ATCO PSA World Series Squash Finals at The Queen’s Club. In the other Group 2 match, 2nd seed World No3 Greg Gaultier demonstrated some excellent squash to overcome his Dutch opponent Laurens Jan Anjema 11-5, 13-11 in 40 minutes.
The flagship PSA World Tour event, which features the 8 players who earned the most points from the nine PSA World Series championships in 2011, will play 3 days of pool matches leading to the semi-finals on Saturday and grand final on Sunday.
In his first match since topping the World Rankings for the 1st time at the beginning of this month, Englishman James Willstrop gave a convincing display to overcome James Darwish, the world No5 from Egypt 11-6, 11-5 in 25 minutes.
“It’s phenomenal to be World No1,” said the 28-year-old from Leeds after his tenth straight Tour win over the Egyptian since 2006. “The way I played at the end of 2011 to earn the ranking – I couldn’t have hoped for more. To get this first threat out of the way and do so well is a great start.”
In the other match in Group 1, Egyptian Mohamed El Shorbagy despatched fellow World Series Finals newcomer Mohd Azlan Iskandar, the world No10 from Malaysia, 11-7, 11-5 in just 22 minutes. The 20-year-old world No6 from Alexandria is a student at the University of the West of England – and had to sit an exam this afternoon in Bristol before racing back to London to play his opening match! “Can’t believe how well I played…it’s just one of those days where everything was just coming your way”, El Shorbagy said.
There was further Egyptian success later in the evening when four-time world champion Amr Shabana fought back from game down to beat Londoner Peter Barker, the world No7, 7-11, 11-8, 11-7 in 45 minutes. Shabana, at 32 the oldest player in the field, is making his eighth successive appearance in the World Series Finals. Despite reaching the final both in 2008 and 2011, the mercurial former world No1 is looking for his first title – and success at Queen’s would mark his first ever title triumph in England.
In the other Group 2 match, Greg Gaultier demonstrated some excellent pressure squash early on in the first game and had Dutch opponent Laurens Jan Anjema struggling right from the start. The Frenchman’s powerful lengths were forcing loose balls from the Dutchman, and Gaultier looked under no pressure to give up his comfortable spot on the tee. The second game was closer however, and Anjema was able to force Gaultier to a tie-break but the World No3 closed out the match 11-5, 13-11 after 40 minutes.
1st pool round:
 Mohamed El Shorbagy (EGY) bt  Mohd Azlan Iskandar (MAS) 11-7, 11-5 (22m)
 James Willstrop (ENG) bt  Karim Darwish (EGY) 11-6, 11-5 (25m)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt  Laurens Jan Anjema (NED) 11-5, 13-11 (40m)
 Amr Shabana (EGY) bt  Peter Barker (ENG) 7-11, 11-8, 11-7 (45m)
James Willstrop (England, WR 2) – 1 win
Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egypt, WR 8) – 1 win
Karim Darwish (Egypt, WR 5)
Mohd Azlan Iskandar (Malaysia, WR 10)
Gregory Gaultier (France, WR 3) – 1 win
Amr Shabana (Egypt, WR 6) – 1 win
Peter Barker (England, WR 7)
Laurens Jan Anjema (Netherlands, WR 9)