By Sports Reporter/Doha
The 2016 edition of the Qatar Classic begins at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex today.
The six-day PSA World Series event is the third stage on the Road to Dubai series—after the Hong Kong Open and US Open—which will culminate with the World Series Finals in Dubai from June 6 to 10 next year.
With the top eight players on the Road to Dubai standings earning a place in the end-of-season Dubai finale, the Qatar Classic offers another chance to the world’s top squash players to accrue points and qualify for the lucrative season-ender.
There have been some big pullouts—Ramy Ashour withdrew last week with a hamstring injury, which came a day after the pullout of World No. 2 Gregory Gaultier due to a damaged ankle—to rob the event of some sheen, but there are still enough top names, led by World No. 1 Mohamed ElShorbagy, to look up to for some quality and exciting action over the next six days.
Some of the most famous names in the world of squash have had their name adorned on the coveted Qatar Classic trophy since the tournament’s inaugural year in 2001.
ElShorbagy is the defending champion—the 25-year-old Egyptian beat France’s Gaultier in last year’s final, a victory which saw him win his next six World Series tournaments in a row—and would be aiming to become the first man to win the Qatar Classic title three times in succession after also prevailing in 2013.
The Alexandria lad won’t have it easy though, as despite the pullouts the field is still stiff, with the likes of compatriot and world champion Karim Abdel Gawad, former World No. 1 James Willstrop and three-time world champion Nick Matthew all in fray.
ElShorbagy will meet Peruvian two-time World Junior champion Diego Elias, who moved into the main draw after the withdrawal of World No. 6 Ali Farag, in the opening round today.
Gawad will look to continue his breathtaking form after lifting the sport’s biggest prize last week in Cairo, where he defeated three-time winner Ashour to become only the third Egyptian winner in the illustrious tournament’s history. He will take on a qualifier in round one.
Willstrop has also been in fine form this season, building on a quarter-final finish at the Hong Kong Open with a first World Series semi-final in two years in Philadelphia. He will meet fellow Englishman and World No. 20 Chris Simpson a first round fixture, while ‘The Marksman’s’ long-term rival, Matthew, is also in action against tournament wildcard Abdulla Mohd al-Tamimi of Qatar.
Hong Kong’s Max Lee and exciting Australian Ryan Cuskelly will face off in a mouthwatering opening round clash, while German Simon R?sner and Marwan ElShorbagy have all got qualifiers in round one.
Ashour, who is one of the most popular players in Doha, picked up the hamstring injury during last week’s World Championship final against compatriot Gawad.
The maverick Egyptian made it all the way to the final in Cairo before being forced to shake hands in the fourth game of his clash with Gawad, bringing a premature end to the match while also forcing him to pull out of the Doha event, the scene of two of his three World Championship triumphs.
Frenchman Gaultier damaged his ankle during his quarter-final fixture with Tarek Momen at last week’s World Championship in Cairo, which forced him out of his semi-final clash with Ashour.
Meanwhile, Ashour’s compatriot, World No. 6 Ali Farag, has also withdrawn from the Qatar Classic after suffering a hip injury during training.
German Simon Rosner now takes Ashour’s place as the number eight seed in the draw and will meet a qualifier in the opening round, while Switzerland’s Nicolas Mueller moves into the main draw and will also face a qualifier.
Main Draw (Round 1)
Playing Today: 1-Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v Diego Elias (PER) 18:30; Leo Au (HKG) v Qualifier (19:30); James Willstrop (ENG) v Chris Simpson (ENG) 12:00; Qualifier v 7-Simon Rosner (GER) 20:30; 6-Tarek Momen (EGY) v Qualifier (15:00); Gregoire Marche (FRA) v Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) 13:00; Saurav Ghosal (IND) v Qualifier (14:00); WC-Abdulla Mohd al-Tamimi (QAT) v 4-Nick Matthew (EGY) 17:30
Playing Tomorrow: 3-Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v Qualifier (18:30); Tom Richards (ENG) v Zahed Mohamed (EGY) 13:00; Max Lee (HKG) v Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) 15:00; Qualifier v 5-Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) 20:30; 8-Cameron Pilley (AUS) v Qualifier (19:30); Cesar Salazar (MEX) v Omar Abdel Meguid (EGY) 14:00; Nicolas Mueller (SUI) v Qualifier (12:00); Daryl Selby (ENG) v 2-Omar Mosaad (EGY) 17:30
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