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19 Jun 2024

Willstrop Ready For Biggest Challenge In Hi-Tec World Championships In Manchester

10 Oct 2008

England number one James Willstrop prepares to lead home interest in next week's Hi-Tec World Squash Championships in Manchester, acknowledging that "it's probably one of the biggest events I'll ever play in".

The championships, the first in the UK to combine both the Men's World Open and Women's World Open, will be held at the world-renowned National Squash Centre at Sportcity, from 11-19 October.

Willstrop, the 25-year-old world number three from Leeds, is third seed in the men's event - and keen to become only the second man in history to add the senior title to the World Junior Championship crown he won six years ago.

The Yorkshireman's preparations have been hampered by an ankle injury - but, despite losing at the semi-final stage in the Internationaux de France last month, Willstrop was happy with his performance in France's equivalent of the British Open.

"The ankle is OK - I've worked hard on it with my Physio and it feels fine. I've done everything I can," explained the top-ranked Englishman. "If anything, what happened in France enhanced my plans - I wanted some good games and I got them.

"I was very pleased with the way I played against Borja (Golan) - he's one of those players pushing on the door and he played really well.

"But the World Open is where the focus is - it's the biggest event we've got to play. It's so special - it's probably one of the biggest events I'll ever play in.

"I know it's a bit of a cliché - but I really just want to enjoy it. But I must be much more relaxed than I was last year in Bermuda. I want to revel in it and make the atmosphere work.

"But I'm not going there to lose," Willstrop emphasised.

With Squash looking to achieve its long-awaited wish to be part of the Olympic Games programme, delegates from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will visit the Manchester World Championships as part of the process which will lead to a decision for the 2016 Games being made next year.

"I don't understand what more we can do to convince the IOC that our sport deserves to be in the Games," urged Willstrop. "We can't give them anymore than we'll give them in Manchester - the tournament will be outrageously good. This is the best place to see it.

"Squash is an ABSOLUTE Olympic sport - it's physical and mental and requires speed and agility. And it's a 'minority' sport - which is what I believe the Olympics should be all about."

When asked if he feels under any pressure, leading home interest in Manchester, Willstrop replied: "I don't sit around thinking about it. You have that all the time as the world number three. I'm used to pressure - it's part of sport. But I'm pleased to be at the top of the pile - especially knowing that there is a good group of English players behind me."

And on winning the title, Willstrop said: "It's an incredible thought - there wouldn't be anything that would top that feeling. It's a feeling someone's going to experience - but it's such a massive task.

"To be world champion in your own backyard would be phenomenal!"

Willstrop begins his 2008 World Championship campaign with a first round match against a qualifier. Men's favourite Amr Shabana, the world number one from Egypt seeking to become only the fourth player in history to win the World Open title for a fourth time, also faces a qualifier in the opening round.

In the women's event, world number one Nicol David is favourite to reclaim the title she lost to Australian Rachael Grinham last year. The two-time champion from Malaysia takes on compatriot Sharon Wee in the first round.

Men's 1st round draw:
[1] Amr Shabana (EGY) v Qualifier
Borja Golan (ESP) v Shawn Delierre (CAN)
[9] Wael El Hindi (EGY) v Qualifier
Omar Mosaad (EGY) v Qualifier
[6] Thierry Lincou (FRA) v Amr Swelim (EGY)
Renan Lavigne (FRA) v Qualifier
[10] Ong Beng Hee (MAS) v Tom Richards (ENG)
Hisham Mohd Ashour (EGY) v Chris Ryder (ENG)
[4] Ramy Ashour (EGY) v Qualifier
Cameron Pilley (AUS) v Qualifier
[12] Peter Barker (ENG) v Eric Galvez (MEX)
Joey Barrington (ENG) v Aaron Frankcomb (AUS)
[8] Nick Matthew (ENG) v Qualifier
Stewart Boswell (AUS) v Tarek Momen (EGY)
[15] Laurens Jan Anjema (NED) v Rafael F Alarcon (BRA)
Farhan Mehboob (PAK) v Julien Balbo (FRA)
Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) v Qualifier
[16] Olli Tuominen (FIN) v Daryl Selby (ENG)
Jonathan Kemp (ENG) v Jan Koukal (CZE)
[5] David Palmer (AUS) v Qualifier
Davide Bianchetti (ITA) v Qualifier
[13] Lee Beachill (ENG) v Qualifier
John White (SCO) v Mansoor Zaman (PAK)
[3] James Willstrop (ENG) v Qualifier
Alister Walker (ENG) v Julian Illingworth (USA)
[11] Mohd Azlan Iskandar (MAS) v Kashif Shuja (NZL)
Aamir Atlas Khan (PAK) v Qualifier
[7] Karim Darwish (EGY) v Qualifier
Mohammed Abbas (EGY) v Qualifier
[14] Adrian Grant (ENG) v Omar Abdel Aziz (EGY)
Shahier Razik (CAN) v Saurav Ghosal (IND)
[2] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v Qualifier

Women's 1st round draw:
[1] Nicol David (MAS) v Sharon Wee (MAS)
[13] Rebecca Chiu (HKG) v Lauren Briggs (ENG)
[8] Laura Lengthorn-Massaro (ENG) v Annelize Naude (NED)
[9] Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY) v Qualifier
[4] Natalie Grainger (USA) v Qualifier
[10] Vanessa Atkinson (NED) v Jaclyn Hawkes (NZL)
[6] Shelley Kitchen (NZL) v Qualifier
[14] Madeline Perry (IRL) v Engy Kheirallah (EGY)
[12] Kasey Brown (AUS) v Qualifier
[5] Jenny Duncalf (ENG) v Raneem El Weleily (EGY)
[16] Samantha Teran (MEX) v Qualifier
[3] Natalie Grinham (NED) v Dominique Lloyd-Walter (ENG)
[15] Isabelle Stoehr (FRA) v Qualifier
[7] Alison Waters (ENG) v Qualifier
[11] Vicky Botwright (ENG) v Qualifier
[2] Rachael Grinham (AUS) v Louise Crome (NZL)