KARIM DARWISH versus MANSOOR ZAMAN
Mansoor, like Shahid, has Pakistan’s tournaments bolstering his ranking, but unlike Shahid has yet to win a single match this year off home soil. He hasn’t beaten Darwish in a PSA event before.
The expected 2nd round meeting of Darwish and Ricketts won’t be appealing to either of them. On paper (and current form) Ricketts will win this, but not too many eyelids are batted when Darwish beats a player ranked above him.
ANTHONY RICKETTS versus PETER BARKER
He’ll have to play great squash to cause an upset here, but Ricketts won’t be taking him lightly.
MOHD AZLAN ISKANDAR plays Qualifier 6
3* DAVID PALMER plays Qualifier 7
Palmer is the fourth previous World Champion playing in this event. He made the final of the Qatar Classic last week, showcasing his fitness with successive five-set victories over Gaultier and Lincou to reach the final.
In theory he has a quarterfinal date with Ricketts. Neither player will be happy with this draw and the result could go either way.
12* NICK MATTHEW versus MOHAMMED ABBAS
Nick Matthew is currently ranked 11 with a career high last year of 5. He lost in last year’s World Open in the first round to Graham Ryding (who went on to have match ball in the semi final against eventual champion Lincou).
In the 2003 event he made the quarterfinals and in 2002 lost in the 2nd round to Ricketts. These results are more erratic than what you normally see from Matthew who is usually very consistent with his results.
His opponent is world # 19 Mohammed Abbas from Egypt. Abbas has had steady results in this event in the past. In 2002 he lost in the first round to Boswell, then in 2003 got past Victor Berg and Simon Parke to lose to Ricketts in the third round. Last year in Qatar he lost in the 2nd round to Shabana.
Matthew is usually the fitter and hungrier of these two, but Abbas can be more unpredictable and difficult to read. Abbas is obviously a good enough player to win this match, but it will be a surprise if that happens.
8* JAMES WILLSTROP versus WAI HANG WONG
Willstrop, currently ranked 8, only dropped one game on the way to his victory last week in Qatar. Considering he had to beat Parke, Matthew, Gough, Ricketts and Palmer along the way it was a pretty spectacular feat.
Even though it was a major tournament, Willstrop may find himself in the unfortunate position of receiving very little ranking improvement from such a significant win. His December ranking will take a big jump, but unless he does very well in Hong Kong or Saudi Arabia (which on form is very likely) it’ll drop straight back down in January. In December last year he made the quarter finals of the World Open and won the Pakistan Open so he has a lot of ranking points that he has to defend.
His first round opponent in Hong Kong is the local wild card entrant Wai Hang Wong.
Wong is currently ranked 105, but has been in the 60s earlier this year. He hasn’t beaten a player in the top 50 yet, but at last year’s Hong Kong Open he got a game off Peter Nicol after receiving the wild card.
He had to play Boswell earlier in the year as Boswell made his rapid rise through the small tournaments, so he’s had some recent experience with the pace Willstrop plays at.
14* GRAHAM RYDING plays Qualifier 8
Ryding is currently ranked 13. His ranking received a well-deserved boost from last year’s World Open semi final appearance, but since then he has only won three first round matches and hasn’t beaten a player in the top 20.
Qatar didn’t go to plan, with a rejuvenated Ong Beng Hee defeating him in the first round. He’ll be hoping to reverse that trend here, but a theoretical 2nd round appointment with Power, a player that he hasn’t beaten in a PSA event before and who has beaten him five times in a row for the Canadian National title, doesn’t make his task any easier.
2* JONATHON POWER versus ONG BENG HEE
is currently ranked 2. His results in the World Open haven’t
been ideal since he was champion in 1998. His results since then have
Ong Beng Hee is currently ranked 17. A long way from his career high of 7, but he’s enjoying playing and much happier with his technique and style of play. His recent victories over Parke, Palmer and Ryding will help his motivation for this event. His previous best result in the World Open is the third round. He hasn’t beaten Power in any of their four meetings, but this match will be very different. Being considerably closer than most major tournaments he’ll have a bigger support group. Power will have a very tough fight on his hands.
Again the ‘Stewart Boswell Factor’ needs to be considered. Boswell dispatched Iskandar and Power in Qatar and will have a more appropriate ranking in December so this scenario won’t keep happening. One unfortunate seed will be very disappointed after the qualifying finals are finished.
The players who have first round qualifiers are:
3* DAVID PALMER
I’d be surprised if Boswell didn’t beat Iskandar or Zaman, but would put him as underdog against Shabana, Gaultier, White and Palmer. Against Tuominen and Ryding I’d put him as narrow favourite, but you never know.
Other qualifiers to watch out for include:
Gough – he’s having a spectacular return
to form. He has made the quarter finals and semi finals of this event
before and had a pretty comfortable run to the quarterfinals in Qatar
beginning with a straight sets victory over Beachill.
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