The semi-finals of the Kuwait Cup may not feature either of the two top-ranked players, both now absent through injury, but the four who are left would grace the final stages of any competition.
Kuwait PSA Cup Semi-Finals: James Willstrop (Eng) v  Gregory Gaultier (Fra)  Karim Darwish (Egy) v  Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egy)
First up at 19.30 are two old European adversaries in James Willstrop and Gregory Gaultier, both 28 years old.
Willstrop is currently the for player, having won in Hong Kong last week – beating Gaultier in the semis – but it was only just over a month ago that the Frenchman triumphed over Willstrop in the final of the Qatar Classic. In between there was the little matter of the World Open in Rotterdam in which Gaultier was runner-up and Willstrop a semi-finalist, losing to … Gaultier.
Tonight they will be playing for the fourth time in four tournaments, but their history goes back way longer than that, having met 22 times since they progressed through the junior and senior ranks together.
Gaultier leads 14-8 overall, but take away his 5 junior victories and the tally looks better from the English point of view. Willstrop’s win in Hong Kong broke a run of four straight wins for Gaultier though, so who will win this, their 5th meeting of the year, is a mystery to us …
The second semi-final will be won by an Egyptian. Second seed Karim Darwish didn’t have to play his ‘dream quarter-final’ against Nick Matthew last night, so will come into the match fresh.
Mind you at 30 he’s giving away a full 10 years to Mohamed El Shorbagy, so that extra rest may be needed.
Both have been world junior champion – Shorbagy twice – and were team-mates as Egypt retained their world team title in Paderborn two months ago, but all that will be put aside tonight as the young gun tries for his first win over the established master.
In fact, Shorbagy’s first aim will be to take his first game against Darwish, who has won all 3 of their encounters in straight games.
The youngster has got to 9 in 4 of those games though, and as we all know (well, you do now), he doesn’t tend to lost ‘tie-breaks’, so let him get to 10 at your peril, Karim …