By ALAN THATCHER
THE Canary Wharf Classic is heading for another sell-out as squash fans clamour for tickets to see the world’s leading players compete in London’s premier squash tournament.
This PSA International 50 event takes place from March 19-23 with world champion Nick Matthew seeded to meet English rival James Willstrop in the final. That outcome would be a repeat of yesterday’s National Championship final in Manchester, where Matthew retained his title and continued his long unbeaten run against Yorkshire rival Willstrop.
Four Egyptian players add a strong international flavour to the Canary Wharf draw as the sport’s top two nations prepare to clash on court.
Matthew will be returning to London to bid for a third consecutive title at the East Wintergarden after winning the last two finals against French ace Gregory Gaultier in 2010 and England team-mate Peter Barker last year.
Tickets for the semi-finals day have already sold out and tournament joint promoter Peter Nicol, the former world champion, said: “The main focus in professional squash is on the astonishing competition between the two Englishmen at the top of the world rankings.
“James won three tournaments back to back at the end of 2011 to reach the world number one position for the first time in his career, but Nick beat him in the final of the Tournament of Champions in New York to return to the top in the February rankings.
“They are seeded to meet again the Canary Wharf final with Nick seeking a hat-trick of titles. That shows how consistent he has been during that period and to win two World Open titles back to back is a phenomenal achievement.
“We are delighted that English players are at the top of the draw, including the experienced trio of Barker, Daryl Selby and Adrian Grant, but with four outstanding young Egyptians in the tournament we are in for some fireworks.”
World number eight Mohamed El Shorbagy and his younger brother Marwan, both world junior champions, lead the Egyptian entourage, with Tarek Momen and Ali Anwar Reda making up a striking quartet.
Momen achieved a surprise victory over Matthew in Qatar in October before the Sheffield-based world champion took a break from the game to have treatment on a torn hamstring that was severely affecting his movement on court.
Nicol added: “We are witnessing an amazing era in squash as a wave of young Egyptians power their way up the rankings to challenge the existing order. Nick and James have enjoyed long spells of consistency and have enormous experience of major tournaments and big occasions, but there is no denying that the Egyptians pose a real threat at Canary Wharf.”
Adding more international flavour, the Canary Wharf Classic has attracted German number one Simon Rosner (the world No.20) and top Indian player Saurav Ghosal (world No.27).
Surrey’s Joe Lee has been awarded the wild card and is delighted to be chosen again after missing last year’s tournament through injury.
He said: “It is a real honour to be selected again and I am looking forward to playing on the glass court at such a wonderful venue in one of the best tournaments on the world calendar.”