WILLSTROP SEEDED TO MEET AUSSIE ACE PALMER IN LIVERPOOL 08 SQUASH FINAL
England’s rising star James Willstrop is seeded to meet Australia’s former world champion David Palmer in the final of the inaugural Liverpool08 Open Squash Championship in May.
World No.3 Willstrop, who led England to the World Team Championship in Pakistan in December, is relishing the opportunity to claim a major PSA world tour title on home soil.
The 22-year-old from Pontefract has just returned home after competing in the Commonwealth Games in Australia and the Bermuda Masters.
He said: “After all the travelling we do it’s great to see such a brilliant new tournament being staged in Liverpool. The venue at St George’s Hall looks absolutely incredible and all the players were talking about the tournament in Bermuda.”
Promoted by Squash UK in conjunction with Liverpool Culture Company, the Liverpool08 Open Squash Championship is a PSA Super Series Silver event and therefore the biggest squash in Europe and one of the top six in the world in terms of prize money and ranking points.
Willstrop added: “It’s fantastic to see a tournament reach such a high level in its first year and the organisers and sponsors have obviously done a great job in putting everything together.”
Willstrop faces a qualifier in the first round and is due to meet the winner of an intriguing clash between No.14 seed Shahid Zaman of Pakistan and England’s Joey Barrington.
World No.27 Barrington is the son of squash legend Jonah, the man who was largely instrumental in creating squash’s first steps into professionalism three decades ago. Zaman is the nephew of Qamar Zaman, a brilliant stroke maker and a career-long rival of Jonah.
Also in Willstrop’s half of the draw are Egyptian Karim Darwish, who beat him in a recent tournament at Canary Wharf, London, and France’s No.3 seed Thierry Lincou, who spent the whole of 2005 at the top of the world rankings.
Willstrop’s main British rivals are all in the top half of the draw. Yorkshire and England team-mates Nick Matthew and Lee Beachill, seeded four and five, are due to meet at the quarter-final stage.
Another mouthwatering clash in the same round features top seed Palmer and big-hitting Scot John White. The two met in an absorbing World Open final in Antwerp three years ago when Palmer recovered from match ball down to take the title.
White is the hardest hitter in the history of squash, having been registered belting the ball at an astonishing 172mph.
Other Brits in the top half include Welsh No.1 Alex Gough, who faces English youngster Jonathan Kemp, Kent’s Adrian Grant and Yorkshire’s world tour veteran Simon Parke, who is still playing great squash at the age of 35.
In all, 18 of the world’s top 20 have entered the tournament, which features qualifying rounds at Liverpool Cricket Club on May 1 and 2 before the main event moves to the beautiful surroundings of St George’s Hall from May 3-7.
The 32-draw first round will see eight matches at both venues on Wednesday May 3 as big-time squash arrives on Merseyside.
The tournament features two days of live TV coverage on Sky Sports during the finals weekend and will be preceded by a Merseyside Squash Festival on the previous weekend.
Full details from the official tournament website www.squashuk.com/liverpool
LIVERPOOL08 OPEN TICKET HOTLINE: 0871 230 9808.
Book online at www.ticketmaster.co.uk