Australian Open Crucial in No 1 Ranking
29-Mar-2010 - Australian Open Team
The Battle to be Number One in the World
As a Platinum event on the Men's World Squash Tour, neither of the two major challengers for the number one ranking in the world can afford not to collect maximum points in the Australian Open. As the first major championship after the June-July tour break, the Australian Open in August will provide the battle ground for two fit champions to fight it out on the court.
Ramy Ashour is the current world number one and the youngest to achieve this feat at 22 years of age since the legendary Pakistanis Jahangir Khan and Jansher Khan. He has retained this ranking since January this year recently winning the CIMB KL Open, defeating a former number one in Karim Darwish in the final.
But there may be kinks in his armour. Ramy lost the final of the Tournament of Champions in New York's Central Station and then followed that with a loss to Nick Matthew in the North American Open.
In contrast, the World Nunber two, Nick Matthew seems to be going from strength to strength. Although he lost to Ramy in the Mumbai Masters late in 2009 and again in the Tournament of Champions semi-final, he has strung together three major wins in the last few months. Matthews is the champion of the CASE Swedish Open, the North American Open and just this weekend, he defeated former British Open champion Gregory Gaultier in the final of the ISS Canary Wharf Classic in London.
What strengthens the claim of Nick Matthews as the 'bookies favourite' for the Australian Open and the World Number One crown is the resilience he has displayed in tough matches. In his semi-final match at Canary Wharf, he defeated his compatriot James Willstrop in an exceptional match lasting over two hours and which left both players almost unable to stand in the fifth set. In the end, it was cramping by James that brought the match to a close. But such a long draining match should have made it difficult for Matthews to win the final the next day. Instead, it was Gaultier who appeared unable to give his best in the final game.
The relative strengths of the two challengers for the number one spot sets up a fascinating year. On the one hand, Ramy with sublime touch, attacking flair and youth on his side, should maintain his world dominance easily. But it also looks as though Ramy will also have to manage his body and his fitness to ensure he is in the best shape for the big events. Nick seems to be 'in the zone' with his fitness and energy on the court, supplemented by a new found deception in the front court.
Who will win? The pace, power and drive of Matthew against the subtlety and finesse of Ashour. Throw in the luck of the draw and the effort involved in winning the semi-final matches. 2010 could be the best year yet for high quality squash.
Who will win? Make sure you are in Canberra in August with 2,000 squash fanatics in the Royal Theatre where all the top players will be battling for their ranking points, Super Series points, over $157,000 in prize money and their name on that famous trophy with all of the greats of world squash. Don't miss out.