YORKSHIRE’S world-leading duo of Nick Matthew and James Willstrop are seeded to meet each other in the final of the North American Open – but there are pitfalls lurking along the way for both players.
World No 1 Matthew – going for his third straight title – finds himself in the bottom half of the draw with an opening round tie against Colombia’s Miguel Angel Rodriguez.
But it is Sheffield-born Matthew’s likely semi-final opponent who will set pulses racing in Richmond, Virginia, with former world No 1 Ramy Ashour making his return to the PSA Tour after being sidelined with a hamstring injury since December.
Should the 24-year-old Egyptian manage to stay injury-free, it is expected he will add another dimension to the battle for supremacy at the top of the world rankings that has been waged between Matthew and Willstrop for the past five months.
Ashour was world No 1 prior to Matthew’s stint at the top for the whole of 2011.
Three tournament wins at the end of 2011 for Leeds’s Willstrop saw the 28-year-old become world No 1 for the first time in January, only for Matthew to snatch it back with victory over him in the JP Tournament of Champions in New York.
Willstrop – top seed for the event – is again likely to find France’s Gregory Gaultier his main threat in the top half of the draw, although a first round tie against Switzerland’s Nicolas Mueller – ranked 21st in the world – is a tougher start than normal for top seeds at ranking events.
With another defeat to Matthew at last week’s British National Championships – albeit not a ranking event – Willstrop will be keen to end his long wait for a win over his fellow Yorkshireman should he be presented with the chance in next Saturday’s final.