Pressure off Duncalf ahead of World Open

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JENNY Duncalf goes into tomorrow’s Women’s World Open wanting to end a frustrating 2012 on a high.

After two days of qualifying, the event – by far the biggest on the women’s tour – begins in earnest tomorrow in the tropical location of the Cayman Islands, a far cry from the wet and cold Harrogate Duncalf left behind earlier this week.

The 30-year-old launches her bid for glory not knowing who her first-round opponent will be until later tonight when the qualifying phase is completed.

Up until August this year, Duncalf had enjoyed being world No 2 for almost two-and-a-half years. She occasionally got the better of dominant world No 1 Nicol David but without ever seriously challenging her status as the world’s best player which, come January, she will have held for a staggering seven years.

But the combination of a poor year and the loss of ranking points accrued last year sees Duncalf currently sitting at 12th in the world and seeded just sixth for the event.

Her dip in form has been caused in part by a nagging foot injury, but that has resulted in the pressure being off Duncalf going into a leading event for the first time in years.

Combined with a renewed determination to step up her training regime in recent months, it is a relaxed and confident Duncalf heading into the final tournament of the year.

“Like the men’s tour, this is the biggest event of our season, the one that everybody looks towards,” said Duncalf, who along with every other player will be trying to somehow prevent David lifting a seventh title in eight years.

“It hasn’t been a good year for me I must admit. I’ve struggled with this foot injury and maybe played a couple of events I shouldn’t have – although that’s easier said than done.”

It was a shock first-round exit at the hands of Egypt’s Omneya Abdel Kawy at the China Open at the end of October that was the catalyst for Duncalf to increase her training programme, something she feels has had a positive impact.

“I think as a result of dropping down the rankings and seedings the pressure is off me going into this event,” she added.

“I’ve never been worried about rankings and all that. I made a decision after Shanghai to get back into my training a lot more and I’m more confident as a result of that.

“It’s a good chance for me to finish the year well and there’s nowhere better to do that than at the worlds.”

n Ramy Ashour triumphed over fellow Egyptian Mohamed El Shorbagy to become world champion for the second time since 2008.

Ashour, who had already dethroned England’s defending champion Nick Matthew to ensure his status as world No 1 next month, won 2-11 11-6 11-5 9-11 11-8 after 90 minutes.