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Willstrop blocks the dream from his mind

576   //    08 Dec 2012, 11:05 IST


James Willstrop

World number one James Willstrop, pictured in 2011, is blocking from his mind what has been called a “dream draw” as he overcame a hesitant start in his bid to win the world title for the first time.

World number one James Willstrop is blocking from his mind what has been called a “dream draw” as he overcame a hesitant start in his bid to win the world title for the first time here on Friday.

The top-seeded Englishman finished strongly enough during a 7-11, 11-5, 11-3, 11-3 win over his compatriot Chris Ryder, and explained how he dealt with the dangers of thinking of the great opportunity which lies ahead.

“The field is getting stronger and stronger,” he said after recovering from a game and 2-0 down against an opponent ranked 58 places below him.

“You just have to be ready all the time.”

But although Willstrop claims he has not thoughts about a draw which has landed four former world number ones in the other half, one of his more proximal rivals, Mohamed El Shorbagy, the eighth-seeded Egyptian, certainly has.

“Everyone says it’s a dream draw for James, which puts a bit of pressure on him,” reckoned El Shorbagy, who could meet Willstrop in the quarter-finals. “I am sure he is trying to block it out of his mind.

“But there are three players in the other half who have won the world title already, and none in the top half who have. And those three have won seven world titles between them. That says it all.

“But I am under no pressure. I am only 21 and have plenty of time, ” added El Shorbagy, who somehow combines his pursuit of major squash titles with final year studies for a business degree at the West of England university at Bristol.

El Shorbagy has worked hard to clear his mind by finishing three study assignments before coming to Qatar, and had only a few lapses in the third game of an 11-8, 11-9, 10-12, 11-5 win over his fellow Egyptian, Ali Anwar Reda.

Willstrop overcame his early blips by playing his way methodically into the contest on an uniquely unusual centre court, which is often fast off the front wall but much slower at the back.

Gradually the top seed’s accuracy became more stifling, and as this forced Ryder more often into leaving the ball short or in the middle, Willstrop unfolded some of the relentless aggression which has made him the tour’s most consistent player.

Earlier another 21-year-old Egyptian student, Karim Abdel Gawad, caused the world championships’ first upset.

Gawad is trying to complete a business studies degree at Misr University at Giza, yet when it came to finishing off the 12th seeded Tom Richards in the fifth game of a superbly contested first round match, the undergraduate did so like a master.

Indeed the part-timer’s 9-11, 11-6, 4-11, 11-5, 11-7 victory over the accomplished Englishman brought gleaming predictions from Egyptian head coach Amr Wagih.

“This performance shows that there is a green light showing for Karim,” he said.

“We have several other young players who should do very well but Karim has so much ability he can go all the way to the top.”

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