Tournament of Champions 2009

The World of Squash
at Your Fingertips



About SP
Squash on TV
UK Counties
World Links
Online Store
Books, Subs, Videos

Squash Directory
Where to get it all

Classified Section
Job, Jobs, Jobs ...Something to sell...

23rd-29th 2009

Official Website

Gaultier Grabs Tournament of Champions Title In New York


Fourth-seeded Frenchman Gregory Gaultier claimed his first JP Morgan Tournament of Champions title after a gruelling four-game win over 10th seed Nick Matthew of England before a standing room only crowd in Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Terminal in the final of the $117,500 PSA Tour Super Series Gold squash event in New York.


“At the moment I am so tired I can’t feel my body,” Gaultier said after the match. “It is unbelievable - I had to give a big push from start to finish.” 


The contest between the two friends, who first played each other a little more than a decade ago at the 1998 Men’s Junior World Championships, was decidedly European in style.  Matthew jumped out to an early 7-2 lead in the first game, but Gaultier - who has emphasised all week how much mentally stronger he has become - battled back.


Although he didn’t have the lead until the score was 9-8, the focused 26-year-old from Aix-en-Provence won the game 11-9.  The crowd was glued to their seats – and to their standing spots in the front of the court.


Gaultier made several unforced errors in the second game and Matthew quickly won the game 11-2 to draw level.  Historically, the Frenchman’s tendency to make a string of errors had been his undoing.  But this was a new and improved Gaultier on court and the third game was a seesaw battle:  Matthew jumped out early to take a 3-0 lead; Gaultier tied it at three-all.  The Englishman surged ahead again to go up 6-3; Gaultier reeled off several winners to forge ahead to 8-6.  Matthew tied it again at eight-all, but it was Gaultier who grabbed the game 11-8.


Gaultier maintained the momentum to record his maiden New York title victory after 62 minutes in an 11-9, 2-11, 11-8, 11-4 scoreline.


“Gregory made me do a lot of work and that paid off for him in the fourth,” said the 28-year-old from Sheffield afterwards.


Gaultier, now with 15 Tour titles to his credit, responded:  “The score doesn’t reflect how hard the game was.  Even at 7-4, I had to push very hard.”


Matthew, considered one of the strongest and fittest players on Tour, revealed that Gaultier is the only player that he believes has as much staying power and is strong as he is on court.  Both players displayed superlative strength as they moved deep to the corners and covered the entire court during the many lengthy rallies. 


In the past, the Frenchman’s Achilles heel has been his inconsistency.  But there was no such weakness in his game in the final. “I feel that I raised my game round after round here,” said the tired but elated champion.  “I am focusing to win as many tournaments as possible and this is my fourth final in a row. 


“I am really proud to have my name added to the list of great players who have won the Tournament of Champions – players like Jansher Khan, Peter Nicol, Jonathon Power and Amr Shabana.”



. Draw
. Qualifying
. Reports
. Previews

2008 Event Pages
2007 Event Pages
2006 Event Pages


Pictures Courtesy of
Steve Line
Click pics for larger view

Gregory Gaultier beats Nick Matthew to win his first Tournament of Champions.

Nick Matthew beats holder Ramy Ashour to reach the final

Gregory Gaultier beats world no 1 Karim Darwish

Nick Matthew beats 5th seed James Willstrop 3-1 to reach the semi-finals

Gregory Gaultier overcomes David Palmer to reach the semi-finals.


Pictures Courtesy of
Steve Line,
Click pics for larger view

Holder Ramy Ashour struggles through against Cameron Pilley

Adrian Grant recovers from 2 sets down to beat Omar Aziz.

Azlan Iskandar stops 8th seed Wael El Hindi to reach the quarter-finals

Tournament of Champions 2009
Grand Central Terminus, New York, $117k

Round One
 Top Half Jan 23rd
Bottom Half Jan 24th
Round Two
Jan 25
Jan 26/27
Jan 28
Jan 29
[1] Amr Shabana (Egy)
11/8, 11/7, 11/5
[Q] Renan Lavigne (Fra)
Amr Shabana
11-3, 6-1 ret. (15m)
Nick Matthew
Nick Matthew
11-9, 11-6, 1-11, 11-7 (70m)
James Willstrop
Nick Matthew
12-10, 8-11, 11-6, 11-2 (61m)
Ramy Ashour
Nick Matthew
11-9, 2-11, 11-8, 11-4 (62m)
Gregory Gaultier
[10] Nick Matthew (Eng)
Stewart Boswell (Aus)
[5] James Willstrop (Eng)
9/11, 11/7, 11/7, 11/8 (56m)
Olli Tuominen (Fin)
James Willstrop
11-7, 11-9, 11-7 (29m)
Yasser El Halaby
[15] John White (Sco)
12/10, 4/11, 12/10, 11/7 (68m)
[Q] Yasser El Halaby (Egy)
[3] Ramy Ashour (Egy)
9/11, 11/8, 11/7, 11/3 (52m)
Cameron Pilley (Aus)
Ramy Ashour
11-9, 9-11, 12-10, 11-13, 11-9 (82m)
Laurens Jan Anjema
Ramy Ashour
12-14, 11-2, 15-13, 12-10 (68m)
Thierry Lincou
[16] Laurens Jan Anjema (Ned)
14/12, 11/7, 11/5 (42m)
[Q] Amr Swelim (Egy)
[7] Thierry Lincou (Fra)
11/4, 11/6, 11/6 (41m)
Julian Illingworth (Usa)
Thierry Lincou
2-11, 7-11, 11-7, 11-2, 11-8 (81m)
Peter Barker
[9] Peter Barker (Eng)
12/10, 11/4, 11/1 (40m)
Miguel Angel Rodriguez (Col)
[Q] Jonathan Kemp (Eng)
11-8, 11-4, 14-12 (37m)
[12] Ong Beng Hee (Mas)
Ong Beng Hee
11-4, 11-9, 11-1 (30m)
David Palmer
David Palmer
6-11, 11-6, 11-3, 13-11 (67m)
Gregory Gaultier
Gregory Gaultier
2-11, 12-10, 11-5, 11-6 (50m)
Karim Darwish
[Q] Tarek Momen (Egy)
12-10, 11-8, 11-6 (43m)
[6] David Palmer (Aus)
Alister Walker (Eng)
9-11, 14-12, 11-1, 11-3 (61m)
[14] Borja Golan (Esp)
Alister Walker
11-4, 11-9, 11-1 (30m)
Gregory Gaultier
[Q] Daryl Selby (Eng)
11-0, 11-3, 6-1 ret. (19m)
[4] Gregory Gaultier (Fra)
[Q] Mark  Krajcsak (Hun)
12-10, 1-11, 11-5, 10-12, 11-4 (73m)
[13] Azlan Iskandar (Mas)
Azlan Iskandar
6-11, 10-12, 11-5, 11-7, 11-4 (73m)
Wael El Hindi
Azlan Iskandar
11-5, 11-6, 11-2 (26m)
Karim Darwish
Hisham Ashour (Egy)
11-4, 11-8, 11-3 (28m)
[8] Wael El Hindi (Egy)
[Q] Omar Abdel Aziz (Egy)
10-12, 11-8, 9-11, 11-1, 11-9 (92m)
[11] Adrian Grant (Eng)
Adrian Grant
11-8, 11-7, 11-7 (31m)
Karim Darwish
Shahier Razik (Can)
11-3, 11-8, 11-2 (32m)
[2] Karim Darwish (Egy)

22-Jan, Finals:

Tarek Momen (Egy) v Tom Richards (Eng)             
Wade Johnstone (Aus) v Yasser El Halaby (Egy)    

Daryl Selby (Eng) v Kashif Shuja (Nzl)                  
Amr Swelim (Egy) v Simon Rosner (Ger)               

Renan Lavigne (Fra) v Julien Balbo (Fra)                
Jonathan Kemp (Eng) v Aaron Frankcomb (Aus)     

Joey Barrington (Eng) v Mark Krajcsak (Hun)         
Omar Abdel Aziz (Egy) v Chris Walker (Eng)          

Wade Johnstone (Aus) bt Mohammed Abbas (Egy)          11/5, 8/11, 11/9, 5/2 rtd (24m)
Yasser El Halaby (Egy) bt Saurav Ghosal (Ind)          8/11, 11/8, 6/11, 11/9, 11/4 (61m)
Kashif Shuja (Nzl) bt Adil Maqbool (Pak)                                       11/8,11/9, 11/8 (21m)
Daryl Selby (Eng) bt Scott Arnold (Aus)                  11/7, 12/10, 6/11, 5/11, 14/12 (81m)
Renan Lavigne (Fra) bt Ahmed Hamza (Egy)                              
11/7, 11/9, 11/2 (41m)
Julien Balbo (Fra) bt Liam Kenny (Irl)                             8/11, 13/11, 11/4, 14/12 (86m)
Aaron Frankcomb (Aus) bt Ryan Cuskelly (Aus)                          11/7,11/7, 11/2 (71m) 
Jonathan Kemp (Eng) bt Graham Bassett (Usa)                           11/9, 11/5, 11/4 (23m)
Joey Barrington (Eng) bt TG Raubenheimer (Rsa)                      11/4, 11/3, 11/6, (37m)
Mark Krajcsak (Hun) bt Ben Oliner (Usa)                                   11/1, 11/6, 11/3, (24m)
Omar Abdel Aziz (Egy) bt Ali Anwar Reda (Egy)                  11/7, 11/7, 2/11, 11/8 (55m)
Chris Walker (Eng) bt Eric Galvez (Mex)                                      11/9, 11/7, 11/7 (44m)
Simon Rosner (Ger) bt Chris Ryder (Eng)                           9/11, 11/9, 11/4, 11/3 (58m)
Amr Swelim (Egy) bt Bradley Ball (Eng)                  5/11, 12/10, 8/11, 11/2, 11/9 ( 61m)
Tom Richards (Eng) bt Chris Gordon (Usa)                                 11/8, 11/7, 11/7 (40m)
Tarek Momen (Egy) bt Gilly Lane (Usa)                                      11/9, 11/6, 11/5 (34m)



Matthew & Gaultier To Meet In Surprise Egyptian-Free New York Final


England's tenth seed Nick Matthew and fourth-seeded Frenchman Gregory Gaultier will meet in a surprise final of the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions after the Europeans stunned higher-ranked Egyptians in the semi-finals of the $117,500 PSA Tour Super Series Gold squash event at Grand Central Terminal in New York.


The final is not only the first PSA Super Series event climax not to feature an Egyptian since last May's British Open, but it will also guarantee a new Tournament of Champions' champion - the eighth since the inaugural championship in 1993.


Matthew took defending champion Ramy Ashour out of his comfort zone to earn a second appearance in the final since losing to twice champion Amr Shabana in 2006.  The 28-year-old Englishman from Yorkshire took advantage of his strength and stamina to keep the balls tight and deep on the wall, forcing the third-seeded Egyptian to try to create his trademark shot-making from a less favourable position than he is normally accustomed.


"I was changing the pace, and the speed, sometimes hitting high and sometime hitting low," explained Matthew, a former British Open champion, after the match.


Early on, it looked like it was going to be a close encounter when Matthew won the first game in a 12-10 tiebreak and Ashour won the second 11-8.  "I was annoyed that I let the second game go," said the Englishman.  "So I went back to basics in the third and once I got a lead, Ramy seemed a bit disheartened."


Matthew, who was off the Tour for nine months in 2008 with a shoulder injury, looked fresh and strong throughout the match, while Ashour looked increasingly disconsolate.  Between games, England National Coach David Pearson was in Matthew’s corner as they discussed strategy while the 21-year-old World Open champion sat alone, his head in his hands.  After play was done, all Ashour had to say was:  "I just didn’t think I was going to win the match."


Matthew won the third game 11-6 and then easily closed out the match with an 11-2 victory in the fourth.  It wasn’t just length and width that earned the Englishman his victory; he also occasionally and surprisingly displayed the kind of shot-making for which his opponent is better known.  "I don’t mind if people underestimate that part of my game," he said, tongue-in-cheek!


Although he played to a high standard, the winner - now in his 24th career final - noted:  "It is hard to be in the zone against Ramy because he changes the game all the time.  You have to be physically strong, but you also have to be mentally focused on each shot." 


In the final, Matthew will play his good friend Gregory Gaultier, who ousted current world number one Karim Darwish in the evening’s second match. The 26-year-old Frenchman joyfully grabbed the side railings of the court in the players' area after he came off court at the end of the match.


"It’s unbelievable," Gaultier said with a big grin.  "This is my first ToC final and my fourth final in a row."


It didn’t look as though this would be Gaultier’s night at the start of the match when Darwish won the first game 11-2 by playing consistent length and waiting for Gaultier to make errors – which he did.  Darwish used the same strategy in the second game, but Gaultier made enough winners to offset his errors and the game went to a tiebreak which Gaultier won 12-10.


The world No1 changed his strategy in the third game and tried to play a more attacking game, much to his detriment as he began making the errors.  Still, the players were keeping pace with each for the first half of the game.  Midway through, Gaultier had a heated exchange with the referee that seemed to energise him, and he then broke the game open to take a 9-4, lead, ultimately winning the game 11-5.  The fourth game was all Gaultier as he led from start to finish to reach the 32nd Tour final of his career.


"I just tried to stay calm and focused," Gaultier observed after the match.  "I think Karim might have been feeling the pressure of being No1."  Asked to what he attributed his streak of four finals in a row, Gaultier responded:  "I am so much stronger physically and mentally, but especially stronger in the head."


Q/F Top Half

Matthew Upsets Willstrop To Reach Tournament of Champions Semis


Tenth seed Nick Matthew upset James Willstrop, the fifth seed, in the quarter-finals of the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions in a victory which not only levelled Matthew's career head-to-head record over his Yorkshire rival, but took the former world number five into the semi-finals of the $117,500 PSA Tour Super Series Gold squash event at Grand Central Terminal in New York for the first time for three years.


It was a seesaw match - with underdog Matthews taking the first two games and world No5 Willstrop fighting back to take the third for just a single point.


The fourth saw several lengthy points in which both players moved the ball to the four corners of the court, but Matthew had the upper hand as he moved Willstrop up and back and side-to-side, forcing the higher-seeded player to retrieve the ball when he would have preferred to be shooting it.


"I wanted to make him play three or four extra shots on every rally," Matthew commented after taking the pair's Tour head-to-head tally to eight-all.  "In the end, James made just a few more errors on the day."


Willstrop felt the match was more level than the score suggested:  "I actually felt like I controlled a lot of points.  But Nick was very patient and made it difficult for me in the back of the court," explained the 25-year-old from Leeds.


The other quarter-final featured the artistry of 21–year-old world champion Ramy Ashour and the strength and tenacity of former world number one Thierry Lincou, aged 32-year-old.


After losing the first game, Ashour dominated in the second.  "I think Thierry might have taken a little rest there," commented the Egyptian later.  Ahead 9-5 in the third, Lincou had his first game ball at 10-6 and his fourth at 13-12 - but it was Ashour who won the game 15-13. 


The fourth was squash at its best – with both players stretched to the corners.  A fifth game looked on the cards when the Frenchman went ahead 10-8.  But Ashour’s shot-making did not desert him and on a rare error by Lincou - a forehand into the tin - the exuberant Egyptian earned his spot in the semi-finals.


"After this match, my confidence improves," said the defending champion after his 12-14, 11-2, 15-13, 12-10 victory.  "I really enjoyed playing out there tonight.  When you can feel the people enjoying your playing, it gives you extra energy."


 Q/F Bottom Half

Gaultier & Darwish Through To New York Semis


Frenchman Gregory Gaultier, the world No4, and Egypt's new world number one Karim Darwish secured places in the semi-finals of the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions after contrasting victories in the $117,500 PSA Tour Super Series Gold squash event at Grand Central Terminal in New York.


Gaultier let loose with an exultant yell as he entered the players’ area after defeating Australia’s David Palmer in four games:  "I had a tough draw playing David in the quarter-finals.  He doesn’t ever give up from the first rally of the match to the very end.  But I was ready to have a good fight," said the 26-year-old from Aix-en-Provence.


Palmer got off to a strong start, taking a 10-2 lead in the first game. "He was just playing better than me," admitted Gaultier later.  "I was going too short and hitting too many tins."  Down game ball at 2-10, the mercurial Frenchman started to dig deep and scored four points in succession to change the momentum. 


Although he lost the game, the fourth seed entered the second game with renewed confidence and charged out to a 5-1 lead, winning the game at 11-6.  By the third, Gaultier was in complete control, winning 11-3.


Palmer, the four-time British Open champion, was not about to exit the one tournament he has never previously won without one last effort - and stayed even with Gaultier in the fourth game as they exchanged points to seven-all.  The Frenchman snatched three consecutive points to reach match ball at 10-7 - but Palmer was still not about to be counted out and tied the game at 10- 10 and 11-11 before Gaultier finally won two successive points to win the game 6-11, 11-6, 11-3, 13-11 after 67 minutes.


"I am feeling strong physically and mentally," Gaultier commented as he looked ahead to his semi-final encounter with the second seed.


Darwish was surprised at the ease with which he defeated thirteenth seed Mohd Azlan Iskandar in the last quarter-final match.  "I was expecting much more from him," said the Egyptian after the 11-5, 11-6, 11-2 victory which took just 26 minutes.


"But I am quite happy to get to the semi-finals without having lost a game."  The 27-year-old, who assumed the top spot in the PSA rankings this month after being ranked No8 just a year ago, attributes his recent success to being more relaxed and confident.  In particular, he credits some of the turnaround to his marriage to Engy Kheirallah, also a professional squash player, who won the deciding match this past December to clinch the Women’s World Team Championship for Egypt.


Shabana Bows Out As Matthew Progresses In New York


Egypt's Amr Shabana, seeded to win his third title in four years, bowed out of the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions after sustaining a knee injury during his match against England's Nick Matthew in the $117,500 PSA Tour Super Series Gold squash event at Grand Central Terminal in New York.


Matthew, who won his first round by a walkover, was on court for just 15 minutes before Shabana retired with the score at 11-3, 6-1 in the Englishman's favour.


The 12th seed will be well rested for his quarter-final encounter with fellow Yorkshireman James Willstrop. The fifth seed played a relaxed match against Yasser El Halaby, the Princeton University graduate who had a roaring fan contingent in the stands. 


But the 24-year-old Egyptian did not have the experience to mount a significant challenge to Willstrop, who won 11-7, 11-9, 11-7 in 29 minutes - and will now hope to extend his 8-7 Tour head-to-head count against his England team-mate.


Third seed Ramy Ashour narrowly escaped with a victory at Grand Central Terminal to hold onto the opportunity to defend the title that he won for the first time last year. The 21-year-old Egyptian found himself in a real battle against 16th seed Laurens Jans Anjema who elevated his game to take the reigning World Champion to the brink of defeat.


After winning the first game 11-9, Ashour quickly lost the second 3-11.  The 26-year-old Dutchman jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second, but Ashour evened the score at four all.  After several lead exchanges, the third seed secured the third game 12-10.  Anjema responded by winning the fourth 13-11.  Down 7-9 in the fifth, the Egyptian found his touch, winning four straight points to stay in the tournament.


"I feel like I have lost my technique, which is the worst thing that can happen to a squash player," said Ashour, perhaps feeling the pressure of being the sport’s young superstar and world champion.  "When I got out on the court today, I felt like everything was happening all at once."


Ashour’s quarter-final opponent will be former world number one Thierry Lincou, the only player to claim two consecutive victories over Ashour in the past year. The 32-year-old Frenchman had to make a big comeback in his match against England’s Peter Barker to reach the last eight.


After losing the first two games to the ninth seed, 2-11, 7-11, Lincou was energised to turn the tide when his fellow Frenchman Renan Lavigne admonished him:  "You cannot lose this match 3-0," said his French team-mate.  Lincou’s response:  "I decided I just had to hit the ball properly."  And he proceeded to do so – adding power and length to his hitting, and also throwing in some drop shots to win the next three games 11-7, 11-2, 11-8. 


Walker Takes Golan In Tournament of Champions Upset


Unseeded Englishman Alister Walker confounded the seedings in the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions when he upset Borja Golan, the 14th seed from Spain, to reach the second round of the $117,500 PSA Tour Super Series Gold squash event at Grand Central Terminal in New York.


"This is the tournament that gets you most excited," said Walker after his 9-11, 14-12, 11-1, 11-3 victory in 61 minutes.  "And I think I was over-excited at the start of the match."


The Botswana-born 26-year-old now faces Frenchman Gregory Gaultier, the fourth seed who took just 19 minutes to book his place in the second round when English qualifier Daryl Selby retired injured midway through the third game.


The newly-installed world number one Karim Darwish, from Egypt, played with tremendous confidence in defeating Canada’s Shahier Razik 11-3, 11-8, 11-2.


The evening’s final match went the distance as Malaysia’s Mohd Azlan Iskandar needed five games to secure victory over Hungary's Mark Krajcsak. "I’m relieved," said the 13th seed.  "This is my first match back after injury and illness and it was a scrappy, win-at-all-costs affair."

El Halaby Ousts White In First Tournament of Champions Upset


Qualifier Yasser El Halaby pulled off the first upset on the opening day of main round action in the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions when he battled to a five-game win over 15th seed John White in the $117,500 PSA Tour Super Series Gold squash event at Grand Central Terminal in New York.


Although he plays under the Egyptian flag, the Princeton University graduate was the hometown favourite in his opening round match and he rewarded his local fans with a 12-10, 4-11, 12-10, 8-11, 11-7 victory over former White, a former world number one.


El Halaby, who now makes his home in New York City, was nervous going into the match:  "Last year, I think I played my worst match ever right here."  The 24-year-old knew he had an opportunity to improve on his 2008 performance when he drew the veteran John White, who was playing in his final Tournament of Champions having announced his retirement from the PSA Tour to devote all his energy to coaching the Franklin & Marshall College squash team.


White - at 35, the oldest player in the field - extended his opponent for 51 minutes, but El Halaby controlled his nerves sufficiently to seize the victory.  The lowest-ranked player in the tournament will now meet Englishman James Willstrop


The fifth seed prevailed in a scrappy match against tenacious Finn Olli Tuominen.  Willstrop’s all court game ultimately gave him the winning edge and he closed out the match 9-11, 11-7, 11-7, 11-8.


Two-time champion Amr Shabana, who had missed last year’s championship for the birth of his first child, was happy to be back on the glass court under the chandeliers in Vanderbilt Hall. "I missed the atmosphere here - it’s like a great party," said the Egyptian. 


The top seed made it his party with a straightforward 11-8, 11-7, 11-5 win in 31 minutes over France’s Renan Lavigne, who may have been a bit tired from his 113-minute marathon qualifying match the previous night.  Shabana’s next opponent, however, will be more rested:  England’s Nick Matthew advanced in the draw without having to play when Australia’s Stewart Boswell had to withdraw due to a groin injury.


The opening day of the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions got off to a rollicking start in Grand Central Terminal with sell-out crowds and solid play.  "When I walked in here tonight, it looked like it was the finals," said defending champion Ramy Ashour, referring to the capacity crowd which was buzzing with energy and enthusiasm.


Although he dropped the first game, the consummately gifted Egyptian shot-maker got his game back on track in the second and comfortably beat Australian Cameron Pilley in four games.


"I started strong," said Pilley after the match.  "But as soon as I got a little tired, Ramy just put the ball away."  Ashour will next face Laurens Jan Anjema of the Netherlands who defeated qualifier Amr Swelim of Egypt in straight games.


Egyptians Storm Into Tournament of Champions In New York


Egyptians will dominate the main draw of the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions after four players from Cairo came through the qualifying finals to join a further five compatriots in the first round of the $117,500 PSA Tour Super Series Gold squash event in its 15th year at Grand Central Terminal in New York.


Yasser El Halaby, the world No53 from Cairo, took out Australian Wade Johnstone 9-11, 11-3, 11-6, 10-12, 11-4 in a 61-minute marathon to become the lowest-ranked player in the draw.  The 24-year-old now faces Scotland's US-based former world number one John White.


His fellow countryman Omar Abdel Aziz ended the brave run of 41-year-old Chris Walker, beating the former England captain 11-8, 11-8, 11-7 to set up a first round clash with England's Adrian Grant, the 11th seed


Renan Lavigne survived a 113-minute marathon against fellow Frenchman Julien Balbo  - his 5-11, 11-7, 11-8, 6-11, 17-15 victory taking the 34-year-old into a first round clash with top seed Amr Shabana, the former world number one who is looking for his third title in four years.



New York Grand Central Terminal Hosts Year's First Major Event


The world-famous Grand Central Terminal in New York hosts the first major international squash tournament of the year when the world's leading players compete in the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions, a $117,500 PSA Tour Super Series Gold event in its 15th year, from 23-29 January.


Egypt's Amr Shabana is seeded to win the title for the third time in four years - and expected to meet Karim Darwish, the compatriot who ended his 33-month reign as world number this month, in next Thursday's final.


But defending champion Ramy Ashour, a third Egyptian who followed his maiden Tournament of Champions success last year by becoming World Open champion in October, is seeded three - and expected to meet Shabana in the semi-finals.


Rounding out the top six are Gregory Gaultier of France; Englishman James Willstrop; and Australian David Palmer, the four-time British Open champion now residing in Boston.  John White, head coach of the Franklin & Marshall College squash team and a former world No1, will also compete - as will wild card entry Julian Illingworth, the USA's best-ever international touring pro, currently ranked 40 in the world.


In the first qualifying round, former England captain Chris Walker, now 41 and based in the USA, pulled off a sensational upset over Mexican number one Eric Galvez.  Left-hander Walker - a semi-finalist in the 1994 and 2002 championships - beat the 25-year-old world No41 11-9, 11-7, 11-7 to earn a surprise place in the qualifying finals. 


"I managed to frustrate him in the end," said Walker of the tight, controlled game he used to neutralise Galvez.  The former world No4, who is now a squash coach in Connecticut, added:  "I would dearly love to get on the glass court one last time," referring to the sparkling four walled glass court constructed under the chandeliers in Grand Central Terminal for the main draw.



Double Champion Shabana Heads Tournament of Champions Draw


The draw for the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions, the world’s largest spectator squash event, is announced for the Professional Squash Association (PSA) Super Series Gold event to be played in Grand Central Terminal, New York, from 23-29 January 2009. 


Featuring 23 of the top world’s top 25 players, the championship draw includes two previous title-holders; four players who have been ranked No1 in the world; and competitors representing 12 countries.  An additional eight players will be added to the 32 player main draw at the conclusion of the qualifying tournament to be played between 21-22 January.


Headlining the championships are the world’s top three ranking players, all from Egypt:  two-time ToC title-holder Amr Shabana, who has been ranked No1 in the world for all but three months in the past three years; 21-year-old defending champion Ramy Ashour who is also the 2008 World Open champion; and recent rising star Karim Darwish, who will take the No1 spot in the rankings on January 1 - up from No8 just one year ago. 


Rounding out the top six are Gregory Gaultier of France, Englishman James Willstrop and Australian David Palmer, the four-time British Open champion now residing in Boston.  John White, head coach of the Franklin & Marshall College squash team and a former world No1, will also compete - as will wild card entry Julian Illingworth, the USA's best-ever international touring pro currently ranked 40 in the world. 


Champions’ Night on Friday 23 January will feature the opening round matches of defending champion Ashour, two-time ToC title-holder Shabana and US champion Illingworth.












  Sanctioned by