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London to host top squash talent

17:35 17 February 2013

Peter Barker is playing in the Canary Wharf Classic next month

Peter Barker is playing in the Canary Wharf Classic next month

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Excitement builds for Canary Wharf Classic

London will play host to some of the top names in squash at the 2013 Canary Wharf Classic next month.

England’s Nick Matthew and James Willstrop, the number one and two seeds, are ready to resume their rivalry at the premier squash tournament from March 18-22, alongside Upminster’s Peter Barker and rising Egyptian star Mohamed El Shorbagy.

Tickets for the final have already sold out as squash fans look forward to another classic confrontation in the final of this long-established PSA International 50 event.

Matthew and Willstrop have each won the tournament three times, with Matthew claiming three consecutive victories after Willstrop dominated the early years of the event, celebrating its tenth anniversary this year.

Willstrop won the first final in 2004, beating French ace Thierry Lincou in an historic best-of-seven games clash, and overcame the biggest hitters in the game in beat Scotland’s John White (2007) and Australian Cameron Pilley (2008).

White who smashed the world speed record for squash when he registered 172mph on the Canary Wharf radar gun in 2007, with Pilley breaking the record with a blistering speed of 175mph recorded in the US Open 18 months ago.

Willstrop was aiming for a fourth Canary Wharf title when he reached the 2009 final, but he was hampered by an ankle injury as he lost to another powerful Australian, David Palmer.

Matthew won his first Canary Wharf title at the East Wintergarden venue the following year, but he had to do it the hard way. He and Willstrop battled each other to a standstill in a two-hour semi-final before Matthew recovered in time to beat French star Gregory Gaultier in the final.

In 2011 Matthew beat England team-mate Barker and last year Matthew and Willstrop met for their first Canary Wharf final.

Although Matthew won in straight games, the match lasted 78 minutes, which illustrates how closely matched these two great athletes are.

Aiming to stop another English monopoly is young Egyptian El Shorbagy, the number three seed who beat Willstrop to reach the World Championship final in December.

Their semi-final clash lasted 112 minutes before Shorbagy triumphed 11-8 in the deciding fifth game.

Willstrop beat El Shorbagy in the Canary Wharf semi-finals last year, but the young Egyptian has grown in confidence since then.

Behind El Shorbagy and Barker, a group of English players will be aiming to impress in front of a vociferous home crowd.

Tom Richards, Daryl Selby, Adrian Grant and wild card Charles Sharpes will be joined in the main draw by a hugely talented group of international rivals featuring Alister Walker (Botswana), Simon Rosner (Germany), Steve Coppinger, the South African who has recently reached the world top 20, and the spectacularly athletic Colombian Miguel Angel Rodriguez.

First round draw:

(1) Nick Matthew (England) v Miguel Angel Rodriguez (Colombia)

Alister Walker (Botswana) v Steve Coppinger (South Africa)

Tom Richards (England) v Qualifier

(4) Peter Barker (England) v Qualifier

(3) Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egypt) v Qualifier

Adrian Grant (England) v Qualifier

Daryl Selby (England) v Simon Rosner (Germany)

(2) James Willstrop (England) v Charles Sharpes (England)

*Tickets for the 2013 Canary Wharf Classic cost from £15 and are available from Ticketmaster.

The fabulous East Wintergarden offers superb opportunities for corporate hospitality, with the gallery restaurant offering “the best view of squash anywhere in the world,” according to Nicol.

Visit www.ticketmaster.co.uk or www.canarywharfsquash.com or call the ticket hotline on 0844 847 2419.

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