By Mike Dale
World no.1 Ali Farag is included in the draw to defend his title at January’s Houston Open despite the worrying knee injury he recently revealed to SquashMad.com.
Farag’s scheduled appearance in the PSA World Tour Gold event from January 11-15 at the Houston Squash Club will be his first on Tour since the Grasshopper Cup in October, when he lost to Nicolas Mueller.
Three days before that, the Egyptian had retired early in the final of the US Open against Diego Elias with what was later diagnosed as Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, a joint abnormality in his knee.
He was forced to withdraw from the Singapore and Hong Kong Open, but now clearly feels ready to return after being told that he needed to strengthen his glute, quads and feet in order to bear the weight of his body when he lunges.
The Houston Open is set to feature six of the current world top 10 and is a key tune-up event before the Tournament of Champions, which is returning to New York’s Grand Central Terminus after a Covid-enforced hiatus of two years.
Farag, who defeated compatriot Mazen Hesham in last year’s Houston final, has received a bye in round one but will then be up against either Cesar Salazar or Baptiste Masotti in round two.
Elsewhere in the Houston draw, no.2 seed Mostafa Asal will face either Egypt’s Moustafa El Sirty or England’s Nathan Lake in round two after receiving a round one bye.
The ElShorbagy brothers, Mohamed and Marwan, are the no.3 and no.4 seeds for the event and have both been in great form throughout the 2022/23 season, reaching eight finals between them with Mohamed picking up four titles and Marwan one. Marwan captured the final World Tour event of 2022 at the Hong Kong FC Open and will be looking to build on that victory in the opening event of 2023.
After both receiving byes in round one, Mohamed will face the winner of the all-French battle between Sebastien Bonmalais and Gregoire Marche, whilst Marwan will play either Germany’s Raphael Kandra or wildcard Arhan Chandra.
Home interest comes from USA top two Shahjahan Khan and Todd Harrity. Khan reached the last 16 of this event last year and will face France’s Auguste Dussourd to reach the second round once again. Harrity will be up against Egypt’s Omar Mosaad for a place in the last 16.