By ANDREW DENT
Egyptian squash maestro Ramy Ashour confirmed Monday he would be defending his Australian Open crown when the 2012 tournament is held in Canberra in August.
Ashour last year became the first Egyptian to win the Australian Open when he beat then world number one Nick Matthew in a five-game thriller.
The 24-year-old Egyptian is one of the most exciting players in world squash, with an array of breathtaking attacking shots unmatched by any of his rivals.
“Ramy’s decision to play is wonderful news for the tournament and for Australian sports lovers,” Australian Open tournament director Gary Hampson said.
“He can do things on a squash court that have to be seen to be believed and his brand of squash often leaves fans, and opponents, awestruck.”
The Australian Open will be held on the all-glass court in Canberra’s Royal Theatre from August 13-19.
“Ramy indicated to us that he feels the court set-up in Canberra is one of the best in the world and that was a major factor in his decision to return for a third consecutive year,” Hampson said.
Ashour, the current world number four, is the second top 10 player confirmed for the Open after Englishman Peter Barker (7).
Rising English star Tom Richards (16) has also entered as has popular Malaysian and former semi-finalist Ong Beng Hee.
In the women’s draw, 2009 champion Joelle King from New Zealand has confirmed her entry, along with 2010 runner-up and former world number three Alison Waters, who has climbed back to number 28 after missing almost a year with a knee injury.
In a further boost, India’s glamorous world number 14 Dipika Pallikal will also be making her way to Canberra in August.
Former champion Madeline Perry is among a number of international squash stars who have confirmed their entries for the 2012 Australian Open in Canberra in August.
Perry, who became the first Irishwoman to put her name on the Heather McKay Trophy when she won the 2010 Open in a classic five game final over England’s Alison Waters, is currently ranked fifth in the world but has been as high as number three.
She reached the semi-finals last year before falling to second seed and eventual runner-up Jenny Duncalf.
Her entry means that to date three former women’s champions are in the field for the 2012 Australian Open, to be played on the all-glass court in Canberra’s Royal Theatre from August 13-19.
New Zealand’s Joelle King (2009) and Kasey Brown of Australia (2006) have previously confirmed their participation.
Hampson said on Tuesday that former world junior champion and US number one Amanda Sohby would also be making the trip to Canberra this year after missing the 2011 tournament.
The men’s field has been bolstered by three big names, including two-time runner-up and Australian number one Cameron Pilley, world number 12 Omar Mosaad from Egypt and Botswana’s Alister Walker, the world’s 13th ranked player.