By ALAN THATCHER
It’s déjà vu all over again for James Willstrop as he contemplates the draw for the El Gouna Open.
As professional sport makes a welcome return to Egypt with the glass court situated in this Red Sea resort, Willstrop will be scanning the draw and recognising several familiar faces.
First up is Swiss number one Nicolas Mueller, who he met in the recent North American Open.
Following that is an uncanny trio of possible opponents in his side of the draw, Saurav Ghosal, Tarek Momen and Mohamed El Shorbagy, all of whom he met on the way to reaching the final of the Canary Wharf Classic.
In a quirk that illustrates the peculiarly British habit of cheering for the underdog, the Canary Wharf crowds gave considerable support to all three of his opponents before he faced English rival Nick Matthew in the final.
“Yes, that’s very British,” said Willstrop after reaching the final. “I wonder how often you would see that happening in other countries where we play?”
Matthew, who beat Willstrop in the Canary Wharf final, faces an Egyptian bloc in the first couple of rounds in El Gouna. If he beats Andrew Wagih Shoukry, he is likely to face a Canary Wharf repeat with Ali Anwar Reda, who is expected to overcome Wael Farag.
Number two seed Gregory Gaultier is due to meet familiar foe Simon Rosner in the second round, ahead of a scheduled quarter-final clash with Ramy Ashour, while Amr Shabana is likely to meet Ramy’s brother Hisham in the second round.
Seeded quarter-final pairings:
(1) James Willstrop v (8) LJ Anjema
(4) Karim Darwish v (7) Mohamed El Shorbagy
(3) Nick Matthew v (6) Amr Shabana
(2) Gregory Gaultier v (4) Ramy Ashour