Madeira International Open preview
By MICHAEL CATLING – Squash Mad Reporter
Tournament organisers at the Madeira International Open have been dealt a major blow 24 hours before qualifying gets underway at the inaugural PSA Challenger 5 event, after World Junior Open champion Karim El Hammamy was forced to withdraw due to injury.
The 18-year-old Egyptian, who lost in the final round of qualifying at the CCI PSA Championship to eventual champion Ali Farag earlier this month, was seeded to face top seed Declan James in the semi-final, but is now replaced in the main draw by top-ranked qualifier Joshua Masters.
Co-tournament organiser Luis Ferreira commented: “It’s a great shame that Karim will be unable to compete this week but such is the tournament’s stature now, we still have some fantastic young players in the main draw.
“This will be the first year the tournament has featured on the PSA circuit in its 15-year history and it provides a great opportunity for some of the stars of the future to gain some valuable ranking points.”
James is one of seven Englishmen in the main draw and will be vying for only his second PSA Tour title – nearly 11 months after triumphing at the Nottingham Open.
The world number 80 opens his campaign against Portuguese number two Claudio Pinto on Thursday evening and could meet second seed Chris Fuller in the final – just two months after edging past the world number 119 in a five-game epic at the Kent Open.
However, British Junior Open semi-finalist George Parker will be hoping to upset the seedings against Fuller in an all-English first round clash and will be buoyed after rising to a career-high 188 in the July world rankings.
Swiss number four Patrick Miescher begins his quest for a maiden PSA Tour title against a qualifier, while fellow compatriot Lukas Burkhart is promoted to fourth in the seedings following El Hammamy’s withdrawal and tackles Masters in the last 16.
Elsewhere, world number 175 Mark Fuller will battle Spanish wildcard Iker Pajares Bernabeu for a potential last eight showdown with James, while newly installed eighth seed and home favourite Rui Soares faces a qualifier for a place in the quarter-final.
In the bottom half of the draw, British duo Steve London and Jonathan Geekie will also need to overcome qualifiers, with the latter seeded to meet Miescher for a semi-final berth.
The qualifying for the event, hosted at the Onda Revital Club in Canico, begins on Tuesday 15th July and will feature local and professional players competing over two rounds for four spots in the main draw.
First Round Draw:
 Declan James (ENG) v Claudio Pinto (POR)
 Mark Fuller (ENG) v [WC] Iker Pajares Bernabeu (ESP)
 Rui Soares (POR) v Qualifier
 Lukas Burkhart (SUI) v Joshua Masters (ENG)
 Patrick Miescher (SUI) v Qualifier
 Jonathan Geekie (SCO) v Qualifier
 Steven London (ENG) v Qualifier
 Chris Fuller (ENG) v George Parker (ENG)
Qualifying Round One:
 Sean Conroy (IRL) v Ricardo Sardinha (POR)
 Bradley Masters (ENG) v Pedro Damaso (POR)
 Angus Gillams (ENG) v Pedro Pinto (POR)
 Remo Handl (SUI) v Paulo Oliveira (POR)
 Joe Green (ENG) v Pedro Gomes (POR)
 Liam Gutcher (ENG) v Bruno Silva (POR)
 Dani Pascual (ESP) v Milton Teixeira (POR)
 Nick Mulvey (ENG) v Zelio Neto (POR)