‘It’s a new iconic place to add to the list of amazing venues for squash’
By NATHAN CLARKE
England’s World No.6 James Willstrop says he can’t wait to appear at the PSA Dubai World Series Finals and test himself against the world’s best players for one of the sport’s most lucrative prizes at Dubai Opera from June 6-10.
The former World No.1 secured sixth place on the Road To Dubai Standings and Willstrop – who has not appeared at the showpiece tournament since 2013 – is delighted to be back competing at the season-ending event.
“I was very intent in El Gouna to get the points that I needed to get there because I knew I was quite close,” said the 33-year-old – who has been drawn in Group B alongside Gregory Gaultier and Egyptians Mohamed ElShorbagy and Ramy Ashour.
“That was my main goal, to play as well as I could in El Gouna and I’m very happy to have done it.
“For a long time now I’ve wanted to get there. Last year I watched it from home and I was very impressed with what I was seeing and from what people were saying.
“It’s clearly a seriously good event. For me, the event has prestige, to be the Tour champion and to play against the top eight players in a condensed environment over five days and to come out top. It’s something that I’ve never won and it’s a major title.
“I’ll try to prepare as well as I can and I will give it absolutely everything like I would at the biggest tournaments on the Tour.
“You’re in the top eight in the world, who wouldn’t want to be there? Who wouldn’t be motivated to be there and to try and go for the title?”
This year’s World Series Finals will be the first sporting event to be held at Dubai Opera and Willstrop is looking forward to having the chance to play at the famous venue.
“Dubai is an incredible place and a place we haven’t been to at all, really. I’ve floated through there a couple of times and played the odd match, but I haven’t really spent any time there, so that’s another thing I’m really looking forward to.
“I’ve heard the venue is incredible, it’s not like anything else we’ve ever played in. It’s a new, exciting, iconic place to play and it adds to the roster of brilliant venues we have to showcase the Tour.”
The World Series Finals features a round-robin group stage consisting of a best-of-three games format for a place in the knockout semi-finals and beyond.
And with only two players progressing from each group, Willstrop believes the change to the usual format makes for an exciting competition.
“I haven’t played best-of-three squash for years, all you can do is think about it and try to expect what might be different about it. You don’t know what the conditions will be like and the likelihood is that it will be a little bit faster and perhaps more explosive.
“The players have more to give in those early stages because the prospect of the matches lasting for an hour and a half to two hours isn’t there now, so that’s quite a big factor. I’ll try to prepare as well as I can from what I think might happen.”
The PSA Dubai World Series Finals takes place from June 6-10, 2017 with the tournament match schedule to be announced on Monday June 5. All of the action will be shown live on SQUASHTV (rest of world) and Eurosport Player (Europe only).
Group stage matches will take place at 3:00pm, 3:45pm, 16:45pm and 17:30pm (Group A) and 21:30pm, 22:15pm, 23:15pm and 00:00am (Group B) between June 6-8 with the semi-finals due to take place from 22:00pm on June 9. The finals will commence at 22:00pm local time on June 10.
Tickets for the World Series Finals can be purchased at https://dubaiopera.etixdubai.com/shows/show.aspx?sh=PSAUMB
Picture courtesy of PSA