Former champion James Willstrop has to pull out of New York comeback event as hip operation recovery stalls
Epic matches between Ramy Ashour and James Willstrop have lit up the recent history of the Tournament of Champions, one of squash’s most high-profile events.
Sadly, neither player will be present at the 2015 edition at New York’s Grand Central Terminal because of ongoing fitness issues.
World champion Ashour withdrew last week because of a knee problem and former world number one Willstrop announced this weekend that he would be unable to take part because he was not quite ready to make his comeback after a hip operation in September.
Injuries are the worst part of professional sport. They rob the athlete of ranking points, prize money, and, in this instance, the opportunity to perform in front of large crowds at one of the game’s most impressive venues.
These are the events that inspire the world’s leading players to hit the heights. They build their whole training schedules around the “majors” so that they can peak at the right time. Injuries, therefore, cause a massive disruption to plans and also rob spectators of the chance to see the top players performing at their peak.
However, these situations also throw up opportunities for lesser-ranked players to step into the limelight. Frenchman Gregoire Marche, the 2014 French national champion, gains automatic entry into the main draw to take on England’s World No.6 Peter Barker, while Germany’s world No.10 Simon Rösner moves up the seedings to occupy the position vacated by Willstrop.
“We are disappointed, as we know James is, that he will miss this year’s Tournament of Champions. James is a great friend of the tournament and of our charities StreetSquash and CitySquash. Perhaps one of the younger players will make his big breakthrough here, just as James did when he was 19-years-old and defeated several top-seeded players to establish himself as a contender,” said Tournament Chairman John Nimick.
The amended J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions first round draw is:
 Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) v [WC] Todd Harrity (USA)
Nicolas Mueller (SUI) v [Qualifier]
Chris Simpson (ENG) v [Qualifier]
[Qualifier] v  Borja Golan (ESP)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) v Adrian Waller (ENG)
Saurav Ghosal (IND) v [Qualifier]
Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v Cameron Pilley (AUS)
Marwan Elshorbagy (EGY) v  Amr Shabana (EGY)
 Nick Matthew (ENG) v Daryl Selby (ENG)
Omar Mosaad (EGY) v [Qualifier]
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) v [Qualifier]
Stephen Coppinger (RSA) v  Simon Rösner (GER)
 Peter Barker (ENG) v Gregoire Marche (FRA)
Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) v [Qualifier]
Alister Walker (BOT) v [Qualifier]
Max Lee (HKG) v  Gregory Gaultier (FRA)
Tickets for the 2015 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions range in price from $8 to $170 and may be purchased at www.tocsquash.com.Patron packages are also available at www.tocsquash.com
Picture of Grand Central Terminal courtesy of PSA