English stars stay away as El Gouna slips back on to the PSA calendar
By ALAN THATCHER
The controversial El Gouna International tournament is back on the calendar in April, but the event is being snubbed by England stars Nick Matthew and James Willstrop.
Previous editions of the event have been hampered by problems caused by staging the competition in the open air by the harbour at the Red Sea resort.
Players complained that sand blowing in from the beach made the court floor slippery and dangerous. The 2012 semi-finals finished in chaos, with the second match being moved to an indoor club court.
In the final, Willstrop was so disgusted with the floor that he walked off and conceded the match to Egypt’s Ramy Ashour.
English stars Matthew and Willstrop, the PSA president, are notable absentees from an otherwise top-class line-up in next month’s edition.
The modern El Gouna resort is 12 miles north of Hurghada, a popular venue for the former WSA event which was also staged in an open-air location next to the marina.
French world No.2 Gregory Gaultier and Egyptian World No.3 Ramy Ashour will top the draw when the 2014 El Gouna International gets under way at on Sunday April 13.
Egypt’s Mohamed Elshorbagy is seeded three and Spain’s Borja Golan is at four, his highest seeding for a World Series event.
Gaultier and Ashour are seeded to meet in the final on April 18 in what would be their second World Series title decider so far in 2014, with Gaultier having taken the spoils during the Windy City Open in Chicago.
With the absence of world No.1 Matthew, both Gaultier and Ashour will have an opportunity to make up ground on the Englishman at the top of the rankings chart.
The draw is heavily populated by Egyptian players. World No.4 Mohamed Elshorbagy will face a challenging opening round match against Colombian livewire Miguel Angel Rodriguez, while Omar Mosaad, Karim Darwish and Tarek Momen all face qualifiers.
No.5 seed Amr Shabana will meet compatriot Karim Abdel Gawad in his first round match when the Maestro will be aiming to lift his second World Series title of 2014 to add to January’s J.P Morgan Tournament of Champions crown in New York.
2014 El Gouna International Draw:
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v Saurav Ghosal (IND)
Stephen Coppinger (RSA) v [Qualifier]
Nicolas Mueller (SUI) v Chris Simpson (ENG)
[WC] Zahed Mohamed (EGY) v  Daryl Selby (ENG)
 Peter Barker (ENG) v [Qualifier]
Cameron Pilley (AUS) v Marwan Elshorbagy (EGY)
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) v [Qualifier]
Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) v  Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY)
 Borja Golan (ESP) v Adrian Grant (ENG)
Omar Mosaad (EGY) v [Qualifier]
Tarek Momen (EGY) v [Qualifier]
Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v  Amr Shabana (EGY)
 Karim Darwish (EGY) v [Qualifier]
Laurens Jan Anjema (NED) v [Qualifier]
Simon Rosner (GER) v [Qualifier]
Olli Tuominen (FIN) v  Ramy Ashour (EGY)
Pictures by Steve Cubbins (SquashSite)