Egyptian will be aiming to start the new year on the right track at Grand Central
By NATHAN CLARKE
Defending champion Mohamed Elshorbagy, the 24-year-old Egyptian who will regain the World No.1 ranking on January 1, will top the draw when the 2016 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions gets underway on January 7th for its 19th anniversary of presenting the world’s best squash players in Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall.
The PSA World Series Event, the biggest ToC to date – with equal prize money in both the Men’s and Women’s events for the first time in its distinguished history – promises a block-buster beginning to the new year.
Elshorbagy‘s stuttering start to the 2015-16 season caused him to relinquish his hold atop the PSA rankings but the 2015 ToC champion returned to dominant form at last week’s Hong Kong Open, winning the title to reclaim the No.1 spot.
Although the fiercely competitive Egyptian will be favoured to retain his ToC title he will have to be at his best to triumph in New York, given the talent-laden draw which includes World Champion and current World No.1 Gregory Gaultier of France, England’s three-time World Champion Nick Matthew and the in-form duo of World Championship runner-up Omar Mosaad and Hong Kong Open runner-up Cameron Pilley.
Gaultier, who ended nine years of heartbreak when he etched his name onto the World Championship trophy in November, last won the event in 2009 and will be aiming to begin his year in the best fashion possible, with a potentially dramatic semi-final encounter with long-time rival Matthew on the cards. Elshorbagy is seeded to meet countryman Mosaad, who also finished as runner-up at the U.S. Open, in the top half of the draw.
Australia’s Cameron Pilley, who shocked the squash world by downing Gaultier and World No.3 Matthew en-route to the final of the recent Hong Kong Open, will be eyeing up yet more giant killings stateside when he begins his event against Tarek Momen of Egypt.
Home-Favourite Todd Harrity is the wildcard for this event and currently sits at a career-high World No.52 ranking. He is hoping to ride the wave of confidence engendered by a career best performance at the recent World Championship in Seattle where he reached the second round, but the reigning US champion has a tough first round clash with Egypt’s Fares Dessouki.
The opening round match of number four seed Miguel Angel Rodriguez against Spain’s Borja Golan promises to be fierce and dramatic encounter. Both players have struggled for form recently and will be eager to start the new year in New York with a decisive victory.
For Rodriguez, a long-time ToC fan favorite, it’s a return to the scene where he stunned Gaultier last year to reach the semi-finals – a victory that announced his emergence as one of the leading players in the world.
“The entire metropolitan New York community eagerly awaits the appearance of the world’s greatest squash players on our spectacular all glass NetSuite Challenge court in Grand Central,” said Tournament Promoter John Nimick.
“With record prize money offered in both the Men’s and Women’s events and parity in the prize money for the first time in the tournament’s history, the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions is proud to continue its legacy as a pioneering event that showcases the best of what the sport has to offer.”
Draw – 2015 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions
Men’s First Round:
 Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) v [Qualifier] Cameron Pilley (AUS) v Tarek Momen (EGY)
Nicolas Mueller (SUI) v [Qualifier] [Qualifier] v  Omar Mosaad (EGY)
 Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) v Stephen Coppinger (RSA)
Max Lee (HKG) v [Qualifier] Leo Au (HKG) v [Qualifier] Borja Golan (ESP) v  Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v [Qualifier] Fares Dessouki (EGY) v [WC] Todd Harrity (USA)
James Willstrop (ENG) v Alister Walker (BOT)
Tom Richards (ENG) v  Simon Rösner (GER)
 Marwan Elshorbagy (EGY) v Mazen Hesham (EGY)
Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) v [Qualifier] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v Daryl Selby (ENG)
[Qualifier] v  Nick Matthew (ENG)
Ticket prices range from $8 for early round matches, going up to $170 for the sought-after Men’s and Women’s Finals on the evening of Thursday, January 14th. Tickets are available online at ToCSquash.com or by calling (718) 569-0594.