By ALAN THATCHER
France’s world No.2 Gregory Gaultier will lead the field at this week’s Qatar Classic following the withdrawal of Egypt’s Ramy Ashour.
The new draw means he is line for a quick rematch with England’s Nick Matthew, who beat him in the final of the AJ Bell World Championship in Manchester last weekend.
The Egyptian superstar pulled out of this World Series event in Doha following an injury that forced him to concede his World Championship semi-final match against Matthew.
“Just got out of the hospital and the doctors advised me not to play Qatar so that my hamstring injury won’t get any worse,” said the world No.1 from Cairo on Facebook. “Let’s thank the LORD for whatever he has for us.”
Ashour’s withdrawal means Gaultier will look to regain the Qatar Classic title he won in 2011. The Frenchman will open his campaign against a familiar opponent, top-ranked German Simon Rosner, the world No.13.
Gaultier, the 30-year-old from Aix-en-Provence, is scheduled to link up with Spain’s world No.8 Borja Golan in the quarter-finals, before a likely semi-final encounter with Matthew.
Gaultier and Matthew fought out a blistering 111-minute final, with home hero Matthew prevailing to win the prestigious title for a third time.
But 2009 Qatar Classic champion Matthew has a lot to do before reaching the semis: His first opponent is former England team-mate Alister Walker, the world No.15 who now represents Botswana.
A predicted second round clash with the Colombian Miguel Angel Rodriguez, the highest-ranked South American of all-time, could take the Sheffield star on to a quarter-final clash with sixth seed Amr Shabana.
The distinguished Egyptian made his first major PSA Tour appearance in Doha in 1996, a full five years before Matthew began his Classic encounters. Four-time world champion Shabana – the 34-year-old from Cairo whose latest goal is to become the oldest world No 1 or world champion – has reached the Qatar final on three occasions, winning the title in 2007.
England’s world No3 James Willstrop, elevated to second seed following Ashour’s withdrawal, begins his 11th Qatar campaign against wild card Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi, a promising Qatari junior who is ranked 99 in the world.
The revised draw now sees Willstrop in the same quarter as Mohamed Elshorbagy, the fifth-seeded Egyptian who upset the Englishman in the World Championship quarter-finals.
Willstrop’s biggest threat in his half of the draw is fourth seed Karim Darwish, the only two-time winner of the title in the draw. The world No 5 from Cairo, champion in 2008 and 2010, begins his latest campaign against a qualifier before an expected quarter-final meeting with compatriot Tarek Momen, the new No 8 seed.
The 2013 Qatar Classic, the seventh PSA World Series event of the year and one of the leading events on the PSA World Tour since 1992, takes place at the Khalifa International Tennis & Squash Complex in the Qatar capital Doha from 10-15 November, following two days of qualifying.
Updated 1st round draw:
 James Willstrop (ENG) v [WC] Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi (QAT)
Daryl Selby (ENG) v [Q] Gregoire Marche (FRA)
Laurens Jan Anjema (NED) v [Q] Olli Tuominen (FIN)
 Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) v Chris Simpson (ENG)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) v [Q] Kristian Frost Olesen (DEN)
Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v [Q] Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY)
Omar Mosaad (EGY) v Ong Beng Hee (MAS)
 Karim Darwish (EGY) v Adrian Grant (ENG)
 Nick Matthew (ENG) v Alister Walker (BOT)
Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) v [Q] Max Lee (HKG)
Stephen Coppinger (RSA) v [Q] Ryan Cuskelly (AUS)
 Amr Shabana (EGY) v Saurav Ghosal (IND)
 Borja Golan (ESP) v Nicolas Mueller (SUI)
Tom Richards (ENG) v [Q] Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS)
Cameron Pilley (AUS) v [Q] Joe Lee (ENG)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v Simon Rosner (GER)
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