By ALAN THATCHER
Gregory Gaultier will be gunning for glory in the US Open as he attempts to take advantage of the absence of Egyptian Ramy Ashour.
The French ace was runner-up to Ashour in last year’s final, and this time he aims to go one better as top seed as the event gets under way at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
Gaultier begins his campaign against Christopher Gordon, the US wildcard who celebrated a significant breakthrough in March when, against expectations, he won the US National title for the first time.
Gordon followed this up with his first senior win over long-time American rival Julian Illingworth last week in St Paul, Minnesota.
Gaultier, the 30-year-old from Aix-en-Provence, is enjoying one of his best career runs since reaching world number one in 2009.
Winner of the Abierto Mexicano de Raquetas in Mexico last month, Gaultier is aiming to notch up his fourth Tour final appearance in a row.
Gaultier is seeded to meet Egyptian Karim Darwish in the semi-finals, but the experienced Darwish must first of all battle his way past compatriot Mohamed ElShorbagy, last year’s World Open runner-up.
A mouthwatering all-England clash lies in waiting in the bottom half of the draw.
No.2 seed James Willstrop is scheduled to meet his long-time adversary, fellow Yorkshireman Nick Matthew, who is seeded three.
World No.4 Matthew kicks off his eighth US Open campaign since 2003 against a qualifier. The 33-year-old from Sheffield, who topped the world rankings throughout 2011, is expected to reach the semi-finals for the third year in a row.
Second seed Willstrop, runner-up to Matthew in 2007 and world number one for most of last year, will be eager to get his hands on the trophy for the first time. The world No.3 from Harrogate opens his 2013 bid against fellow countryman Chris Simpson, the new world No.21.
A Willstrop-Matthew clash would be the pair’s 31st PSA Tour meeting since 2001 (with Matthew holding a 22-8 advantage) but their first for more than a year.
At 40 years old, Scotland’s John White is looking to become one of the oldest competitors ever to make the main draw. As Head Coach at Drexel University, the former world number one will surely have considerable local support.
But White, a US Open semi-finalist in 1999, has a tough first round opponent in Alfredo Avila, a rapidly-rising 22-year-old from Mexico who, ranked 55 in the world, is the sixth highest-ranked player in the qualifying draw.
Men’s 1st round draw:
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v [WC] Christopher Gordon (USA)
Marwan Elshorbagy (EGY) v Adrian Waller (ENG)
Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) v Qualifier
 Borja Golan (ESP) v Shawn Delierre (CAN)
 Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) v Omar Abdel Aziz (EGY)
Alan Clyne (SCO) v Qualifier
Gregoire Marche (FRA) v Qualifier
 Karim Darwish (EGY) v Ryan Cuskelly (AUS)
 Nick Matthew (ENG) v Qualifier
Nicolas Mueller (SUI) v Qualifier
Henrik Mustonen (FIN) v Joe Lee (ENG)
 Peter Barker (ENG) v Qualifier
 Tarek Momen (EGY) v Qualifier
Simon Rosner (GER) v Julian Illingworth (USA)
Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v Qualifier
 James Willstrop (ENG) v Chris Simpson (ENG)
Abdullah Al Muzayen (KUW) v Joe Chapman (IVB)
Jan Koukal (CZE) v Ramit Tandon (IND)
Jaymie Haycocks (ENG) v Dylan Murray (USA)
Matthew Karwalski (AUS) v Faraz Khan (USA)
Eddie Charlton (ENG) v Dane Sharp (CAN)
Chris Ryder (ENG) v Todd Harrity (USA)
Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) v Chris Hanson (USA)
Shaun le Roux (RSA) v Gilly Lane (USA)
Shahier Razik (CAN) v Ben Coleman (ENG)
Charles Sharpes (ENG) v Gonzalo Miranda (ARG)
Yasir Ali Butt (PAK) v Sergio Lopez (MEX)
Muhd Asyraf Azan (MAS) v Arthur Gaskin (IRL)
Steven Finitsis (AUS) v Imran Khan Riaz (PAK)
Rex Hedrick (AUS) v Gavin Jones (WAL)
Alfredo Avila (MEX) v John White (SCO)
Campbell Grayson (NZL) v Jamie Macaulay (SCO)
Official event website: www.usopensquash.com/
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