By MICHAEL CATLING
BOTSWANA’S Alister Walker will be bidding for a fourth PSA Tour title this year, when he headlines the Coronation London Open next week.
The world number 15 is seeded to face South African Stephen Coppinger in the final, but both are expected to face stiff competition from English duo Adrian Grant and Chris Simpson at the Cumberland Lawn Tennis Club.
With $25,000 up for grabs in the men’s competition and $10,000 in prize money on offer in the women’s section, several top-50 players will be hoping to boost their world ranking ahead of the New Year.
Hong Kong Open quarter-finalist Nicolette Fernandes is the standout attraction in the women’s draw and will be looking to continue her recent good form. Standing in her way are the British trio of Emily Whitlock, Tesni Evans and Emma Beddoes, who will be hoping to impress in front of a home crowd.
Tournament director Zubair Khan, who has been the head coach at the Hampstead-based club for 14 years, believes the pedigree of the entrants is testament to how much the PSA International event has grown in stature.
“I’ve been running this tournament for the past six or seven years – every year it’s getting bigger,” the former world number eight told Ham&High Sport.
“The winner gets around $4,900 so the prize money is a major incentive for these players. Five years ago, a former world champion and family member – Jahangir Khan – was given a wildcard to play at the tournament.
“We have a very good venue in NW6. It’s a really great club and many top players from around the world are at the tournament – Australians, Americans, Egyptians and Spaniards – all for one week.”
Qualifying begins tomorrow (Tuesday) at the Cumberland Club on Alvanley Gardens, before the first-round kicks off on Thursday.
Tickets for the event go on sale from Thursday December 12, once the main draw has been made. Call 020 7435 6022 for more information.
First-round – Men’s Draw (December 12):
 Alister Walker (Bot) v Qualifier
Omar Abdel Aziz (Egy) v Chris Sharpes (Eng)
Rex Hedrick (Aus) v Shaun le Roux (Rsa)
Qualifier v  Chris Simpson (Eng)
 Adrian Grant (Eng) v Shahjahan Khan (Pak)
Andrew Waqih Shoukry (Egy) v Qualifier
Christopher Gordon (Usa) v Qualifier
Jaymie Haycocks v  Stephen Coppinger (Rsa)
First-round – Women’s Draw (December 12):
 Nicolette Fernandes (Guy) v Gaby Huber (Sui)
 Olga Ertlova (Cze) v Habiba Mohamed Ahmed Alymohmed (Egy)
 Coline Aumard (Fra) v Qualifier
 Lucie Fialova (Cze) v Victoria Temple Murray (Eng)
 Birgit Coufal (Aut) v TBA
 Tesni Evans (Wal) v TBA
 Deon Saffery (Wal) v TBA
 Emily Whitlock (Eng) v Sina Wall (Ger)
Source: Ham&High Sport; Picture by Steve Cubbins (SquashSite)