Tough test for rising England star
By Alan Thatcher, Squash Mad Editor
Rising England squash star Josh Masters, who was runner-up in the Select Gaming Kent Open earlier this year, faces a daunting challenge after being awarded the wild card in the AJ Bell World Championships in Manchester.
Masters, the 6ft 4in tall world No.55 from Walderslade, Kent, has been drawn to play Egyptian superstar Ramy Ashour in the first round on Sunday.
Ashour has won the world title three times and his dazzling racket skills have resulted in him being widely regarded as the most entertaining player in squash history.
Masters, however, is used to sharing court time with top Egyptians. The 22-year-old is based in Bristol, where he studied at the University of West of England and is part of a high-class training group including brothers Mohamed and Marwan ElShorbagy.
Mohamed has been in fine form this season and his tournament triumphs in San Francisco, London, Qatar Classic and Hong Kong, plus the runners-up slot in the US Open, have led to him returning to the world No.2 ranking. Marwan is ranked five.
Ashour will be back on familiar territory. He won his first world title in Manchester in 2008, aged 18. He won two more titles in Doha in 2012 and 2014, beating Mohamed ElShorbagy on each occasion.
The No.10 seed is the game’s biggest crowd pleaser but has been hampered in recent years by a troublesome hamstring injury.
Josh’s appearance in the game’s premier event caps a breakthrough year in which he completed his studies at the University of the West of England and was selected to compete in the World Games in Poland.
He reached the quarter-finals of the European Individual Championship in Nottingham, where he went out to world number one Gregory Gaultier of France, and last week made the semi-finals of the London Open in Hampstead. He lost a tough semi-final 11-6 in the fifth to experienced Londoner Tom Richards.
Josh said: “I am really looking forward to playing Ramy. It will be a great experience for me! It will be an exciting match and I can’t wait to get on court on Sunday.”
Tomorrow (Friday) Josh’s younger brother Bradley meets another Egyptian, Mohamed El Sherbini, in the qualifying competition.
Pictures from squash Mad archives by PATRICK LAUSON and KIM ROBERTS