WORLD SQUASH NEWS
Sheikha Al Saad Kuwait Open Reveals Record Prize Fund
Organisers of the 2007 Sheikha Al Saad Kuwait Squash Open have announced today (Wednesday) that the total prize fund for the event has been raised to a new record of $250,000.
In an unprecedented move for professional squash, the prize money increase was announced on the eve of the tournament’s qualifying rounds at the Al Qadsia Sports Centre in Kuwait City.
The prize fund for the men’s Professional Squash Association (PSA) Super Series Platinum tournament has been increased from $175,000 to $200,000. Another $50,000 is on offer for the Women's International Squash Players Association (WISPA) Gold event.
The total amount of $250,000 is the highest ever offered for a professional squash tournament anywhere in the world.
Major General Dr. Mahmoud Razouki, Technical Director of the Sheikha Al Saad Kuwait Open, said: "Our sole desire is to help raise the profile of professional squash and to benefit the players who are competing here in Kuwait."
The decision to increase the prize money was made by Sheikha Fadyah Al-Sabah, the Tournament President and sister of the late Sheikha Al Saad in whose honour the event has been named.
Gawain Briars, Chief Executive of the PSA, said: "I have just received the wonderful news of the prize money uplift for the Sheikha Al Saad Kuwait Open. Confirmation of an increase from $175,000 to a $200,000 prize fund for the men’s event firmly anchors this tournament as the biggest on the world circuit.
"The players will be delighted with this news as they arrive in Kuwait to prepare for their matches, knowing that Sheikha Fadyah has even further demonstrated her commitment to the professional game with this magnanimous gesture. It will be a tremendous boost to the players.
"Total prize money for the men’s and women’s events over the three years is now certain to exceed $800,000, an historic contribution by Kuwait to the world of squash," added Briars.
The prize money increase will have a significant impact on the record-breaking three-year agreement between the Sheikha Al Saad Kuwait Open and the PSA. Under the deal, Kuwait will host another Super Series Platinum Event in 2008 and will then host the 2009 World Open Championship.
"Sheikha Fadyah Al Sabah has once again managed to astonish me with her caring spirit and her support for the professional game of squash," said Tournament Director Robert Edwards. "She has raised the bar yet again, before we even hit the first ball, by taking what was already the biggest-ever event, and raising it to an unprecedented $200,000 for the men alone, and a grand total of $250,000.
"Last night, Dr Razouki told me of her plans. I suspect that he had some input into this decision. For a man doing his first ever professional tournament, he has had a pretty spectacular influence on the game. It is so refreshing that Sheikha Fadyah's driving desire is to make the lot of the professional squash player a better one. There's going to be a lot smiling faces around the courts this week, including my own. This is something I've wanted to see since I began in the professional arena," Edwards concluded.
The world’s top players have now arrived in Kuwait for the Sheikha Al Saad Open, with qualifying rounds beginning tomorrow (5 April) and a spectacular opening ceremony to be held on Saturday night at the Qadsia Sports Centre. The men’s PSA tournament runs from 7 April and the women’s draw begins on the 8th, with men’s and women’s finals to be held next Wednesday (11 April).
Egypt’s world number one Amr Shabana and Kuwait’s Bader Al Hussaini will be among the players featured on centre court in Saturday night’s official opening.
Shabana heads the men's field. Winner of two Super Series titles already this year in the USA - the Infor Windy City Open and Bear Stearns Tournament of Champions - the 27-year-old from Cairo heads the latest Super Series standings.
However, Shabana will be competing in his first event since withdrawing from last month's ISS Canary Wharf Classic in London, suffering with a wrist injury. The left-hander faces a qualifier in the opening round before a predicted quarter-final clash with England's No8 seed James Willstrop, winner of the Canary Wharf Classic in Shabana's absence.
World No2 Gregory Gaultier is the event's second seed. The Frenchman is also making a return to the Tour after being forced to pull out of the Tournament of Champions in February with an ankle injury. The 24-year-old from Aix-en-Provence also faces a qualifier in the first round - and then is expected to meet Egypt's 'new kid on the block' Ramy Ashour in the last eight. Ashour, the 19-year-old fifth seed, scooped the first Super Series title of the year at the PACE Canadian Classic in Toronto.
Australia's World Open champion David Palmer, winner of the Kuwait Open title two years ago, is the event's No3 seed and scheduled to face England's British Open champion Nick Matthew in the quarter-finals.
Frenchman Thierry Lincou, a former World Open champion and world number one, is the No4 seed. His likely quarter-final opponent, according to the draw, is Anthony Ricketts - a third player returning from a Tour layoff. An elbow injury forced the sixth-seeded Australian to retire during the Tournament of Champions final - for which he immediately sought treatment back home in Australia.
Malaysia's world number one Nicol David, unbeaten for more than a year, is seeded to win her eighth WISPA World Tour title in a row in the women's WISPA Gold 35 event. In the final, the 23-year-old from Penang is expected to meet Australia's world No2 Natalie Grinham in a repeat of November's World Open climax in Belfast.
Men's 1st round draw:
 Amr Shabana (EGY) v Qualifier
 Adrian Grant (ENG) v Mohd Azlan Iskandar (MAS)
 James Willstrop (ENG) v Borja Golan (ESP)
 Lee Beachill (ENG) v Alex Gough (WAL)
 David Palmer (AUS) v Qualifier
 Stewart Boswell (AUS) v Peter Barker (ENG)
 Nick Matthew (ENG) v Olli Tuominen (FIN)
 Mohammed Abbas (EGY) v Bader Al Hussaini (KUW)
 Wael El Hindi (EGY) v Qualifier
 Anthony Ricketts (AUS) v Qualifier
 Ong Beng Hee (MAS) v Qualifier
 Thierry Lincou (FRA) v Qualifier
 Karim Darwish (EGY) v Laurens Jan Anjema (NED)
 Ramy Ashour (EGY) v Qualifier
 John White (SCO) v Cameron Pilley (AUS)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v Qualifier
Women's 1st round draw:
 Nicol David (MAS) v Madeline Perry (IRL)
 Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY) v Qualifier
 Tania Bailey (ENG) v Laura-Jane Lengthorn (ENG)
 Natalie Grainger (USA) v Alison Waters (ENG)
 Vicky Botwright (ENG) v Qualifier
 Rachael Grinham (AUS) v Qualifier
 Vanessa Atkinson (NED) v Jenny Duncalf (ENG)
 Natalie Grinham (AUS) v Qualifier
For more information, please visit the following websites:
www.sheikhasquash.com/ or www.squashsite.org.uk/kuwait/
Issued on behalf of: PSA/WISPA
For further information: Howard Harding
Tel: (44) 1737-243333 or (mobile) (44) 7773-325130WSQ 3788 Email: HowHard@aol.com 4 April 2007
A Gutsy performance from both sides