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Friday December 28, 2012

Nicol poised to start new year by bagging World Series title

PETALING JAYA: Seven-time world champion Nicol David is poised to start the new year in style – by winning the World Series Finals at The Queen’s Club, London, from Jan 2-6.

However, reigning men’s world champion Ramy Ashour of Egypt has pulled out of the tournament due to a hamstring injury suffered in the Men’s World Open in Doha, Qatar, earlier this month.

While the men’s competition will be an open affair following Ashour’s withdrawal, the spotlight will be on the other top women players as they attempt to get the better of world No. 1 Nicol.

The Penangite began this year on a high as well, winning the World Series and going on to clinch eight out of the 10 tournaments she has participated in, including a sizzling performance en route to capturing a record seventh world title in Cayman Islands last week.

The only blip Nicol suffered this year was an uncharacteristic back-to-back defeat in the Malaysian Open and Carol Weymuller Open in September – losing to Egypt’s Raneem El Weleily and England’s Laura Massaro respectively.

But she has since rebounded in fine style that it’s hard to see anyone getting the better of her now.

Nicol, who is back in Amsterdam for the festive break, is in Group A alongside Hong Kong’s Annie Au, Holland’s Natalie Grinham and Massaro – the opponent she beat in the World Open final.

Group B has the talented Egyptians – world No. 2 Weleily and reigning world junior champion Nour El Sherbini – as well as England’s Jenny Duncalf and Frenchwoman Camille Serme.

Nicol should breeze through the group stages without much resistance and should face her real test in the final against Weleily.

National No. 2 and world No. 7 Low Wee Wern just missed the cut by one spot but it could be a blessing in disguise as it’ll give her more time to recover from her hamstring injury.

Only the top eight players in the World Series standings qualify for the event. Meanwhile, Germany’s No. 1 Simon Rosner will take the place of Ashour in the men’s event.

“I’m so happy to be in the World Series Finals – something no one from Germany has achieved before,” said the world No. 15 on www.squash365.com.

“But I hope Ramy is not injured too badly and will be back for the next tournament.”

Rosner is in Group A with Englishmen Nick Matthew and Peter Barker as well as World Open runner-up Mohamed El Shorbagy of Egypt.

Group B comprises dethroned world No. 1 James Wilstrop, France’s Gregory Gaultier and Egyptians Amr Shabana and Karim Darwish.

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