Top World Ranking Up For Grabs In New York
Whilst James Willstrop will enjoy competing in his first ranking event as world number one in this week's JP Morgan Tournament of Champions in New York, the Englishman is under threat from his predecessor in the first PSA World Series event squash of the year at Grand Central Terminal.
The 2012 JP Morgan Tournament of Champions, boasting a world class field including six former or current world number ones, gets underway for the 16th year at the iconic New York location on Friday.
Second seed Willstrop is expected to face compatriot Nick Matthew, the favourite, in the final on Thursday (26 January). It was fellow Yorkshireman Matthew, who topped the world rankings throughout 2011, that Willstrop succeeded this month.
But, such is the narrow points margin between the pair, the winner of this final would become the world number one next month.
However, should 2011 runner-up Matthew fail to make the final for the fourth time since 2006,
Willstrop would extend his world number one reign into a second month.
In a further twist, Matthew could slip to third place should he lose in the semi-finals - and see third-seeded Frenchman Gregory Gaultier progress to win his second Tournament of Champions title.
Matthew begins his eighth Grand Central campaign against New York-based Egyptian Wael El Hindi, the world No50 once ranked eight in the world. The 31-year-old from Sheffield is making his Tour comeback after an adductor injury sustained in Kuwait in November kept him out of the PSA Masters in India in December and the ATCO PSA World Series Finals in London earlier this month.
Should the Englishman reach the last four, he would be expected to line-up against Gaultier in a match which would have significance beyond just a place in the final.
But Gaultier may first have to face fifth seed Amr Shabana, the champion in 2006 and 2007, in the quarter-finals. The illustrious 32-year-old Egyptian, four times the world champion, is enjoying one of the most successful runs in his career with a further two Tour titles to his credit already this year - the ATCO PSA World Series Finals and last week's PSA International 50 Comfort Inn Open in Vancouver.
Willstrop, winner of the ToC crown in 2010, begins his 2012 bid against a qualifier before a likely meeting with English rival Peter Barker, the sixth seed from London, in the last eight round.
Julian Illingworth, the highest-ever ranked US player on the PSA Tour, leads domestic interest in the event. The 27-year-old world No24 from New York will first face North American rival Shahier Razik, the top-ranked Canadian.
1st round draw:
 Nick Matthew (ENG) v Wael El Hindi (EGY)
Adrian Grant (ENG) v Qualifier
Cameron Pilley (AUS) v Olli Tuominen (FIN)
 Mohamed El Shorbagy (EGY) v Aamir Atlas Khan (PAK)
 Amr Shabana (EGY) v Mohd Ali Anwar Reda (EGY)
Hisham Mohamed Ashour (EGY) v Qualifier
Nicolas Mueller (SUI) v Qualifier
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v Borja Golan Santin (ESP)
 Karim Darwish (EGY) v Daryl Selby (ENG)
Tarek Momen (EGY) v Simon Rosner (GER)
Tom Richards (ENG) v Qualifier
 Thierry Lincou (FRA) v Qualifier
 Peter Barker (ENG) v Qualifier
Julian Illingworth (USA) v Shahier Razik (CAN)
Alister Walker (BOT) v Qualifier
 James Willstrop (ENG) v Qualifier