Former World Champion Vanessa Atkinson has named Egyptian World No.2 Nour El Sherbini as the narrow favourite for the title ahead of the PSA Women’s World Championship, which takes place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia between Monday April 25 – Saturday April 30.
2004 winner Atkinson, who will be commentating on the upcoming tournament for SQUASHTV, was full of praise for the 20-year-old, who last month became the first ever Egyptian female to lift the prestigious Allam British Open title, in addition to the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions crown she picked up in January.
“I think that Nour El Sherbini has to be the slight favourite,” said Atkinson.
“She has been at the top of the game this season and, in 2016 especially, she has won two events. It’s definitely very marginal though, because it hasn’t been this open in a decade, certainly since before I started playing it. The strength in depth in the Women’s game is brilliant.
“It is the best it has been for a long, long time and I think it’s fair to say that there is a gap between the top 10 and the rest of the world, they’ve really taken to the change in tin height. In the first and second round of events, you can often get quite quick matches. Then, in the quarter-finals and beyond, it’s really hard to pick a winner.
“The winner needs to come through some really tight matches. It kind of goes from one extreme to another. So, I think that the top ten have pulled away from the rest of the pack and the quarter-finals guarantee some more exciting matches.”
Atkinson (right) in action
Atkinson wrote her name into the history books 12 years ago in Kuala Lumpur, with a stunning victory over Natalie Grinham in the final seeing her become the first Dutchwoman to lift the prestigious crown and she will return to the scene of that triumph, the National Squash Centre, for this year’s World Championship.
The 40-year-old admits that the prospect of setting foot in Kuala Lumpur again is likely to bring back memories of her crowning glory and she also recalled just what it meant to be named World Champion.
“It’s over ten years since I competed, it’s ages ago since I was a competitor. It’s nice to be able to go along and commentate and keep an eye on how the girl’s are doing. I won it in the National Squash Centre in Kuala Lumpur so I’m sure that those memories will come flooding back.
“I remember that Natalie had a really tough semi-final against Nicol [David] and it was a really epic match. I’d beaten Rachael [Natalie’s sister] 3-0 relatively comfortably so I had the edge, physically, in the final. I tried to make it tough, physically, by playing lots of long rallies as I knew it would pay off.
“I think the fact that you become World Champion is what makes it so special. It’s not really to do with being the biggest in terms of prize money, it’s about the prestige of it.”
The PSA Women’s World Championship gets under way on Monday April 25 and will see the likes of 2013 winner Laura Massaro, eight-time champion Nicol David, British Open winner Nour El Sherbini and World No.3 Raneem El Welily all battle for honours in the most lucrative Women’s World Championship ever, with a prize fund of $185,000 on offer.
All matches will be played at the National Squash Centre, Bukit Jalil where admittance to the event is free of charge. For more information and details, visit the tournament website.
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