The 2016 Qatar Classic begins today (November 13), with a number of mouthwatering fixtures set to light up the court at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex as the third stage on the 2016/17 PSA Road to Dubai gets under way.
Defending champion and current PSA Road to Dubai Standings leader Mohamed ElShorbagy will line up against 19-year-old Peruvian Diego Elias in round one as he looks to become the first man to win this tournament on three occasions.
Mohamed ElShorbagy (left) with Gregory Gaultier during their 2015 Qatar Classic final match
The hard-hitting Egyptian has made slow starts at both of his previous World Series tournaments this season, bowing out of August’s Hong Kong Open at the second round stage before overturning a match ball against Mexico’s Cesar Salazar in round one of the U.S. Open – a tournament he eventually went on to win.
Elias, a two-time World Junior Champion, has shown glimpses of the talent that has earmarked him as a potential future World No.1 over the past few months, notably reaching the semi-finals of the NetSuite Open in front of the SQUASHTV cameras.
ElShorbagy was set to face Australian No.1 Cameron Pilley in the opening round until an injury to World No.6 Ali Farag meant a change to the draw. While the current World No.1 will be pleased to have avoided a fixture against a player he has lost to twice over the past year, he will need to have his wits about him as he looks to fend off an upset against World No.27 Elias.
Former World No.1 James Willstrop goes head-to-head with World No.20 Chris Simpson in another of the opening day’s standout fixtures.
A sterling October saw Yorkshireman Willstrop display the kind of form that saw him top the World Rankings in 2012 as he narrowly missed out on taking the NetSuite Open title courtesy of a final defeat to Gregory Gaultier.
The 33-year-old then built on that to reach the last four of the U.S. Open a fortnight later – his first World Series semi-final since 2014 – a feat which saw him crowned the PSA Men’s Player of the Month for October.
Simpson, meanwhile, returned to the world’s top 20 for the first time in over two years in this month’s World Rankings and will need to be at his best if he is to end a four-match losing streak to the man known as ‘The Marksman’.
Three-time World Champion Nick Matthew gets his tournament under way against local hero Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi as he looks to follow on from an impressive U.S. Open tournament last month where he reached the final.
The 36-year-old veteran went two games up in his final clash with ElShorbagy in Philadelphia, but ultimately succumbed to injury as he narrowly missed out on breaking his own record as the oldest ever World Series title winner.
If his body holds up, ‘The Wolf’ will once again be one of the main contenders in Doha as he looks to triumph here for the first time since 2009.
Al Tamimi, meanwhile, will hope that his home support can propel him to a shock victory in their first PSA World Tour meeting.
Frenchman Gregoire Marche and Egypt’s Mohamed Abouelghar also meet on day one, while World No.9 Tarek Momen will need to be at his best to shrug off the attentions of New Zealand’s Paul Coll.
Elsewhere on the opening day of main draw action, German No.1 Simon Rösner is set to lock horns with English qualifier Declan James, while Saurav Ghosal and Leo Au go up against qualifiers Alan Clyne and Campbell Grayson, respectively.
Draw – 2016 Qatar Classic: Top Half
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v Diego Elias (PER)
Leo Au (HKG) v [Q] Campbell Grayson (NZL)
James Willstrop (ENG) v Chris Simpson (ENG)
[Q] Declan James (ENG) v  Simon Rösner (GER)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) v [Q] Paul Coll (NZL)
Gregoire Marche (FRA) v Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY)
Saurav Ghosal (IND) v [Q] Alan Clyne (SCO)
[WC] Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi (QAT) v  Nick Matthew (ENG)
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