The opening day of the 2017 Windy City Open presented by Guggenheim Partners and EquiTrust Life Insurance Company will see a host of exciting matchups light up Chicago as the fifth stage on the 2016/17 PSA Road to Dubai begins.
From the moment the draw was released, squash fans in all four corners of the globe have been salivating at the prospect of the first round fixture between World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy and in-form New Zealander Paul Coll – a match which promises to illuminate the University Club of Chicago.
After almost a year of having his pedigree as the world’s number one player unchallenged, ElShorbagy comes into the tournament hoping to halt a drop in form which has seen him win just one World Series tournament out of four this season – after winning the previous six in a row in the 2015/16 campaign.
The Egyptian powerhouse last tasted title success at October’s Delaware Investments U.S. Open and has gone five PSA World Tour events without a title for the first time since 2013, with his struggles compounded by a first round exit to Mexican World No.25 Cesar Salazar in last month’s Motor City Open.
In contrast, Coll’s rise up the World Rankings has been meteoric, with the 24-year-old from Greymouth winning plenty of admirers during his emphatic surge to the Channel VAS Championship crown in December – which catapulted him from World No.33 into the world’s top 20.
With a maiden World Series quarter-final berth at last month’s J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, Coll looks to be going from strength-to-strength and the current World No.16 will be eyeing up a huge upset in Chicago.
Egypt’s World No.7 Ali Farag will look to record his third successive victory over former World No.4 Miguel Angel Rodriguez in another of the day’s standout ties.
The pair are set to meet for the third time in four months, with Farag claiming wins in both November’s PSA Men’s World Championship and the Motor City Open, which took place last month.
Rodriguez has endured a stuttering run of form since the start of the 2016/17 season and the ‘Colombian Cannonball’ has fallen from number five in the world in August to his current World No.13 ranking.
Farag, meanwhile, hasn’t quite been able to build on his stunning 2015/16 breakout campaign but has reached two PSA World Tour finals in the past few months, narrowly missing out on the Al Ahram Open and Motor City Open titles.
Farag comes into the fixture as the heavy favourite, but Rodriguez could pull off a surprise result if the 31-year-old can recapture the form that saw him placed amongst the world’s elite less than a year ago.
Australian No.1 Ryan Cuskelly captured his biggest ever PSA World Tour title at last month’s Motor City Open, but will have to be wary of the dangerous Peruvian Diego Elias in his first round fixture in Chicago.
Cuskelly’s form has taken him back into the world’s top 15 for the first time since October, and he will have ambitions of claiming a place inside the top ten in the coming months should his form continue.
Elias, a two-time World Junior Champion, is one of the finest young talents in world squash and the 20-year-old will be aiming to combine consistency with his undoubted talent as he looks to break into the world’s top 20 – starting with his first round clash with Cuskelly.
Elsewhere, maverick Egyptian Ramy Ashour returns to competitive action for the first time since he limped out of the World Championship final and takes on experienced Finnish campaigner Olli Tuominen – who rolled back the years to defeat Malaysian World No.30 Nafiizwan Adnan in qualifying – in round one.
World No.7 Marwan ElShorbagy meets fellow Egyptian Karim Ali Fathi, while German No.1 Simon Rösner plays tournament wildcard Chris Hanson.
The other two fixtures on the opening day of the Men’s event see Australia’s Cameron Pilley line up against South African Stephen Coppinger, with Mexico’s Cesar Salazar facing New Zealand’s Campbell Grayson.
The in-form World No.2 Camille Serme kicks off her attempts to lift a third successive World Series crown with a first round encounter against Egypt’s Heba El Torky.
Serme, the 27-year-old from Creteil, prevailed in both October’s Delaware Investments U.S. Open and last month’s J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions to storm to the top of the Women’s Road to Dubai Standings – where only the top eight players will qualify for the lucrative, season-ending PSA Dubai World Series Finals.
Three first round exits in as many tournaments has seen El Torky fall out of the world’s top 20, but the 26-year-old will be keen to claim a big scalp against a player who has won 16 out of her last 17 matches.
World No.1 Nour El Sherbini is also in action on day one as she takes on Egyptian qualifier Nadine Shahin.
Shahin is at a career-high World No.28 ranking and the 19-year-old has managed some good results of late having secured a semi-final finish at the Monte Carlo Classic, but will up against it against El Sherbini, who reached the final here last year.
A semi-final defeat to Serme in the Tournament of Champions marked the first time since August that El Sherbini has been unable to reach the final of a PSA World Tour event and, with the Frenchwoman a potential last four opponent in Chicago, she will be keen to get her tournament off to a strong start.
World No.13 Nour El Tayeb and Welsh World No.21 Tesni Evans go head-to-head for a place in round two in a fixture that looks set to captivate spectators at the side courts.
El Tayeb, a former World No.5, is one of the most athletic and entertaining players on the Women’s Tour and missed last year’s tournament through a shoulder injury sustained after one of her trademark drives.
The 24-year-old will face a dangerous opponent though in Evans, who broke into the world’s top 20 last month, thanks in part to a memorable run to the semi-finals of the Wadi Degla Open in November.
El Tayeb won their last meeting in October 2015, but Evans has surged up the World Rankings since that encounter and will provide a stern test for her Egyptian counterpart.
Also involved in the Women’s draw is Malaysia’s eight-time World Champion Nicol David, who gets her tournament under way against qualifier Hania El Hammamy, while England’s Alison Waters clashes with Hong Kong’s Liu Tsz-Ling.
World No.15 Emily Whitlock will look to move beyond the first round for a second year in a row when she takes on Denmark’s Line Hansen, with Hong Kong’s Joey Chan and Egypt’s Salma Hany Ibrahim making up the other fixture.
Draw – 2017 Men’s Windy City Open presented by Guggenheim Partners and EquiTrust Life Insurance Company: Top Half
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v Paul Coll (NZL)
Cesar Salazar (MEX) v [Q] Campbell Grayson (NZL)
Cameron Pilley (AUS) v Stephen Coppinger (RSA)
[Q] Karim Ali Fathi (EGY) v  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY)
 Ali Farag (EGY) v Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL)
Diego Elias (PER) v Ryan Cuskelly (AUS)
Simon Rösner (GER) v [WC] Chris Hanson (USA)
[Q] Olli Tuominen (FIN) v  Ramy Ashour (EGY)
Draw – 2017 Women’s Windy City Open presented by Guggenheim Partners and EquiTrust Life Insurance Company: Top Half
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v [Q] Nadine Shahin (EGY)
[Q] Samantha Terna (MEX) v  Victoria Lust (ENG)
 Emily Whitlock (ENG) v Line Hansen (DEN)
[Q] Hania El Hammamy (EGY) v  Nicol David (MAS)
 Alison Waters (ENG) v Liu Tsz-Ling (HKG)
[Q] Salma Hany Ibrahim (EGY) v  Joey Chan (HKG)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) v Tesni Evans (WAL)
Heba El Torky (EGY) v  Camille Serme (FRA)
Order of Play – 2017 Windy City Open presented by Guggenheim Partners and EquiTrust Life Insurance Company: Day One
12:00  Alison Waters (ENG) v Liu Tsz-Ling (HKG)
13:00 [Q] Olli Tuominen (FIN) v  Ramy Ashour (EGY)
14:00  Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v [Q] Nadine Shahin (EGY)
15:00 Simon Rösner (GER) v [WC] Chris Hanson (USA)
17:00 [Q] Hania El Hammamy (EGY) v  Nicol David (MAS)
18:00  Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v Paul Coll (NZL)
19:00 Heba El Torky (EGY) v  Camille Serme (FRA)
20:00  Ali Farag (EGY) v Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL)