With Gregory Gaultier and Ramy Ashour both ruled out of this week's 2017 U.S. Open, an opportunity has presented itself to a plethora of players currently sitting outside the top four to try and take advantage of a golden opportunity to reach the latter stages of one of squash's biggest events.
Oracle NetSuite Open champion Mohamed ElShorbagy will be the favourite to defend his title, but with the likes of Ali Farag, Fares Dessouky, Paul Coll and the highly impressive Diego Elias all looking to step up during the 2017/18 campaign, we asked our experts who they feel are the most dangerous contenders this season.
Richard Eaton – Journalist for AFP and SquashPlayer Magazine
Ali Farag and Fares Dessouky look like the biggest threats to the established order atop the World Rankings. Ali is already making his way up there while Fares has surprisingly been taking a little longer to do so, but he has many of the qualities needed to make it.
I would be excited if either Diego Elias or Mohamed Abouelghar were to climb significantly higher because they would add dramatic new ingredients to the top ten mix. But squash has for some while been well served by the variety and talent of its leading male players, and most matches involving either Greg Gaultier or Karim Gawad are full of great things.
Paul Johnson – Former World No.3 and SQUASHTV Commentator
Marwan Elshorbagy is a real threat this season. After getting the monkey off his back and beating his brother in Chicago, Marwan had a great second half to his season. If he has put in some good hard work over the summer months he will cause plenty of problems for the top guys. Paul Coll is another player creating a bit of an aura on Tour with his outrageous physicality. Although he pushed a couple of the top guys last season he fell a little short with experience. More exposure to the bigger occasions will only aid his confidence. Once he develops a little more court craft and experience he's only heading in one direction in my opinion.
Outside the top ten, I think young Peruvian Diego Elias has plenty of talent. He's still learning his trade but learning as every event passes and is definitely one to look out for in the not too distant future. I was also really impressed with yet another young Egyptian last season in the form of Mohamed Abouelghar. He played brilliantly in TOC and won his last few tournaments. He's a great athlete with a few technical quirks and is really exciting to watch.
Jonah Barrington – Former World No.1 And Squash's First professional Player
I think two of the biggest dangers to the current established top five are Fares Dessouky and Paul Coll.
Both made a big impression on me last season and Dessouky looked to me like he was starting to mature mentally and was getting a better understanding of what he should, and shouldn't, be doing during big matches. He has great athleticism and huge ability which can only develop further so I see him as being right there in the latter stages of the big events.
Coll had an exceptional winter last year. He plays a game that is relatively simple, relying on his fantastic movement and athleticism. He's also built up a stronger mentality during key phases and he became a player that troubled the big names last year.
Players have now had a chance to look at him so I hope the he has spent the summer working hard on using hi physicality to attack more – to gaining more control in the middle of the court and use his already adept short game much more productively.
Beyond those two I would point to players like Diego Elias – who had some good matches last year and I player very much hope to see progress – and Mohamed Abouelghar and Zahed Mohamed, who I think will continue to be involved in brilliant and explosive matches at times.
Also, a fit Nick Matthew competing in what is his last season will be fascinating to watch this season.