AJ Bell PSA World Championships – Manchester 2017

The AJ Bell PSA World Championships are back in Manchester this December. Its return to the city, which last held the tournament in 2013, is something of a Christmas present for squash fans and for players, many of whom have strong links with the North West of England. 
 
Laura Massaro, who grew up down the road in Preston, lives and trains in nearby Chorley, could scarcely have asked for a venue closer to home. Her big World Championships win, in 2013, happened thousands of miles away in Penang, Malaysia and the thought of repeating that career-defining feat in what counts as her home city is likely to be as a big motivator for Massaro as it is a source of pressure.
 
“It’s going to be hugely important, hugely special and hugely pressurised I’d imagine. I need to make sure I’m in the right frame of mind mentally to handle all of that,” said Massaro. 
 
“When it was last in Manchester for women in 2008, I didn’t perform well but I’d like to think I’m completely different, certainly as a squash player, and maybe a slightly different person.  I’d like to think I can appreciate and take on the pressure a bit more on my shoulders and hopefully do well at home.”
 
James Willstrop and Nick Matthew who both reside in nearby Yorkshire can also be relied upon to make to determined challenge.
 
Matthew in particular has very strong links with Manchester, having trained at the English Institute of Sport in the city, where he met his sports physiologist wife Esme. Arguably the most impressive and certainly the most emotional of Matthew’s three PSA World Championship wins came at Manchester Central in 2013 and having announced that this will be his last season, he will be eyeing a repeat of that memorable victory.
 
“Winning the title in Manchester in 2013 was one of the highlights of my career”,” said Matthew. “The atmosphere was one of the best I’ve played in to this day, the crowd really got behind me and having my friends and family there really made it something that I will remember forever.  With the women there as well this year it makes the tournament complete.  It will be my last World Championships so I’m just excited to give it my best and whatever happens end on a great showcase for the sport in this country.”
 
Even for those without an emotional or personal link to Manchester, a World Championships always carries an extra frisson of excitement to it, for, along with the British Open, it remains a career- defining event to win one. That was certainly the case for last year’s men’s World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad, who beat his fellow Egyptian Ramy Ashour in a final which, sadly, was cut short by injury to Ashour. 
 
Last year’s women’s final was also an all-Egyptian affair, in which Nour El Sherbini proved too strong for countrywoman Raneem El Weleily in three tightly-contested games. It is not exactly going out on a limb, given the dominance of the pre-eminent squash nation, to predict that Egyptians are likely to feature strongly in both the men’s and women’s draws in Manchester this year.
 
Squash has had to wait a long time to be able to enjoy both of its World Championships as part of a combined event rather than the men’s and women’s tournaments being scheduled in different weeks and different locations. That alone should make the 2017 edition an occasion to savour and certainly a feast for fans, who are likely to flock first to the National Squash Centre and then, for the latter stages, to the iconic Manchester Central venue, right in the heart of the City Centre. 
 
Nicol David has been around long enough to remember the first time the event was held in Manchester, in fact she won the event, beating England’s Vicky Botwright in the final. With eight world titles to her name, David must have to think longer than most to choose her favourite title but her answer leaves little room for doubt. “The 2014 World Championship final against Raneem El Weleily in Cairo was the match of my life,” recalled David. “When I won that eighth title it was truly the most emotional win of my career.”
 
Like Matthew, this could mark a swansong for David, without question the greatest female squash player of her generation and arguably the greatest of all time. A David/Matthew double would be a fitting way for both to walk away from the World Championships. 
 
Matthew’s long-time rival James Willstrop is also in the sunset of his career and would dearly love to better than his best effort at a World Championships - a run to the final in 2010, where he lost to Matthew his perennial rival in the final in Saudi Arabia. He reached the semi-finals in Manchester in 2013, a week that became far more memorable for marking the birth of his first child and is looking forward to another special week at his home from home across the Pennines. 
 
“Manchester is a wonderful city for squash, we’re so lucky that we’ve benefited so much from the city’s passion and enthusiasm for the sport,” said Willstrop. “There is a whole list of reasons why it’s a great thing (to have the World Championships in the city) not least because they will put on a great event as they always do.”
 
It should be a special week, whatever the outcome. For players and squash fans lucky enough to be able to go and watch them compete live, Christmas is certainly coming a little early this year. 
 
Tickets for the AJ Bell PSA World Championship can be booked online at
 
“It’s going to be hugely important, hugely special and hugely pressurised I’d imagine.  I need to make sure I’m in the right frame of mind mentally to handle all of that”
Laura Massaro
 
“Winning the title in Manchester in 2013 was one of the highlights of my career … having the women there this year makes the tournament complete”
Nick Matthew
 
“Manchester is a wonderful city for squash, we’re so lucky that we’ve benefited so much from the city’s passion and enthusiasm for the sport”
James Willstrop

Secure Card Payments

Secure Payments with Sagepay