Laura Massaro in half century British Open bid

London, Apr 03, 2014: World No 2 Laura Massaro bids to become the first Englishwoman for more than 50 years to defend the world’s most prestigious squash title when she takes on Hong Kong’s Joey Chan in the first round of the Allam British Open in Hull next month.

The Women’s Squash Association World Series Platinum championship will take place at The Sports Arena in the East Yorkshire city of Hull from 13-18, following qualifying and first round action at the University of Hull Sports and Fitness Centre.

“The strength and depth in the women’s draw is really tough,” said Massaro after Wednesday’s draw at the University of Hull. “I’ve actually got the same first round draw that I had last year – so I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad omen,” added the No2 seed who aims to become the first English player since Janet Morgan in 1959 to retain the title.

It was in the final in Hull last year that the Lancashire lass produced one of the biggest wins of her career to depose defending champion Nicol David, the world No 1 from Malaysia, to become the first English winner of the title since 1991.

Massaro went on to ensure a place in squash history last month when she won the WSA World Championship in Malaysia – becoming the first Englishwoman to hold both the British Open and World titles.

“It’s a really prestigious event and for all the British players it’s a great opportunity to play in front of a home crowd, which is something we don’t get to do very often,” explained the 30-year-old from Preston at the British Open draw.

“I guess now I need to stop celebrating my World Open win and start focusing on this, now it’s become real!”

Second seed Massaro will be making her 11th successive appearance in the main draw of the championship when she takes on world No25 Chan in the opening round. The Hong Kong number one Annie Au is her likely second round opponent, before a predicted clash with Irish champion Madeline Perry in the quarter-finals.

A repeat of her World Championship semi against Egypt’s world No3 Raneem El Welily is the anticipated semi-final in the lower half of the draw, before a showdown with top seed David in a repeat of the 2013 final.

Nicol David, seeded to win the title for a fifth time since 2005, begins her 12th successive British Open campaign against a qualifier before an anticipated second round meeting with rapidly-rising English player Sarah-Jane Perry.

After a possible clash with French number one Camille Serme, the No6 seed, in the quarter-finals, it is fourth seed Joelle King – the new world No4 from New Zealand – who is David’s predicted opponent in the semi-finals.

This will be the third year that the British Open has been supported by title sponsor Dr Allam who, in a bid to ultimately offer equal prize money for men and women, has increased the prize fund for the 2014 women’s draw to $100,000.

“I am very pleased to be able to support women’s squash,” said Dr Allam (featured image with Massaro and compatriot James Willstrop at the draw). “I am committed to ensuring the increase of the women’s prize money in both practical and financial terms. After all, female squash players play the best of five games the same as their male counterparts.

“I am very happy to be bringing this important event back to East Yorkshire and I look forward to seeing some great squash on display in May.”

1st round draw:

[1] Nicol David (MAS) v Qualifier

[16] Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) v Line Hansen (DEN)

[11] Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY) v Qualifier

[6] Camille Serme (FRA) v Nour El Tayeb (EGY)

[5] Alison Waters (ENG) v Qualifier

[12] Dipika Pallikal (IND) v Qualifier

[15] Rachael Grinham (AUS) v Joshana Chinappa (IND)

[4] Joelle King (NZL) v Qualifier

[3] Raneem El Welily (EGY) v Qualifier

[14] Kasey Brown (AUS) v [WC] Emily Whitlock (ENG)

[13] Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v Emma Beddoes (ENG)

[7] Low Wee Wern (MAS) v Qualifier

[8] Madeline Perry (IRL) v Nicolette Fernandes (GUY)

[10] Jenny Duncalf (ENG) v Sarah Kippax (ENG)

[9] Annie Au (HKG) v Qualifier

[2] Laura Massaro (ENG) v Joey Chan (HKG). —- WSF

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