Gillen Markets London Squash Classic 2024: The Contenders

As we near the inaugural edition of the Gillen Markets London Squash Classic, we’re taking a look at the main contenders for the respective titles at Alexandra Palace.

The PSA World Tour Gold-level event, which will take place between March 27 – April 1, is a continuation of the iconic men’s event, the Canary Wharf Classic, which has attracted some of the biggest names in the sport over the last two decades.

Proposed refurbishments to the East Wintergarden venue prompted a trip to North London and Alexandra Palace to host this year’s event, which also sees the introduction of a women’s draw for the very first time.

Here, we look at some of the main contenders for the London Squash Classic 2024 title…

Women’s Draw

Nour El Sherbini

World No.1 Nour El Sherbini will certainly be the player to beat in the women’s draw, following a stellar season that has seen her lose just two matches in total, and secure six titles to her name. The ‘Warrior Princess’ is the top seed for the London Classic is projected to play No.8 seed Sivasangari Subramaniam in the quarter-finals, if the event went to seeding.

Nour El Sherbini in action.

El Sherbini hasn’t taken to the court since claiming the Windy City Open title a month ago, so will look to not be caught cold in the opening stages of the event. The 28-year-old will play one of Tesni Murphy or Emilia Soini in the second round.

During her incredible career to date, El Sherbini has won a total of 40 PSA Tour titles, but victory in the inaugural edition of the women’s London Classic event provides the opportunity for yet another first to add to her impressive resume.

Hania El Hammamy

World No.2 Hania El Hammamy will be looking to write the wrongs of her two recent semi-final defeats at the Windy City Open and the J.P. Morgan Tournament Of Champions by lifting her third title of the season when the London Classic gets underway.

If El Hammamy is to lift the title, though, she will certainly have to do it the hard way after being handed a very tricky route through the draw.

The 23-year-old is seeded to face recent Optasia Championships winner Satomi Watanabe in her opening match before a potential quarter-final tie against her old junior sparring partner Rowan Elaraby. From there, the Egyptian could potentially have to defeat fierce rival Nouran Gohar in the last four, followed by World No.1 Nour El Sherbini in the title decider, if the event were to go to seeding.

However, El Hammamy usually saves her best squash for the big occasions, as highlighted by her two Platinum successes this season, so don’t be surprised to see her name grabbing the headlines at the end of the week.

Nouran Gohar

The No.3 seed in the women’s draw will be the ‘Terminator’ Nouran Gohar, who is on the hunt for her first title of the season.

The 26-year-old was sidelined for four months with a plantar fascia injury earlier in the campaign but has bounced back with strong runs to the finals of the Platinum-level J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions and Windy City Open since then.

Gohar is seeded to reignite her rivalry with Hania El Hammamy in the semi-finals of the London Classic, with the pair having already met on 21 occasions on the PSA Tour, and twice so far this season.

The Egyptian will begin her tournament against one of Hollie Naughton or Cindy Merlo while also sitting in the same quarter of the draw as England’s Sarah-Jane Perry.

Nele Gilis

World No.4 Nele Gilis is a name who could prove a real danger to the top three seeds at the London Classic next week, entering the event as No.4 seed.

The 2023/24 season has been one to remember for the 28-year-old, having won her first-ever Gold-level title at the Singapore Open while also winning the New Zealand Open just before the New Year.

Gilis arrives on the back of a runner-up finish at the Optasia Championships last week, losing out to Japan’s Satomi Watanabe in the title decider, while also having reached at least the quarter-finals of six further events this campaign.

The 12-time PSA Tour winner will get her account underway against the winner of the all-England duel between Jasmine Hutton and Katie Malliff in Round One.

Georgina Kennedy 

Home favourite Georgina Kennedy will certainly be looking to feed off the crowd in London next week as she seeks a 12th career title on the PSA Tour.

Entering the event as the No.5 seed, Kennedy will start her tournament against one of Nicole Bunyan or compatriot Lucy Turmel before a potential quarter-final clash against Nele Gilis.

London-born Kennedy has been a consistent force on tour this season without getting the breakthrough title her play deserves, having reached five semi-finals and recently finishing runner-up to Nour El Tayeb at Silver-level Squash in the Land event. The 26-year-old was also recently named the Windy City Open player of the tournament after an impressive run to the last four, which included wins over Sivasangari Subramaniam and Nele Gilis, before taking the game to El Sherbini in a hard-fought four-game defeat.

If Kennedy can replicate this form, with the added benefit of playing in front of her friends and family, she can pose a serious threat to any player in the draw.

Men’s Draw

Paul Coll

World No.2 Paul Coll will arrive at the London Classic full of confidence after capturing the Gold-level Optasia Championships title last week. His run to the title in London included impressive victories over Baptiste Masotti and Mostafa Asal, before fighting back from 2-0 down, and championship ball in the fourth game, to defeat World No.1 Ali Farag in the title decider.

Coll’s victory made it eight PSA Tour titles on English soil in his career to date – including three previous Canary Wharf Classic successes – and the 31-year-old will look to make it nine as top seed.

The New Zealand No.1 will begin his campaign against one of Timothy Brownell or Fares Dessouky, whilst also sitting in the same quarter of the draw as last year’s Canary Wharf Classic runner-up Joel Makin.

Mostafa Asal 

World No.4 Mostafa Asal will be on the hunt for his second title of the season at the London Classic, entering the event as the No.2 seed.

‘The Raging Bull’ captured the Florida Open title in impressive style back in January, and since then, has reached three semi-finals from four events on the PSA World Tour. However, Asal will be hungry to enact revenge on tournament top seed Coll at Alexandra Palace, with the Kiwi having beaten him at both the Windy City Open and the Optasia Championships in the last month. The pair could meet in the final if they come through their respective draws.

One factor that should play to Asal’s strengths is the best-of-three format that will be used up until the semi-finals of the event. The 22-year-old notably claimed consecutive victories in this format over Diego Elias, Mazen Hesham and Ali Farag at last year’s PSA World Tour Finals on his way to capturing the title.

Karim Abdel Gawad

Karim Abdel Gawad has produced some of the best form of his career this season, having already picked up titles at the Grasshopper Cup, the Malaysia Cup and the Pittsburgh Open. In fact, the only player who has managed to get the better of the ‘Baby-faced Assassin’ since the turn of the year is World No.1 Ali Farag, who has defeated him on three occasions.

Gawad enters the event as the No.3 seed and will fancy his chances of adding a fourth title to his trophy cabinet next week if he can continue his recent form.

The Egyptian will open his account against one of Ramit Tandon or Eain Yow Ng before a potential quarter-final tie versus No.8 seed Baptiste Masotti.

Mohamed ElShorbagy 

The 2023/24 season has been one of near misses for World No.7 Mohamed ElShorbagy, but you would be foolish to write him off ahead of next week’s London Classic.

The Englishman, who is a two-time former winner of the Canary Wharf Classic, has been playing some superb squash of late, but has been edged in fifth game deciders in eight of his last ten events – all of which have been in at least the quarter-finals of each event.

‘The Beast’ will be determined to capture his first title since the Black Ball Open in March 2023 and is seeded to begin his campaign against compatriot Adrian Waller before a potential quarter-final tie against younger brother Marwan. If ElShorbagy were to succeed in lifting the title in London next week, it would be his 50th title on the PSA Tour.

Marwan ElShorbagy

The younger of the ElShorbagy brothers, Marwan, will also be another man to watch for the week, as he aims to claim his first title of the 2023/24 season.

‘The Jackal’ is a two-time runner-up this season, losing out to Paul Coll in the New Zealand Open final and Karim Abdel Gawad in the Pittsburgh Open title decider, and on his day can take the game to any player in the world.

The Englishman will face one of Karim El Hammamy or Iker Pajares in his opening match of the tournament. The prospect of a quarter-final tie against brother Mohamed would certainly be a blockbuster affair that would draw the crowds, with the pairs head-to-head record reading one win apiece so far this season.