Day ONE, Sun 14th Dec:
Qualifying seems a long time ago - well, October actually - but
the richest event of the year - the richest event ever - got
under way in Al-Khobar today. Thirteen matches on the inside
courts from noon, then three in the
evening on the glass court. Thereafter all the action takes
place on the glass court until the winner receives the record $37,400
prize on Friday evening.
Round one saw the top eight seeds all progress safely enough,
Borja Golan, Alister Walker, Daryl Selby and Cameron
Pilley all ousting 9-16 seeds to book their places in the
Round One Roundup
Borja Golan (Esp) bt
Laurens Jan Anjema (Ned)
11/8, 11/8, 11/6 (46m)
 Karim Darwish (Egy) bt Omar Abdel Aziz (Egy)
11/0, 11/1, 11/5 (21m)
Alister Walker (Eng) bt  Adrian Grant (Eng)
11/6, 2/11, 13/11, 11/8 (51m)
 Ramy Ashour (Egy) bt Omar Mosaad (Egy)
5/11, 11/8, 11/4, 11/8 (42m)
 Ong Beng Hee (Mas) bt Joey Barrington (Eng)
11/9, 11/7, 6/11, 5/11, 11/7 (69m)
 Peter Barker (Eng) bt Davide Bianchetti (Ita)
11/5, 9/11, 11/2, 11/7 (58m)
 Wael El Hindi (Egy) bt Miguel Angel Rodriguez (Col)
11/5, 11/5, 13/11 (41m)
Daryl Selby (Eng) bt  Azlan Iskandar (Mas)
11/6, 11/3, 11/2 (27m)
 Nick Matthew (Eng) bt Aamir Atlas Khan (Pak)
7/11, 11/4, 12/10, 11/8 (56m)
 James Willstrop (Eng) bt Jonathan Kemp (Eng)
11/6, 11/5, 11/7 (22m)
Cameron Pilley (Aus) bt  Olli Tuominen (Fin)
12/10, 11/6, 11/9 (39m)
 Lee Beachill (Eng) bt Amr Swelim (Egy)
9/11, 11/7, 11/6, 11/5 (40m)
 Thierry Lincou (Fra) bt Mohammed Abbas (Egy)
7/11, 11/9, 11/4, 11/7 (54m)
 Gregory Gaultier (Fra) bt Stewart Boswell (Aus)
11/4, 11/7, 4/11, 11/9 (63m)
 David Palmer (Aus) bt Naif Abureqah (Ksa)
11/2, 11/5, 11/6 (25m)
 Amr Shabana (Egy) bt Shahier Razik (Can)
11/9, 13/11, 11/6 (42m)
Round One Roundup
The action started on court two with a contrasting pair of
First up was world number two Karim Darwish taking on his
training partner Omar Abdel Aziz. Just back on court after a
hamstring injury, Aziz was clearly well off the pace as Darwish
took the first 21 points, taking the first two games 11/0, 11/1.
At 10/2 in the second Aziz mustered a run of points, but he was
never going to trouble Darwish, who eased into round two.
"He's my best friend, but he's been injured and he's so much
better and faster than that when he's fit," said Darwish.
World Champion Ramy Ashour was next, facing his team-mate
from world junior days Omar Mosaad. Mosaad started strongly,
taking the first, and lead in the next three games too, but
Ashour forced the pace at the crucial times to emerge the 3/1
Meanwhile on court one, the first match saw Borja Golan
against LJ Anjema. Golan, on a good run of form in the second
half of this year, had taken over 100 minutes to beat the
Dutchman in Hong Kong, but this time he always led - although
never by much - as he took a two-game lead. Anjema fought back
from 8/2 down in the third but it was too little too last as the
Spaniard went through to the second round in straight games.
"It wasn't easy, but I managed to stay ahead in the first two
games rather than him getting his usual fast start," said Golan,
"and that seemed to unsettle him."
that was a technical upset - Anjema was seeded 15 but Golan has
since overtaken him in the rankings - then what followed was a
real one as Alister Walker won his all-English clash with
14th seed Adrian Grant.
Walker was able to take Grant out of his comfort zone for
lone-enough patches to win a tough four-game victory.
"A really good win, I'm very pleased with that, said Walker. "He
played his game too well in the second but I managed to keep the
pace up and get him out of his comfort zone in the others."
Further English success followed when Peter Barker beat
Davide Bianchetti in four, but Joey Barrington went down to
defeat against Ong Beng Hee despite a fightback from two
games down. The Malaysian recovered his form of the first two
games just in time as he took the final few points from 7-all in
Wael El Hindi made it a hat-trick of Egyptian success -
so far - with a straight games win over Miguel Angel Rodriguez.
After taking the first two games comfortably he needed to save
three games balls in the third before clinching the win.
"I'm glad to be finally playing with no injuries," said El Hindi
afterwards. "I can't really get into my game yet but that was a
good start and I'm glad to have finished it in three."
more Englishmen gave the schedule a boost as James Willstrop
and Daryl Selby set up an-all English second round
meeting with wins coming in under the half hour.
Jonathan Kemp couldn't make an impression on Willstrop, the
third seed, in a typical fast and intense match, while Selby
took advantage of an out of sorts Azlan Iskandar to dump out the
As darkness fell, play started on the glass court, but the
outside courts were still in action as two further Englishmen
progressed. Lee Beachill and Nick Matthew both
dropped the first games - to Amr Swelim and Aamir Atlas Khan
respectively - but recovered to come through in four games.
French duo of Thierry Lincou and 2006 finalist Gregory
Gaultier came off court at virtually the same time, Lincou
another player to overcome a first-game loss before overcoming
Mohammed Abbas while Gaultier, the second seed, survived a
lengthy encounter with Stewart Boswell in the opening match on
the glass court.
"It was hard to finad a good pace on the court," said Lincou,
one of several players to win today after dropping the first
game. "It's so hard to control, it turned into a battle of
length and keeping it low."
The last match on the outside courts - for the whole tournament
- saw another minor upset as Cameron Pilley despatched
16th seed Olli Tuominen in straight games. Pilley now meets
Gaultier for a place in the quarters.
After the opening ceremony Saudi wildcard Naif Abureqah faced
the daunting task of taking on David Palmer, celebrating
100 consecutive months in the world's top ten. Naif put up a
valiant effort, but the result was never in doubt.
Last on, and hoping to be last off as he has been for the last
two years, was Amr Shabana, the world number one, against
Shahier Razik. The Canadian number one threatened to level the
match with a couple of game balls in the second, but Shabana
snuffed out the danger and went on to win in three.
So, twelve seeds, including all the top eight, through to the
second round which is split over two days, all played in the
evenings on the glass court.