LONDON - World number one Nicol David will have a surprising first round opponent when she begins her campaign to win back the British Open title here on Tuesday. The legendary Malaysian will take on Maria Toor Pakay who became the first Pakistan-born woman ever to reach a British Open main draw after upsetting the seedings in the qualifying competition.
The 21-year-old left-hander from Peshawar overcame Emily Whitlock, the European junior champion, by 11-5, 4-11, 8-11, 11-6, 11-7 in a 46-minute struggle which ended in the English player's first defeat in any competition since January. It followed another lengthy Pakay tussle on Sunday when she also went the full distance, on that occasion with Lucie Fialova of the Czech republic, before squeezing through 11-6, 6-11, 8-11, 11-3, 11-4.
Pakay, who was named as the young player of the year on the women's tour in 2007 and received the Salaam Pakistan Award from the President Pervez Musharraf in the same year, will now play the biggest match of her life in the O2 arena, the world's most popular entertainment venue. Carla Khan, another Pakistan international, also played in the British Open main draw, but unlike Pakay, was born in England and earlier represented England. The grand-daughter of the legendary Azam Khan, four times British Open champion, Khan changed loyalties to Pakistan in 1999.
Earlier three of the Egyptian front-runners, Amr Shabana, the four-times former world champion, Ramy Ashour, another former world champion, and Mohamed El Shorbagy, the former world junior champion, all came through after hard first round tussles in the men's event. Shabana, who attributes his revitalised attitude and desire to delay retirement to his three- and four-year-old daughters, fought back with guts and discipline to win 11-7, 7-11, 6-11, 11-3, 11-6 against his brilliantly fast-moving compatriot Tarek Momen.
Ashour claimed he "had learned about me" during the long drawn out recovery from injury which continued with a 8-11, 11-7, 11-5, 16-14 win over Daryl Selby, the former British national champion. He had to save four game points to avoid a deciding game. Similarly El Shorbagy came back from 3-8 and 7-9 down in the fourth game to avoid being taken to a decider against the athletic French qualifier Mathieu Castagnet in a 11-7, 9-11, 11-7, 12-10 victory.
Later the top-seeded James Willstrop joined the Egyptian trio in the second round. The world number one from England overcame Simon Rosner, the top 20 German, by 11-3, 11-5, 11-7 to earn a meeting with his former England colleague Alister Walker, now representing Botswana. Walker eased into the meeting with Willstrop with a 11-7, 11-6, 11-7 victory over Englishman Chris Simpson. World and British Open champion Nick Matthew begins his campaign on Tuesday with a first round against Max Lee, a qualifier from Hong Kong.