The men's and women's draws for the 2013 Delaware Investments U.S. Open have been released with eight of the world's top 10 women's professionals hoping to dethrone defending champion and world No. 1 Nicol David, and world No. 2 Gregory Gaultier as the top men's seed facing eight other top ten players in the world who have their sights set on the U.S. Open trophy in absence of 2012 champion and world No. 1 Ramy Ashour.
The Women's Squash Association and Professional Squash Association World Series event at Drexel University in Philadelphia will offer $230,000 in total prize money to the men and women making it the largest prize money tournament in history offering full parity.
In addition to prize money parity, the U.S. Open will increase the women's draw from 16 to 32 players for the first time in the tournament's history.
With the world's top tennis players descending upon her namesake National Tennis Center for the U.S. Tennis Open this weekend, former world champion tennis star Billie Jean King has expressed her support for the announcement of the U.S. Open Squash Championships prize money parity.
"Any time you can achieve equality in any field of endeavor – be it in sports or in life – everyone wins," King said.
"This announcement is so much more about the message than the money, and I am thrilled another U.S. championship event has stepped up and done the right thing."
U.S. Squash CEO, Kevin Klipstein, said he was appreciative of the support of the eminent sports champion.
"Billie Jean King has led the way for so many girls and women in the last four decades," he said. "We are pleased to build on recent advances in providing opportunities for women and girls by offering full parity in prize money for the U.S. Open.
"To this day real disparities in rights and opportunities for women and girls continue in the US, and even more so internationally. The messages we send with our actions, large and small, overt and subtle, matter."
In the historic women's draw of 32, Nicol David is unsurprisingly seeded to win her second straight U.S. Open title at the start of her eighth consecutive year as world No. 1, with English international Laura Massaro on the opposite end of the draw in a potential rematch of the 2013 Allam British Open final, the most recent WSA World Series event that saw the Englishwoman claim her first British Open title.
Massaro hopes to repeat her British Open performance to claim her second U.S. Open title.
When American world No. 23 Amanda Sobhy faces world No. 2 Massaro in first round action she will be focused on thwarting Massaro's quest for the championship. Sobhy, who is a 20-year-old rising Harvard Junior, is playing with confidence after winning three WSA tournaments this summer.
"Really looking forward to playing in the U.S. Open this October." Sobhy said. "Each year the tournament gets bigger and better and now it has become one of the biggest tournaments in the world with equal prize money for both the women and the men.
"I always love playing in front of the home crowd in such a great venue and I am really excited to be finally playing on the glass court. Unfortunately, I got a tough first round having to play the two seed, but I have been playing well this summer and notched up some wins and confidence, so I am looking forward to carrying that momentum with me into the U.S. Open."
2012 finalist and World No. 3 Raneem El Weleily of Egypt returns as the three seed setting up a potential semifinal match against Massaro should she progress against the former World Junior Champion, while England's Alison Waters comes in as the four seed in the top half of the draw.
Former University of Pennsylvania All-American Kristen Lange has been handed the wildcard spot with a first round match up against English world No. 7 Jenny Duncalf.
Seattle-based Latasha Khan will also be representing the home nation facing Englishwoman Sarah Kippax in the opening round.
WSA Director for North America Suzie Pierrepont looks forward to the world's top women's players getting behind equality in both draw size and prize purse.
"U.S. Squash are the first organization to offer equal prize money in a major event, a commitment that is indicative of the organization's values and leadership," Pierrepont said.
"The U.S. Open is one of the biggest tournaments on the WSA calendar and the players are looking forward to another visit to Drexel for a world class event. With both Nicol David and Laura Massaro playing, the Philly crowd can look forward to some great women's squash."
On the men's side, France’s world No. 2 Gregory Gaultier will be determined to make amends for a 2012 runner-up finish by winning the men's title in the in the 2013 Delaware Investments U.S. Open Squash Championships - the first PSA World Series event of the second half of the year.
Former world No. 1 Gaultier heads a star-studded men’s U.S. Open field which includes four further world number ones. The 2006 champion from Aix-en-Provence will take on US wildcard Christopher Gordon in the opening round.
New York-born Gordon, ranked 45 in the world, made a significant breakthrough in March when he won the US National title for the first time – against expectations.
Top seed Gaultier is expected to meet English rival James Willstrop in the final. The second seed from Harrogate in Yorkshire has been a semifinalist in his last three appearances in the championships – but reached the final in 2007.
It was his England teammate and fellow former world No. 1 Nick Matthew who emerged triumphant in the 2007 final. The world No. 4 from Sheffield, who opens his 2013 campaign against a qualifier, is expected to meet Willstrop in the semifinals.
Willstrop plays fellow countryman Chris Simpson in the first round. Fourth seed Karim Darwish, also a former world No. 1, will be hoping to maintain Egypt’s stranglehold on the title since 2009. He is supported by fifth-seeded compatriot Mohamed Elshorbagy.
Egypt’s seventh seed Amr Shabana is the only two-time champion in the draw. A number one for 33 months in a row from April 2006, Shabana won the title in 2009 and 2011 and first reached the final in 2006.
World No. 35 Julian Illingworth leads US interest in the event. The eight-time national champion from New York faces top-ranked German Simon Rosner in the opening round.
World No. 1 Ramy Ashour will not be returning to defend his title, citing personal reasons. Ashour has been traveling nonstop promoting the sport in an effort to secure a bid in the 2020 Olympics.
“It very much saddens me not to take part in the amazing, prestigious U.S. Open event and not to be able to defend my title,” said the Egyptian. “I am sure the event will be a great success as it has always been and will keep growing with the support of the passionate sponsors and U.S. Squash.”
“We are going to miss having Ramy at the 2013 U.S. Open." Klipstein said. We’re proud to have him as our 2012 champion, and the sport should be very proud and appreciative to have our world No. 1’s put so much into the 2020 Olympic bid campaign and be willing to serve as the face of the sport to promote squash and our chances to be included in the Olympic Games. We look forward to welcoming him back next year.”
To purchase tickets to the 2013 Delaware Investments U.S. Open, taking place October 9-18 at Drexel University's Daskalakis Athletic Center, click here.