Squash: Elshorbagy targets British Open hat-trick

World number one Mohamed Elshorbagy, who headed Egypt's historic clean sweep of all four finalists at last year's British Open, is aiming for a different kind of achievement at the 2017 tournament which starts Tuesday.

The 27-year-old Bristol-based Alexandrian will complete a hat-trick of titles at the world's oldest event if he triumphs again, which would be the best unbeaten British Open sequence by a male player for two decades.

The last man to win this tournament three times in a row was Jansher Khan, the legendary six-time champion from Pakistan.

While Elshorbagy may find it hard to equal Jansher, it would nevertheless be an outstanding achievement to win a trio of titles in the faster, more prosperous, and much more unpredictable modern game.

Elshorbagy's results have been modest this year by his exceptional standards, and include a loss to his younger brother Marwan in his last tournament, at Chicago three weeks ago.

This may however be a misleading sign.

That is because Elshorbagy's concern is to avoid arriving in Hull in a similar state of near exhaustion to that with which he struggled last year.

He has competed less and embarked on better balanced preparations at Millfield school with the help of British Open legend Jonah Barrington.

"I am at my most fragile when I've had too many matches," Elshorbagy explained.

He abandoned his hustling, energetic style quite often at last year's British Open, relying instead on mental strength and spoiling tactical varieties.

The wisdom of more careful preparations is emphasised by the boulder-strewn path which has been placed before Elshorbagy.

He begins against Fares Dessouky, a gifted young fellow Alexandrian who got to the Canary Wharf final in London ten days ago and reached a career-high world number 11.

Trying to cope with this start may feel formidably similar to facing a front-line player amidst the inevitable uncertainties of opening day conditions.

And the doubtful reward for survival might be another encounter with Daryl Selby, the former British national champion who beat Elshorbagy at the St George's Hill tournament in London in December.

He could then face a quarter-final with another dangerous young compatriot, Ali Farag, who upset him in front of the Giza Pyramids in September, and perhaps a semi-final with Nick Matthew, the three-time former British Open champion from England.

His marginally good news is that the continued rise of Karim Gawad, the surprise world champion, has earned the number two seeding and ensured the two cannot meet before the final.

This proved a calamitous clash for Elshorbagy in Cairo in November.

However even Gawad's stroke-making gifts offer no guarantees that he will get to another final, especially as he should have a quarter-final with the most talented player of all, Ramy Ashour, and could have a semi with a former champion, Gregory Gaultier.

The Frenchman beat the Egyptian in the Swedish Open final in February.

The women's event has the top-seeded Nour El Sherbini defending the title, with Egyptians in three of the top four seeding positions.

The closest potential intruder upon their near-monopoly is France's second-seeded Camille Serme, the 2015 British Open champion.