By RJ Mitchell
Ross Norman has claimed that fellow New Zealander Paul Coll is playing the best squash in the world right now, but believes that his countryman will find it harder to triumph at the upcoming CIB Squash Open Black Ball Open than he did at the recent Canary Wharf Classic.
Coll became the first Kiwi since Norman, back in August 1987, to reach the top two of the PSA Men’s World Rankings when the December list was released last week.
And Norman, who became World Champion in 1986 when he ended Jahangir Khan’s jaw-dropping run of 555 consecutive professional match wins, says victory in Egypt will provide the ultimate proof of whether his compatriot has got what it takes to scale the rankings summit.
Norman, who fought back from a life-threatening parachute jump accident to defy the doctors and become World Champion, has also discussed the challenge that the ‘big two’ of Ali Farag and Mohamed ElShorbay will pose in the coming months.
Norman said: “It will be harder than winning a tournament in London, but the way Paul is going it is more than possible. But there are two reasons that it is going to be a whole lot tougher for Paul to come out on top in Cairo.
“Firstly, it is in Egypt and second that Canary Wharf may have been a wake-up call for Ali Farag and also given him the match practise he was a bit light on having taken a bit of a break by missing Qatar.
“Yet it is very much possible Paul could win the Black Ball, and I would not have said that 12 months ago. That is all down to the progress he has made during the last year.
“Paul has always been getting better and he is keen to get better. He is not satisfied with playing well and winning an occasional title, he is there to win everything he possibly can now, and the help of Robert Owen [Coll’s coach] has been a huge help in this respect in terms of strategy and training.
“I’d say Paul is playing the best squash in the world right now and he proved that in Canary Wharf. If you look at his quarter final with Joel Makin, who is a player Paul has had trouble with in the past, that win just really showed how much Paul has progressed.
“I don’t think Farag will be going into the Black Ball in half-hearted fashion, but if Coll can pull off a win on Egyptian soil then, for me, he has to be considered the best player in the world, whatever the rankings say right now.”
Over the past three and a half years, Farag and ElShorbagy have dominated the top two ranking spots in the …….