Doha, QATAR – With Q-Tel on board as one of the main sponsors of the event, the world’s best women’s squash professionals begin their bid for the winner’s trophy in the prestigious Qatar Airways Challenge 2005 which starts in Doha tomorrow.
Thirty-two players from the Women’s International Squash Players Association (WISPA) are taking part in the week-long event until April 24 at the city’s Khalifa International Stadium.
As official airline and organiser of the tournament, now in its second year, Qatar Airways has flown in all the players from Europe, North America, the Indian sub-continent, Australia and the Far East to the Qatari capital.
The competition promises to be a nail-biter as it could produce a new world number one in front of millions of television viewers worldwide as the event is being beamed live on TV.
As an incentive to watch the matches, the public are being given free access to the event, which has prize money worth US$72,500.
Defending champion and tournament favourite Vanessa Atkinson, currently the world number two, improved her WISPA world rankings by narrowing the points gap last weekend when she beat her rival, Rachael Grinham, the world number one from Australia, in the Women’s Texas Open Squash Championship.
It was Atkinson's third successive win over Grinham since December and takes her ahead of her rival in the provisional world standings. But the official list is drawn up on May 1 after the Qatar Airways Challenge. Both players are paired to meet each other in the final in Doha if they get through their respective knock-out rounds.
The Qatar Airways Challenge is one of eight key events on the prestigious international Grand Prix circuit.
Of the players taking part, 24 have automatic qualification. Sixteen others compete in the pre-qualification round tomorrow for the eight remaining places making up the final 32.
Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker said: “We are bracing ourselves for one of the most exciting squash events on the WISPA circuit.
“Doha will take centre stage over the next few days with the world’s best players battling it out for the coveted winner’s trophy.
“There is added momentum this year as both Rachael and Vanessa, the world’s top two are very close in the world rankings. The Qatar Airways Challenge could produce a new world number one.
“I hope that the public will cheer on these athletic women over the next few days and offer them full support. As an incentive, we are offering the public free access to the tournament.”
Award-winning Qatar Airways is one of the fastest growing airlines in the world operating 60 routes from its hub in Doha with a fleet of 39 all-Airbus aircraft.
Qatar Airways is a winner in its own right, being one of only three airlines in the world to be ranked a Five Star carrier for excellent service and high standards by Skytrax, the independent aviation industry monitoring agency.
Skytrax also ranked Qatar Airways’ cabin crew as the best in the Middle East in 2004 for the second year running and fifth best in the world following a survey of more than two million passengers worldwide.
Doha-based Qatar Airways will operate a fleet of 110 aircraft by 2013 – almost double the existing size. Qatar Airways has ordered 80 Airbus A350s, 60 Boeing 787s and 32 Boeing 777s, with deliveries of the latter having started in November 2007. The airline is a launch customer of the twin-deck Airbus A380 ‘super jumbos’ with five aircraft on order and scheduled for delivery from 2010. Qatar Airways moves to the New Doha International Airport in 2010, when the first phase of the new facility opens. For more information, visit www.ndiaproject.com
Qatar Airways is one of only six airlines in the world with a Five Star ranking for service and excellence awarded by Skytrax, the independent aviation industry monitoring agency. Skytrax also named Qatar Airways’ cabin crew as Best in the Middle East for the fifth year running in 2007 following a survey of more than 15 million passengers worldwide. For more information, log onto www.qatarairways.com
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