Everybody wants to win the World Championship and and I am really looking forward to beginning the defence of my title this weekend.A
I take on a qualifier in the first round of the event in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday and I’m not looking past that match. I need to make sure I hit the ground running and play well or I could slip up.
It feels like a lifetime ago since I triumphed in Manchester to secure my third world crown. A lot has happened since then with the Commonwealth Games and arrival of my first child. It was amazing the home support I got and it really did carry me through.
It will be nice to be introduced on court as the defending champion in Doha but that’s not going to influence the result!
I know I am not the favourite this year. Mohamed Elshorbagy is the new world number one and has won four consecutive tournaments. Doha is also a venue that he enjoys and it’s a pretty difficult place for western players to go to and win because it’s sort of a home venue for the Egyptians. He beat me in the final of the 2013 Qatar Classic and he reached the final of the worlds two years ago.
Gregory Gaultier is the second seed and has previously made it through to four world finals. Gaultier lost to Elshorbagy in the US Open final so he will be fired up to prove that was a one off result. I’m sure he won’t be too far away. He will be thinking it’s his turn.
You’ve also got Amr Shabana who is vastly experienced and Ramy Ashour who is coming back from an injury. Ashour is a little bit of an unknown quantity. Sometimes he comesback from injury and is absolutely flying and other times he returns and looks like he needs a few more tournaments to get up to speed.
Shabana beat me in the semi-finals of the US Open and I felt like I got totally outplayed by him in Philadelphia. I played really well in the early rounds but I wasn’t up to the pace of the top four or five guys.
It’s very easy to panic when you have a loss like that and my first reaction was I needed to change everything. But, once I calmed down and touched base with my coach and trainer, I knew it was just a case of getting back to basics.
I’ve got back to doing two sessions a day and I have adjusted to life as a dad. Whatever happens, I feel like I am in a better place going to Qatar than I was in the US Open. Time will tell whether that’s good enough.