Ramy Ashour is seeking to transcend negative energy from a troubled Egypt by delivering a world title defence which will highlight him as the most dazzling new squash star in two decades.
Egypt's Ramy Ashour pictured during the Australian Open squash tournament in Canberra on August 19, 2012
The champion from Cairo is returning to the scene of his career's first major triumph next week to purvey sensational skills which have shone more brightly as his country's crisis has deepened.
Five years ago an unpredictable young Ashour won the world title for the first time in Manchester; on Monday, as an emerging superstar, he will begin his bid to retain it in the same city having triumphed again in Doha in 2012.
The Egyptian will be aided by the momentum of an unbeaten 17-month run. It is as if an emotional wave from the national predicament were bearing him onwards to greater achievements.
"I train hard despite any obstacles I might face as an athlete or by living here in Egypt," was how Ashour carefully described his preparation back in Cairo for the sport's biggest event.
Decoded, it means he has to keep those obstacles out of his mind if he is to remain mentally strong enough to succeed.
These became all too painfully evident while Ashour was becoming the first Egyptian in nearly half a century to win the British Open earlier in the year.
"There was a lot of negative energy around me," he volunteered then. "I experienced waking up each day with such a heavy heart and heavy spirit. I had a lot of hard times."
Now, in an interview with The Squash Player, Ashour this week alleges that his recent successes have all been victories over "corrupted negative souls who were trying to bring me down", and adds that he will continue doing his best "to keep my parents, my country, and people who truly support me proud."
That best has certainly been remarkable. Ashour has extended an unbeaten run to 45 matches, inducing comparisons with the legendary Khans of Pakistan who dominated squash in the 80s and 90s.
Asked again about the mood of fellow Egyptians, the 26-year-old resisted becoming sucked into a mire of emotions which in the past have helped motivate him to join protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square.
"I get good appreciation everywhere I go and feel so happy when I see amazingly enthusiastic squash communities all around the world," he responded, using his cosmopolitan identity to escape questions about the national agony.
"This season I went to some beautiful countries which I loved -- Colombia, Argentina, Korea, Malaysia and Singapore. And then San Francisco is an amazing place -- and I won there."
Which led him logically to Manchester. "This is also a very special place as it's where I won my first world title, and this is a good omen for me," Ashour concluded.
He is now the strongest favourite since Jansher Khan won the last of his eight world titles in 1996.
Five men may think they have chances of upsetting him.
One is the Frenchman Gregory Gaultier, three times a runner-up, the US Open winner in Ashour's absence, and seeded second.
Another is James Willstrop, the runner-up three years ago, who is seeded third, and a perennial rival of his fellow Yorkshireman, Nick Matthew, twice the world champion, and the last man to beat Ashour. At the age of 33 Matthew is seeded fourth.
The other two are both Egyptians -- the sixth seeded Mohamed El Shorbagy, aged only 22, who came within three points of beating Ashour in last year's final, and the eighth-seeded Amr Shabana, the 34-year-old squash legend who beat Ashour in the 2009 final to capture the last of his four world titles.
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