Exclusive by RJ Mitchell
IN an exclusive interview with Eyerackets.com, Declan James has admitted he will face a case of the hunter becoming the hunted when he opens his campaign at the CIB Black Ball Squash Open PSA Platinum tournament, in Cairo tonight.
The England No.1 has distinguished himself in his trademark Eye S Line "Night Storm Navy" shoes as he has engaged some of the biggest names in the top-10 in a series of epic battles that have seen his ranking climb to a career high of No.19.
Declan took former world champion Karim Abdel Gawad all the way in a five set epic in the Qatar Classic and extended world No.2 Ali Farag to four sets in the Channel Vas Championships while the 25 year-old also defeated former world No.1 James Willstrop in the final of the Open International de Squash de Nantes .
But now James is wary he could become the victim of a scalp-hunting when he opens up his Cairo campaign against world junior champion Mostafa Asal at The Black Ball Sporting Club, 8pm Cairo time, this evening: "For most of the season I have been scalp-hunting and playing some of the biggest names in the game, trying to build my ranking and progress my squash as best I can and I'm really pleased to be in the top-20 for the first time. But tonight will be a case of roles being reversed against Mostafa, the hunter becoming the hunted," admitted the Eye ace.
Declan continued: "This will also be the first time I've played Mostafa, he is the reigning world junior champion and he will be very hungry to take my scalp and claim his first victory against a top-20 ranked player, so I must be wary of his threat and make sure I am on my mettle.
"I did take the opportunity to watch some of his first round match with Youssef Soliman and, as you would expect from the world junior champion, he is an outstanding talent. But this is the final PSA Platinum tournament of 2018 and I want to go as deep in the draw as possible.
"So although this game has a different type of pressure attached to it for me, I will give Mostafa every respect and all my focus and do everything I can to make sure he doesn't knock me out tonight!" vowed Declan
As he prepares for tonight's tussle with the world junior champ, Declan admits he is delighted to be wearing his trademark Eye Rackets S Line shoes into battle: "I have worn a few brands and models of shoes from coming through the juniors to reaching the top-20 on the PSA World Tour and without doubt the S Line are the best," said the England No.1.
Declan continued: "What you want in your squash shoe is durability, flexibility and comfort and that is what you get with the S Line. In the past I've worn shoes that haven't lasted a tournament and let me tell you changing shoes in the middle of a tournament is a real pain. That never happens with the S Line.
"But as well as being the perfect fit for my feet, I reckon they're also the best looking shoes on the tour right now and to be honest I love them."
Returning to a campaign that has seen him become England No.1 and breach the top-20 for the first time, with a potential re-match against world No.2 Farag in the offing, Declan admits that he is determined to add another notable landmark on his journey to the squash summit.
He said; "I've been close against the big boys a few times this season in taking a game off Ali Farag and Tarek Momen, pushing Gawad to five and also having a really tight three-setter with Paul Coll in Hong Kong and my big target for this week in Cairo is to make sure I take any opportunity I get against a big gun.
"But first I must take care of Mostafa Asal and make sure I am safely in the third round by close of play tonight."