Gregory Gaultier is the favourite for the men's title at the PSA World Championships in Manchester ©PSA

France’s Gregory Gaultier, the 2015 title winner, and Egypt’s Nour El Sherbini are favourites for the AJ Bell Professional Squash Association (PSA) World Championships, at Manchester's National Squash Centre, England.

The tournament, the pinnacle event in the squash calendar, will see almost 200 players, representing over 30 nations, vying for a prize fund of $45,000 (£33,600/ €38,200) with men and women competing for an equal purse for the first time.

Unsurprisingly, world number one Gaultier is the top seed for the men's tournament ahead of defending champion Karim Abdel Gawad, of Egypt, who claimed last year’s title on home soil in Cairo, in beating compatriot Ramy Ashour in the final.

Egyptian players have also taken the third and fourth seedings for the competition through Mohamed ElShorbagy and Ali Farag.

England’s Nick Matthew, competing in his final World Championships,  is seeded fifth.

He and Gaultier, who will face Todd Harrity, of the United States, are the only non-Egyptians in the top eight.

Egypt's Nour El Sherbini will be looking for a third straight World Championship title in Manchester ©AJ Bell PSA World Championships
Egypt's Nour El Sherbini will be looking for a third straight World Championship title in Manchester ©AJ Bell PSA World Championships

Second seed Gawad will face Switzerland's Nicolas Mueller in round one.

Third seed ElShorbagy faces Mazen Hesham, fourth seed Farag will play Adrian Waller, of England, sixth seed ElShorbagy will play Omar Abdel Meguid and tenth seed Ashour will play England's Joshua Masters.

Egyptians are also likely to dominate the women’s event with Nour El Sherbini looking for her third World Championship in a row, and Raneem El Welily the second seed.

France’s Camille Serme, English duo Sarah Jane-Perry and Laura Massaro and Nicol David, of Malaysia, are all seeded in the top eight.

Key games to look out for include top seed Hania El Hammamy taking on fellow Egyptian Yathreb Adel, third seed Mayar Hany playing Rowan Elaraby and fourth seed Nele Gilis, of Belgium, facing Nada Abbas.

40-year-old Rachael Grinham from Australia, who is outside the top 24, will become the oldest woman ever to compete in the tournament.

The qualifying rounds of the World Championships have taken place over the last couple of days with the first round proper beginning today (December 10).

English duo Richie Fallows and George Parker will appear in the main draw for the first time after they defeated Evan Williams and Rex Hedrick, respectively.

Fallows, the world number 50 from London, overcame New Zealand’s Williams 11-8, 11-13, 11-6, 12-10  and he will now take on fellow Englishman Declan James in round one.

Parker will face three-time World Champion Matthew after an 11-4, 7-11, 11-9, 12-10 victory upset over Australia’s number three qualifying seed Hedrick.

Elsewhere, Frenchman Baptiste Masotti followed up an impressive first qualifying round win over top qualifying seed Mazen Gamal with a 3-0 victory over England’s Adam Murrills.

His reward is a meeting with Egypt’s Karim Ali Fathi in the main draw, while he will be joined by compatriot Auguste Dussourd, whose 3-1 win over Lyell Fuller will see him pitted against Scotland’s Alan Clyne in round one.

Egypt’s Youssef Soliman disposed of Denmark’s Kristian Frost to set up a first round clash with fellow Egyptian Mohamed Reda, with Karim El Hammamy also progressing to ensure that there will be 15 Egyptians involved in the men’s main draw.

Qualification for the women’s tournament saw all five English players falling at the first hurdle.

Japan's Satomi Watanabe caused the day’s biggest shock after she felled Canada’s world number 24 Samantha Cornett and she will meet compatriot Misaki Kobayashi for a place in the main draw.

French ace Coline Aumard also fell at the first hurdle after a surprise defeat to Scotland’s Lisa Aitken.

There were also wins for Hania El Hammamy, Mayar Hany and Nele Gilis, all of whom will take on Egyptian opposition in the final round of qualifying.