2015 will go down in the squash annals as one of the most significant in PSA history with major off-court events, such as the joining of the Men’s and Women’s tours to create one professional governing body, matched in stature by the spectacular on-court action that has kept squash fans on the edge of their seats throughout the past 12 months.
With a new Men’s World Champion, compelling battles for the World No.1 spot across both the Men’s and Women’s game, records being broken and history being made, 2015 will go down as a year that typified the unpredictability and excitement that the PSA World Tour has to offer.
Before we head into the New Year, we thought we’d take a look back at the biggest moments from the first half of 2015 in the first part of our review of the year.
Rodriguez and El Welily Start 2015 in Style
January’s J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions saw the year begin in explosive fashion as the world’s greatest players descended on New York’s iconic Grand Central Terminal once again – and few enjoyed the tournament as much as Colombia’s Miguel Angel Rodriguez.
After downing Joe Lee and upsetting Peter Barker earlier on in the event, Rodriguez came up against number two seed Gregory Gaultier in the quarter-final.
The ‘Colombian Cannonball’ was the underdog for the fixture, having never previously triumphed over the Frenchman, but was superb throughout and announced his arrival as one of the world’s leading players in a thrilling five-game victory.
Rodriguez eventually bowed out in the semi-final stage to Nick Matthew but his performances in New York were the catalyst for his surge to World No.5 and set the platform for a memorable year in which the 30-year-old won his first ever PSA M70 title at the Suburban Collection Motor City Open later that month.
You can watch the FULL match between Rodriguez and Gaultier for FREE below
The Women’s event saw Raneem El Welily begin her year in the best possible fashion as she captured her first PSA World Series title for five months.
After easing by Omneya Abdel Kawy and home hope Amanda Sobhy, the Egyptian shot-making sensation came up against second seed Laura Massaro in the semi-final with El Welily coming out on top after an intense four-game battle.
Massaro’s compatriot, Alison Waters, laid in wait for El Welily in the final and the two took part in a fascinating final that saw El Welily in particular enrapture the crowd with a scintillating display.
Matthew Makes History at Windy City Open
England No.1 Nick Matthew proved there is plenty of fight left in the old wolf as he dominated proceedings at the Windy City Open back in March to overtake Amr Shabana as the oldest ever winner of a PSA World Series event.
‘The Wolf’ dropped just one game throughout the event and slalomed past compatriots Daryl Selby and Peter Barker before downing Gregory Gaultier in the last four.
He then roared past Mohamed Elshorbagy, who was in a second successive PSA World Series final after winning the Tournament of Champions two months previously, to claim his first PSA World Series crown since 2013.
Ramy & Mo Go Head-to-Head in El Gouna Epic
Elshorbagy was back in title-contention one month later when he renewed his fierce rivalry with compatriot Ramy Ashour in the final of the El Gouna International in April in what was one of the greatest matches of recent years, if not all time.
The two had met five months previously in the 2014 World Championship final with Ashour coming out on top after a thrilling five-game affair despite spending six months on the sidelines with injury.
Their meeting in El Gouna drew parallels with that match with Ashour missing out on five months of action since his World Championship triumph.
Spectators were treated to a real squash masterclass with the duo taking part in an electric battle on home soil which climaxed in the most dramatic of fashions.
Elshorbagy and Serme Capture Maiden British Open Titles
Elshorbagy put his El Gouna heartbreak behind him to lift the prestigious Allam British Open a month later – defeating defending champion Gregory Gaultier in the process to lift the title for the first time in his career and see him name etched onto the ‘Wimbledon of Squash’ trophy alongside his hero and mentor Jonah Barrington.
After flirting with elimination against Borja Golan in a tense second round victory, Elshorbagy, who was carrying a niggling leg injury during the event, regrouped and beat Simon Rösner and Matthew to seal his spot in the final.
An explosive fixture against Gaultier then followed with the momentum of the match swinging between both players in front of an enthralled crowd at the Airco Arena in Hull.
Current world No.4 Camille Serme then made history by becoming the first Frenchwoman ever to lift the British Open crown with her sensational victory over home favourite Laura Massaro in the final.
The 26-year-old was in the midst of a two-year trophy drought but produced a number of dazzling displays to reach the final where she overpowered Massaro, bringing about a place in the world’s top three for the first time in her career.
That’s it for part one of our look back at 2015 – stay tuned for part two which we will be bringing you tomorrow!