Following on from part one of our review of the year, we take a look back at the second half of 2015.
El Welily Ends David’s Reign to Take Top Spot
September brought with it the start of the new 2015/16 PSA World Tour season, the first ever season of combined governance for the sport, and it began with the crowning of a new Women’s World No.1 for the first time since 2006 as Raneem El Welily ended Malaysian superstar Nicol David’s unprecedented reign at the summit of the Women’s World Rankings.
The Egyptian had been in magnificent form throughout the year, lifting three PSA World Tour titles before September, with two of those coming at prestigious PSA World Series events, and led to her overtaking David after a remarkable nine-year reign.
The latter of those two World Series titles came at the Windy City Open earlier on in the year where she beat David in the final.
You can catch highlights of the pair’s exciting clash below
Ramy Returns Again
Ramy Ashour made his second successful comeback from injury of 2015 at the NetSuite Open in a hugely exciting tournament.
‘The Artist’ beat Tom Richards and a competitive Ryan Cuskelly, who’s performance signified his own resurgence that would build through the Autumn, before coming up against Gregory Gaultier in the semi-final. Despite falling 2-1 behind, Ashour’s pinpoint accuracy and flair eventually came to the fore and he progressed in five to face England No.1 Nick Matthew in the final.
After an exciting contest that saw points ebb and flow between both players, Ashour’s unpredictable shot-making talents reigned supreme and he held on to record a 3-1 victory to lift his 37th PSA World Tour title and ignite thoughts of another classic Elshorbagy v Ashour encounter later in the year.
Mosaad Appears in First PSA World Series Final, Massaro Marches to Silverware
With Ashour limping out in a shock second round exit against Mathieu Castagnet it was his compatriot Omar Mosaad who made headlines at October’s Delaware Investments US Open as he fired his way into his first ever PSA World Series final after a succession of spellbinding displays. Mosaad’s feat was made all the more remarkable given that it came just months after losing his sister and mother in a tragic car accident.
He dispatched experienced Dutchman Laurens Jan Anjema early on before moving on to defeat close friend Tarek Momen and then Daryl Selby. His biggest win of his event though was in the semi-final against Matthew where a powerful performance allowed him to overcome the Englishman in four games.
Despite eventually losing to Gregory Gaultier in the final, Mosaad’s magnificence in Philadelphia was proof that he had stepped up his game and could compete with the world’s leading players.
Watch Mosaad’s brilliance against Matthew here
In the Women’s event it was England’s Laura Massaro who continued her resurgence, powering to the title in one of the most competitive women’s event in recent memory as she used a stunning victory over Nicol David in the quarter-final stage to lay the foundation for what was to begin her longest ever winning streak on the PSA World Tour.
The 32-year-old found herself 2-0 down to the Malaysian icon and staring down the barrel of a chastening defeat but, having recovered from a two-game deficit to beat David in the Allam British Open five months previously, Massaro once again dug into her reserves and produced a mammoth comeback of epic proportions that typified her resolve and never-say-die attitude.
She went on to blitz past Omneya Abdel Kawy in the last four before overcoming Nour El Tayeb in a five-game final battle, who had herself come through one of the most dramatic women’s matches of recent times as she felled World No.1 and close friend Raneem El Welily in the quarters.
Massaro’s victory over David set the scene for her US Open triumph and you can watch the highlights below
Back-to-Back Successes for Massaro, Elshorbagy Retains Qatar Crown
Massaro then made it two PSA World Series titles in a row at the Qatar Classic in November with her performances there elevating her above David into the World No.2 spot.
The Great Yarmouth-born Englishwoman was majestic throughout the course of the event and came through a difficult final tie against Nour El Sherbini to lift the title – cutting the gap between her and Raneem El Welily at the summit of the Women’s World Rankings.
Elshorbagy meanwhile dropped a solitary game as he took his second Qatar Classic title in style.
After failing to defend his US Open crown two weeks previous, Mohamed Elshorbagy came into the Qatar Classic and he scene of his first ever PSA World Series triumph in 2013 determined to return to form and the Bristol-based-Egyptian scythed through the draw to hit peak form ahead of the World Championship.
Elshorbagy was imperious as he saw off all comers, including the impressive Ryan Cuskelly who celebrated a first ever World Series semi-final appearance, before meeting Gregory Gaultier in the showpiece event, with the Frenchman recovering from tough games against Karim Abdel Gawad and another debate semi-finalist in the form of maverick shot-maker Mazen Hesham.
It was a dominant Elshorbagy however who roared home to the title to delight the packed crowd who were chanting his name at maximum volume.
Willstrop Back to His Best in Seattle
With the Qatar Classic crown in the bag and peak form on the horizon, Elshorbagy went into the 2015 World Championship as the man to beat – with everyone anticipating a rematch with Ashour in the showpiece event.
But the script was thrown out when, after two years dogged by injury which saw him drop out of the world’s top 20 for the first time since 2003, England’s James Willstrop returned to his mercurial best as he produced a masterclass in court control to eliminate the World No.1 and cause one of the biggest upsets in World Championship history.
‘The Marksman’ turned back the clock superbly – bringing back memories of his 11-month reign as World No.1 in 2012 – in the pair’s third round encounter before then seeing off Miguel Angel Rodriguez in the next round to reach the semi-finals where Willstrop’s tournament eventually ended at the hands of Gregory Gaultier.
Gaultier Lifts 2015 World Championship Title
Gaultier had himself experienced World Championship heartbreak on four occasions, none more so than when he squandered five match balls during the 2006 final, and many discounted him ahead of the 2015 staging, expecting him to ‘mentally collapse’ once again.
But the 33-year-old swept to 3-0 victories in his first three matches before being taken all the way to five games against young Egyptian Ali Farag in the quarter-finals. After beating Farag however, Gaultier produced a masterclass in his semi-final fixture with Willstrop, downing the Englishman in straight games to set up a final clash with Mosaad – who himself had elicited Ramy Ashour and then Tarek Momen to reach the finale.
With glory beckoning once again Gaultier this time showed composure and maturity as he outclassed Mosaad to finally end his World Championship hoodoo and lift the sport’s greatest prize in scenes of high emotion and relief – a victory that also saw him take the World No.1 spot for the fourth time in his career.
Pilley Shocks Gaultier and Matthew to Reach Maiden World Series Final
Flying high on his World Championship win Gaultier was however eliminated in a shock defeat during the Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Open when Australian Cameron Pilley produced the performance of his career as he made his name as one of the stories of 2015.
Ranked at 24 in the world, Pilley was at his lowest World Ranking since 2006 going into the event but a series of changes to his tactical approach and a new ‘relaxed’ state of mind saw him hit a rich vein of form that took him past some of the world’s best.
Victory over Gaultier in the quarters was followed by defeat over Nick Matthew in semi-final stage where he showed impressive tenacity and desire to hold ‘The Wolf’ at bay.
Pilley eventually fell to Mohamed Elshorbagy in the final – a victory that means the Egyptian will reclaim the World No.1 spot from Gaultier in next month’s rankings – but showed that, on his day, he is more than a match for the players at the higher end of the rankings.
Watch the highlights from Pilley’s shock win over Matthew
David Triumphs in Hong Kong Again as Massaro Takes Top Spot
The Women’s Hong Kong Open was undoubtedly a fine event for both Nicol David and Laura Massaro – with the former lifting her 10th Hong Kong Open crown and the latter securing the World No.1 spot for the New Year.
David had seen off Omneya Abdel Kawy in the last four to book her place in the final while Massaro’s victory over Raneem El Welily in the semi-final stage meant that she would top the World Rankings the following month regardless of the final score.
A superb display from David was reminiscent of the form she showed throughout the duration of her nine-year reign at the summit of the World Rankings and she claimed the victory in straight games with a devastating performance.
Catch David’s return to form below
With 2016 on the horizon, the PSA World Tour looks set for yet another year of sumptuous squash action and we hope you can join us.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.