Victory for Laura Massaro and Gregory Gaultier at the PSA Dubai World Series Finals last month brought an end one of the most remarkable seasons in the history of professional squash – a nine-month spell that saw records made, rivalries ignited, careers forged and history made.
Over the next few weeks we're looking back at the major moments that lit up the PSA World Tour during 2015/16, starting with the breakthrough performances, to the most outstanding performers and performances, shock moments, and rising stars that ensured the 2015/16 season – the first full season of combined governance since the PSA and WSA joined forces in a historic merger back on January 1st, 2015 – will go down in the sporting annals as one of the best ever.
In this part of our season review, we’re looking at the players who have done enough to suggest that they will be looking to make a big impact next season.
Nele Gillis in action
A fine 2015/16 season saw Belgian No.1 Nele Gilis lift her first two PSA World Tour titles in addition to making her main draw World Series bow in what was a strong nine-month period for the 20-year-old.
After exiting the NetSuite Open during the qualifying stages in her first tournament of the season, Gilis prevailed in October’s Livestuff Open with a victory over Danielle Letourneau in the final yielding her maiden PSA World Tour crown.
Successive qualifying stage defeats in both the US Open and Monte Carlo Classic then followed, before a runner-up finish at the London Open, where she defeated sister Tinne en route to the final, beckoned for the World No.39, who lost out to Millie Tomlinson to bring an end to 2015.
Gilis kicked off the New Year with first round exits at the Granite Open, Windy City Open and British Open, with the latter of the two being World Series tournaments, but returned to winning ways in April with victory at the Paderborn Open, where she played to her number one seeding to capture the crown.
A disappointing qualifying stage exit defeat at the HKFC International rounded off Gilis’s season, but she will head into the next campaign full of hope as she aims to knock on the door of the world’s top 30.
Fares Dessouky celebrates
Egypt’s Fares Dessouky will look to break into the world’s top ten next season after a campaign that has seen him rise to a career-high World No.15 ranking and reach a maiden World Series semi-final.
Following on from the 2014/15 season where he was named the PSA Young Player of the Year, Dessouky reached his first PSA M50 final in Macau in September, but a defeat to Hong Kong’s Max Lee prevented the 21-year-old from lifting his second PSA World Tour title.
Dessouky reached the quarter-final of the US Open the following month, before suffering a period of indifferent form, which saw him unable to make it to the quarter-final stage or beyond in his next five tournaments.
An emotional victory over compatriot Marwan ElShorbagy in March’s Canary Wharf Classic saw him reach the last eight in London, before a second round defeat to Karim Abdel Gawad sent him out of the British Open at the second round stage.
The season ended in a positive note for the young Egyptian though, with another victory over ElShorbagy in the El Gouna International seeing him book his place in the semi-final stage of a World Series tournament for the first time in his career.
Despite losing out to World Champion Gregory Gaultier in the next round, Dessouky’s ranking rose up to 15th in the world the following month – and he will be eyeing further improvements next season as he looks to build on his undoubted potential.
El Tayeb shows her emotion
Nour El Tayeb
After putting an injury ravaged 2015/16 season that saw her sidelined for six months due to a shoulder injury behind her, talented Egyptian Nour El Tayeb will be eyeing up a return to the world’s top five in the next campaign.
The 23-year-old old kicked things off with a surprise quarter-final defeat to World Junior Champion Nouran Gohar in the Macau Open, but bounced back with a series of sublime performances a month later at the US Open.
Cairo-born El Tayeb flirted with elimination in the opening round against Tesni Evans, but came through in five before dispatching Emma Beddoes to set up a last eight clash with then World No.1 Raneem El Welily.
In one of the most impressive displays of her burgeoning career, El Tayeb battled on despite sustaining a shoulder injury as a result of a fall, and she pulled through in five again to wrap up a superb victory.
Her semi-final encounter against Camille Serme saw El Tayeb sport heavy strapping on her right shoulder, but it showed no signs of inhibiting her as she downed the Frenchwoman 3-1, before going up against the in-form Laura Massaro in the final – a match she lost by the narrowest of margins.
Despite rising up to number five in the world in the November World Rankings, the shoulder injury eventually took its toll and she was forced off court until April, where she would make her comeback at the PSA Women’s World Championship, eventually exiting in the second round after another narrow defeat, this time to United States No.1 Amanda Sobhy.
With a clean bill of health and a full summer of training behind her, El Tayeb will be out to make up for lost time next season, and will be a serious World Series title contender in the coming months.
Former World No.9 Laurens Jan Anjema continued his comeback from a career-threatening ankle injury over the past nine months and will be hoping to charter a path back to the upper echelons of the game next season.
The ankle problem struck two years ago, but a gruelling period of rehabilitation meant Anjema dropped out of the world’s top 50 for the first time in over 11 years in October.
As he looked to build up his fitness, Anjema suffered a series of first round and qualifying stage exits, but there were a number of bright spots, such as two quarter-final finishes at the Bluenose Squash Classic and Edmonton Open, where he demonstrated the ability that sets him apart as greatest ever player from the Netherlands.
The first Dutchman ever to reach the world’s top 10, Anjema returned to form in April’s Irish Open, where only a narrow semi-final defeat to England’s Declan James prevented the 33-year-old from reaching his first PSA World Tour final since 2013.
Anjema’s attentions now turn back to working on his match fitness as he bids to creep back up the World Rankings come September.