Victory for Laura Massaro and Gregory Gaultier at the PSA Dubai World Series Finals in May brought an end to what has been one of the most remarkable and memorable seasons ever in the history of professional squash – a nine-month spell that saw records broken, 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 season review, we’re focusing on a magnificent March.
Mohamed ElShorbagy celebrates during the 2016 Allam British Open
As the 2015/16 season approached the business end, March saw a bumper month of world-class squash action enrapture spectators in all four corners of the globe as the oldest tournament on the PSA World Tour calendar – the British Open – took place in a historic month that also saw the prestigious Windy City and Canary Wharf Classic tournaments light up the Tour.
The Windy City Open had begun the previous month where Frenchman Mathieu Castagnet’s stunning retrieval saw him become a viral star, but it was the latter stages of the World Series event taking place in Chicago that saw the drama reach a crescendo.
While World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy’s final encounter with three-time World Champion Nick Matthew was cut short due to an injury to the latter in the Men’s draw, Raneem El Welily and Nour El Sherbini played out a fascinating battle in the Women’s event, with El Welily recapturing the form she displayed 12 months previously to defend her title.
Less than two weeks later, the highly-anticipated Canary Wharf Classic took place in the iconic setting of London’s East Wintergarden where, following in Castagnet’s footsteps, New Zealand’s Paul Coll became the latest squash star to go viral with his ‘Superman’ dives against former World No.1 James Willstrop.
While Coll caught the imagination in round one, it was Castagnet who ultimately took the plaudits as he dispatched Joe Lee, Willstrop, Cameron Pilley and then World Championship runner-up Omar Mosaad in the final to lift the biggest PSA World Tour title of his career.
Hull’s Airco Arena would be the next stop for the SQUASHTV cameras as the iconic British Open was staged over Easter weekend for the first time since 1996.
All eyes were on Egyptian maverick Ramy Ashour, who was making his first appearance on the PSA World Tour since he limped out of November’s World Championship, but the three-time World Champion almost fell to an ignominious exit after going two games behind to Mexico’s Cesar Salazar in the first round, only to recover and force through a five-game victory.
‘The Artist’ again found it difficult in the second round and had to overturn a 9-3 deficit against Australia’s Ryan Cuskelly in the deciding fifth game to advance in one of the season’s most dramatic fixtures. However, then World No.3 Nick Matthew was unable to emulate the Egyptian as an ankle injury inhibited him throughout his fixture with Ali Farag and it was the latter who would progress to the next round – while Laura Massaro and James Willstrop also exited the tournament early to consign England to their worst performance at the British Open for 35 years.
The final saw history made as it featured four Egyptians for the first time in history, with ElShorbagy, Ashour, Nour El Sherbini and Nouran Gohar all facing off in the showpiece finale.
A lacklustre Ashour went down in straight games to defending champion ElShorbagy, while El Sherbini came out on top after a five-game thriller with Gohar to become the first Egyptian female ever to win the sport’s oldest tournament.
The British Open was the last Women’s World Series tournament of the season and saw the top eight on the PSA Road to Dubai Standings – where players competed to qualify for the season-ending PSA Dubai World Series Finals – confirmed as Massaro, El Sherbini, Nicol David, Raneem El Welily, Gohar, Omneya Abdel Kawy, Camille Serme and Amanda Sobhy all secured their places in Dubai.
Elsewhere, Farag found success at the Montreal Open with victory over compatriot Karim Abdel Gawad in the final, while Willstrop also made it onto the winners’ list by taking out Omar Abdel Meguid in the final of the Wimbledon Open.
World No.15 Emily Whitlock was also in action and became the first woman to win two PSA World Tour titles in 2016 after her triumph at the Calgary Women’s Squash Week tournament, while Egyptian teenager Mayar Hany, then ranked outside of the world’s top 50, caused one of the month’s biggest upsets by shocking the experienced Line Hansen to claim her first Tour crown in the Women’s Seattle Open.
It was an Egyptian double as far as the PSA Players of the Month award was concerned, with ElShorbagy and El Sherbini being the recipients after their heroics in Hull.
Full List of Winners
Life Time Atlanta Open 2016 – Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi (QAT)
Montreal Open 2016 – Ali Farag (EGY)
Men’s Samson Seattle Open 2016 – Andrew Schnell (CAN)
Women’s Samson Seattle Open 2016 – Mayar Hany (EGY)
True Potential Northumbria Open 2016 – George Parker (ENG)
Canary Wharf Classic 2016 – Mathieu Castagnet (FRA)
Men’s Sekisui Open 2016 – Mahesh Mangaonkar (IND)
Women’s Sekisui Open 2016 – Alexandra Fuller (RSA)
Calgary CFO Consulting Services Women’s Squash Week 2016 – Emily Whitlock (ENG)
Qualico Manitoba Open 2016 – Campbell Grayson (NZL)
The Wimbledon Club Squash Squared Open 2016 – James Willstrop (ENG)
Inno Wood Open 2016 – Joshua Larkin (AUS)
Qatar Circuit III 2016 – Abdullah Mohd Al Tamimi (QAT)
Men’s Allam British Open 2016 – Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY)
Women’s Allam British Open 2016 – Nour El Sherbini (EGY)
BCS Russian Open 2016 – Geoffrey Demont (FRA)
Men’s Malaysian Squash Tour I 2016 – Vikram Malhotra (IND)
Women’s Malaysian Squash Tour I 2016 – Sivasangari Subramaniam (MAS)