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.
Our latest season review sees us head back through the calendar to April, a historic month which saw two tournaments streamed live on SQUASHTV for the first time in history.
Picture from squashsite.co.uk
The penultimate month of the 2015/16 PSA World Tour season saw the PSA Women’s World Championship staged in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, while the final Men’s World Series tournament of the campaign, the El Gouna International, saw qualification for the season-ending PSA Dubai World Series Finals come to an end.
The month began though in Switzerland where Marwan ElShorbagy, the younger brother of World No.1 Mohamed, showcased his credentials to join the world’s elite at the summit of the World Rankings by winning the biggest title of his career at the Grasshopper Cup.
After a period of indifferent form that saw him fall to early exits in the Canary Wharf Classic and British Open the previous month, ElShorbagy recovered to produce some of the best squash of his career, dispatching Alan Clyne, Cameron Pilley and Simon Rösner in straight games to ensure that he would lock horns with World Champion Gregory Gaultier in the final.
ElShorbagy came into the encounter having lost all three of his previous matches against the Frenchman in straight games, but a commanding display from the Egyptian saw him defy the odds to take the title.
Later on in the month, the El Gouna International took place alongside the Women’s World Championship as SQUASHTV and Eurosport Player subscribers were treated to a bumper week of swashbuckling squash.
One year on from lifting his third title in El Gouna after a thrilling victory over Mohamed ElShorbagy, defending champion Ramy Ashour’s title defence came to a premature end after the hamstring injury that has plagued the last three years of his career came to the fore once more, leaving one of the sport’s greatest players to limp off court mid-way through his first round fixture with Marwan.
His compatriot Fares Dessouky fared better, however, as he reached his first ever World Series semi-final after following up fine wins over England’s Daryl Selby and compatriot Karim Abdel Gawad with a scrappy win over Marwan.
He ultimately fell to Gaultier in the last four, with the Frenchman advancing to face the elder ElShorbagy in the final where he surrendered a 2-0 lead to go down in five games – meaning ElShorbagy became the first man since Ashour in 2012 to win six World Series tournaments in one season.
The culmination of the El Gouna International also saw the top eight on the Men’s PSA Road to Dubai Standings confirmed as Mohamed, Gaultier, Nick Matthew, Omar Mosaad, Miguel Angel Rodriguez, Rösner, Mathieu Castagnet and Pilley all sealed their places in the season-ending PSA Dubai World Series Finals.
While the El Gouna International was delighting fans in Egypt, the Women’s World Championship saw the world’s leading female players head to Kuala Lumpur to compete for the biggest title on the Women’s Tour and a share of the lucrative $185,000 prize money.
Held in the Nicol David Arena, the venue’s namesake almost didn’t make it to the second round after the eight-time World Champion struggled past 2007 winner Rachael Grinham in five games, before sweeping past then World No.11 Alison Waters to reach the last eight.
Up next for David was an encounter with British Open champion Nour El Sherbini, who had beaten David on the last four meetings between the pair. Despite a strong display from then World No.5 David, El Sherbini was not to be denied and the Egyptian came through in four games to break Malaysian hearts.
A dominant win over compatriot Nouran Gohar then pitted El Sherbini up World No.1 Laura Massaro in a repeat of the 2013 final, with Massaro emerging victorious on that occasion.
After going two games ahead, Massaro seemed destined to lift a second World Championship title, but a virtuoso fightback from El Sherbini saw her take the next three games without reply – becoming the youngest ever World Champion and the first female Egyptian winner of the prestigious tournament.
Lower down the rankings, Farhan Zaman triumphed at the Roshan Khan Open to lift his second Tour title of the season, while Lucas Serme and Millie Tomlinson took the Men’s and Women’s titles, respectively, at the Irish Open.
As far as the PSA Players of the Month went, El Sherbini took the Women’s award for the second successive month, while Marwan ElShorbagy’s heroics in Switzerland duly saw him take the Men’s award.
Full List of Winners
TRAC Oil & Gas North of Scotland Open 2016 -Youssef Soliman (EGY)
SVSL Sacramento Open 2016 – Andrew Schnell (CAN)
Austrian Open 2016 – Joshua Masters (ENG)
Pilatus Cup 2016 – Reiko Peter (SUI)
Paderborn Open 2016 – Nele Gilis (BEL)
JBM Patrol Spring Classic 2016 – Angus Gillams (ENG)
6th Parco Roshan Khan Open 2016 – Farhan Zaman (PAK)
Grasshopper Cup 2016 – Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY)
Men’s Malaysian Squash Tour II 2016 – Eain Yow Ng (MAS)
Women’s Malaysian Squash Tour II 2016 – Sivasangari Subramaniam (MAS)
Richmond Open 2016 – Kanzy Emad El Defrawy (EGY)
Rochester ProAm 2016 – Martin Knight (NZL)
Assore Central Gauteng Open 2016 – Leandro Romiglio (ARG)
Men’s Malaysian Squash Tour III 2016 – Rex Hedrick (AUS)
Women’s Malaysian Squash Tour III 2016 – Sivasangari Subramaniam (MAS)
Men’s GillenMarkets Irish Squash Open 2016 – Lucas Serme (FRA)
Women’s GillenMarkets Irish Squash Open 2016 – Millie Tomlinson (ENG)
Northern Open 2016 – Arturo Salazar (MEX)
El Gouna International Squash Tournament 2016 – Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY)
Men’s Keith Grainger Memorial UCT Squash Open 2016 – Aqeel Rehman (AUT)
Women’s Keith Grainger Memorial UCT Squash Open 2016 – Rowan Elaraby (EGY)
Naza PSA Women’s World Championship – Nour El Sherbini (EGY)