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.
We’re heading back to May as the season-ending PSA Dubai World Series Finals brought the 2015/16 campaign to an exciting climax.
Laura Massaro (right) takes on Raneem El Welily (left) in the final of the Women's PSA Dubai World Series Finals
The month opened up with a change at the summit of the Women’s World Rankings as Nour El Sherbini’s World Championship win saw her leapfrog the woman she beat in the final, England’s Laura Massaro, to take top spot and leave her in prime position to compete for honours heading into Dubai.
Only the top eight players on the PSA Road to Dubai Standings qualified for the showpiece tournament which featured a lucrative $160,000 up for grabs in both the Men’s and the Women’s events – the group stage and semi-finals of which would be played in a best-of-three format.
World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy was seeded first in Group A and got his title challenge off to a strong start with wins over Colombia’s Miguel Angel Rodriguez and France’s Mathieu Castagnet before losing out to three-time World Champion Nick Matthew in his final group match.
The Egyptian still finished top of his group though to qualify for the semi-final stage, while Rodriguez joined him in second place after beating Matthew and Castagnet.
Meanwhile, World Champion Gregory Gaultier and Australian No.1 Cameron Pilley qualified from Group B, with Gaultier scything through the group with a 100 per cent record.
The Women’s event saw Massaro take top spot in Group A ahead of defending champion Nicol David, while El Sherbini had to settle for second place in Group B behind fellow Egyptian Raneem El Welily, whose opening day win over the new World No.1 proved crucial.
The semi-final saw a huge shock in the Men’s event, with World No.14 Cameron Pilley becoming the first Australian since Anthony Ricketts in 2006 to reach the final of the prestigious World Series Finals after scalping ElShorbagy, who had dominated the PSA World Tour over the previous nine months with six World Series titles to his name
Pilley’s reward was a rematch with Gaultier in the final, but the ‘French General’ proved too strong for the Australian once again as he powered to the win in four games – lifting his third World Series Finals crown in the process.
Elsewhere, Massaro got revenge for her World Championship final defeat to El Sherbini to reach the showpiece finale, while El Welily downed David to set up a climactic showdown between the two former World No.1s.
In a dramatic five-game fixture which saw El Welily twice take the lead, Massaro dug in and showed all of her mental strength and renowned spirit to shift momentum back in her favour, eventually edging the win to become the first woman aside from David to lift the coveted title.
May was also a busy month away from Dubai as Marwan ElShorbagy, the younger brother of Mohamed, and Borja Golan took the plaudits at the Houston Open and PSA Sporta, respectively. For Marwan, it was a win that would facilitate a move into a career-high World No.6 ranking the following month, while Golan’s success yielded a 31st PSA World Tour title for the Spaniard.
Paris was also home to some premier squash talent as World No.23 Chris Simpson fought through a strong field to capture his second Tour crown of the season. France also hosted the Lorient Open the same week, with Spain’s Carlos Cornes Ribadas triumphing there.
Later on in the month, Malaysia’s Nafiizwan Adnan came out on top against Paul Coll in the final of the Men’s HKFC International, while the Women’s event saw title favourite Joelle King play to her seeding as the New Zealander dispatched Indian No.1 Joshna Chinappa to lift the title.
World Junior Championship runner-up Youssef Soliman also had a month to remember after claiming his second and third PSA World Tour titles at the Ipswich Open and the Men’s Jersey Classic, ensuring that he would rise to a career-high World No.106 in the following month’s World Rankings.
England’s Millie Tomlinson continued her hot streak at the Women’s Jersey Classic to capture her second successive Tour crown, while Australia’s Tamika Saxby stepped up her return from a year out by lifting her first ever Tour silverware at the City of Perth Open.
Ireland’s greatest ever player Madeline Perry made a brief return to the PSA World Tour after her retirement from the game last year. The former World No.3 entered the NT Open as a local and turned back the years as she stormed to the title without dropping a game.
Massaro and Pilley were both rewarded for their heroics in Dubai as they were given the distinction of being named as the PSA Players of the Month for the third and second time that season, respectively.
Full List of Winners
Charlotte Open 2016 – Vikram Malhotra (IND)
Christchurch Vets Ipswich Open 2016 – Youssef Soliman
Lviv Harrow Lion Squash Cup 2016 – Nada Abbas (EGY)
Lviv Karakal Lion Squash Cup 2016 – Christophe Andre (FRA)
Devoy Squash & Fitness Open PSA 2016 – Evan Williams (NZL)
4th FMC International Men Squash Championship 2016 – Farhan Mehboob (PAK)
Grand Sport Armenia 2nd Challenger 5 2016 – Mazen Gamal (EGY)
Squash Waikato Open 2016 – Evan Williams (NZL)
Decker Camiones & Canal 10 MDP TV Tour de las Americas – Mar del Plata Open 2016 – Robertino Pezzota (ARG)
IG Open de Paris 2016 – Chris Simpson (ENG)
Men’s Jersey Squash Classic 2016 – Youssef Soliman (EGY)
Women’s Jersey Squash Classic 2016 – Millie Tomlinson (ENG)
The Houston Open 2016 – Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY)
Seapiax Open Lorient 2016 – Carlos Cornes Ribadas (ESP)
Men’s Squash NT Open 2016 – Zac Alexander (AUS)
Women’s Squash NT Open 2016 – Madeline Perry (AUS)
Flo.Money Stortford Classic 2016 – Charles Sharpes (ENG)
Sporta IX Torneo Internacional PSA Sporta 2016 – Borja Golan (ESP)
Swiss IT Factory Swiss Open 2016 – Kristian Frost Olesen (DEN)
Tour de las Americas – PSA Cordoba Open 2016 – Robertino Pezzota (ARG)
Raanana Squash Center 30th Anniversary Festival 2016 – Aqeel Rehman (AUT)
Asociacion Chaquena de Squash Tour de las Americas – Regatas Resistencia Open 2016 – Arturo Salazar (MEX)
Men’s HKFC International 2016 – Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS)
Women’s HKFC International 2016 – Joelle King (NZL)
Men’s PSA Dubai World Series Finals – Gregory Gaultier (FRA)
Women’s PSA Dubai World Series Finals – Laura Massaro (ENG)
Grand Sport Armenia 1st Challenger 5 2016 – Hana Moataz (EGY)
Select Gaming Kent Open 2016 – Tom Ford (ENG)
Men’s City of Perth Squash Challenge Open 2016 – Zac Alexander (AUS)
Women’s City of Perth Squash Challenge Open 2016 – Tamika Saxby (AUS)