Welcome to ‘Talking Points’ where we re-live the biggest moments on the PSA World Tour over the past month.
August saw the 2016/17 season get off to a thrilling start as the world’s leading stars headed to Asia for the Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Open – the first World Series tournament of the campaign – where valuable points for the PSA Road to Dubai Standings were on offer.
The Artist is Back
A passionate Ramy Ashour celebrates his Hong Kong Open final victory
After enduring a series of hamstring problems that have ravaged the last three seasons of his illustrious career, three-time World Champion Ramy Ashour will be hoping he has finally put his injury demons behind him as he kicked off his season in the best possible style.
The mercurial Egyptian is one of the most popular and charismatic players on the PSA World Tour and was last seen limping off court during his first round El Gouna International clash with Marwan ElShorbagy in April, but he returned from injury with a flourish as he lit up the courts of Hong Kong.
Ashour was at his swashbuckling best to ease past Indian No.1 Saurav Ghosal in the opening round, before following that up with a magnificent come-from-behind victory against ElShorbagy in round two.
Victories against World No.11 Simon Rösner and home hero Max Lee then saw Ashour pitted against compatriot Karim Abdel Gawad in the final – where the two Egyptians served up some sumptuous squash in front of a captivated crowd.
Ashour’s victory saw him lift his first World Series crown in 16 months and take an early lead on the Men’s PSA Road to Dubai Standings – where only the top eight players will qualify for the lucrative season-ending Dubai PSA World Series Finals.
Gohar Captures Maiden World Series Title
Nouran Gohar takes on Amanda Sobhy in the Women's Hong Kong Open final
World No.5 Nouran Gohar made it an Egyptian double in Hong Kong as she claimed a first World Series title, beating United States No.1 Amanda Sobhy in the final – just 17 days after being crowned the World Junior Champion for the second time.
The 18-year-old’s hard-hitting style saw her power past Olivia Blatchford and Alison Waters in the first two rounds, which she followed up with a brutal 3-2 victory against World No.2 Laura Massaro.
The semi-final stage saw Gohar pitted against defending champion Nicol David, with the Malaysian boasting a 53-match unbeaten run at the Hong Kong Open that had seen her win 10 straight titles there.
But Gohar was immense and rose to an impressive 3-1 triumph to end David’s Hong Kong reign and set up a mouthwatering final clash with Sobhy, who had dismantled World No.1 and World Champion Nour El Sherbini in the previous round.
The duo were meeting for the first time since January’s J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, with Sobhy winning on that occasion, but Gohar would not be denied again as she recovered from a game down to break her World Series title duck and ensure that she would top the PSA Road to Dubai Standings.
Road2Dubai: As It Stands
Ashour’s and Gohar’s triumphs mean that both players have taken the maximum 100 points on offer to top the PSA Road to Dubai Standings
Comprising of seven of the sport’s most prestigious tournaments, the PSA Road to Dubai Standings brings the world’s top players to some of the most iconic locations in the world, with points up for grabs at all World Series tournaments throughout the 2016/17 season.
Only the top eight players on the PSA Road to Dubai Standings will qualify for June’s Dubai PSA World Series Finals, which brings the curtain down on the 2016/17 season.
Gawad’s and Sobhy’s runner-up finishes see them trail behind in second place on the PSA Road to Dubai Standings, while the likes of Men’s World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy, World Champion Gregory Gaultier and Women’s World No.4 Raneem El Welily all languish outside of the top eight after disappointing second round exits in Hong Kong.
David’s Decade-Long Domination Ends
Nicol David and Camille Serme battle in their Hong Kong Open quarter-final clash
No player has dominated a single tournament quite like Nicol David has, with her unprecedented 10 straight Hong Kong Open title wins unmatched in the modern era.
David picked up her first Hong Kong Open crown back in 2006 with victory over England’s Tania Bailey in the final – less than a year after she had won the first of eight World Championship titles in the same region.
Since then, David, who celebrated her 33rd birthday mid-way through this year’s tournament, has gone on to defeat eight different opponents over the intervening nine years, with Natalie and Rachael Grinham, Omneya Abdel Kawy, Jenny Duncalf, El Welily (twice), Camille Serme, Nour El Tayeb and Massaro all being put to the sword.
While her incredible run was brought to an end by 18-year-old Gohar, the legendary Malaysian will still be buoyed by a strong start to the season and makes her next appearance in September’s Al Ahram International in Egypt.
Seeds Crash out in Unpredictable Week of Action
Cameron Pilley lunges during his second round Hong Kong Open encounter with Mohamed ElShorbagy
Aside from the exciting action at the business end of the tournament, the Hong Kong Open also saw a number of shocks light up the early stages as all but one seeded player in the Men’s tournament bowed out before the quarter-final stage in a whirlwind start.
‘Colombian Cannonball’s Miguel Angel Rodriguez exited the tournament on day one after a shock defeat to wildcard Tsz Fung Yip, before World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy lost to Australian No.1 Cameron Pilley in a repeat of the previous year’s final two days later.
World No.2 Gaultier was also axed in round two, losing to Egyptian World No.15 Fares Dessouky, while Marwan ElShorbagy, Mathieu Castagnet, Ali Farag and Tarek Momen joined the Frenchman in falling to second round defeats, with sixth seed Gawad being the only seeded player to emerge unscathed, eventually reaching the final.
While the shocks weren’t quite as prevalent in the Women’s event, there were still a few surprise results, with wildcard Ho Tze-Lok dispatching former World No.2 Jenny Duncalf in the first round and number three seed El Welily losing out to World No.16 El Tayeb in round two.
New World Rankings Sees Women’s Rankings Align with the Men’s – While ElShorbagy Equals Ashour
Nour El Sherbini tops the Women's World Rankings
Away from Hong Kong, this month’s World Rankings saw both the Men’s and Women’s systems adhere to the same criteria for the first time ever.
Prior to 2015’s amalgamation between the Professional Squash Association (PSA) and the Women’s Squash Association (WSA), both ranking systems were calculated using different criteria, but both now adhere to a system that divides the total number of points a player has accumulated over a 12-month period by the number of tournaments played to give an average score – with the Women’s minimum divisor being eight.
The previous Women’s system saw the divisor increase incrementally once 10 tournaments had been played, however the new World Rankings system sees the divisor stay at eight until 11 tournaments have been played, at which point it will change to 9 and not increase further until a player has appeared at 13 tournaments.
Another change to the Women’s World Rankings system is the amount of World Ranking points available at tournaments. Previously, the maximum World Ranking points available at a tournament was 5300, for winning the PSA Women’s World Championship, with a World Series tournament winner gaining 4800 points.
The maximum points on offer have now been reduced to fall in line with the Men’s system, with the winner of the World Championship set to gain 2890 points and a World Series tournament winner now amassing 2625 points.
As a result, Nicol David moved back to the world’s top three for the first time since March, leapfrogging El Welily, while Nour El Sherbini stayed at No.1, followed by Laura Massaro. Nouran Gohar rounded out the top five.
The Men’s rankings, meanwhile, saw Mohamed ElShorbagy retain his place at the summit for an eighth successive month and a 21st month overall – equalling the amount of time that long-time rival Ashour topped the rankings between 2010-2013.
Pallikal Karthik and Al Tamimi Prevail in Australia Open
Pallikal in action
The 2016 Australian Open also took place in August and saw World No.19 Dipika Pallikal Karthik and Qatar’s Abdullah Mohd Al Tamimi take the Women’s and Men’s titles, respectively, in Melbourne.
Pallikal Karthik was in fine form to overcome Egyptian teenager Mayar Hany in her final encounter, recovering from a game down to secure her first PSA World Tour title of 2016.
Al Tamimi came up against New Zealand’s Campbell Grayson in the Men’s final and it was the latter who started in the ascendancy, going a game ahead to leave Al Tamimi staring down the barrel of defeat.
The World No.46 showed nerves of steel though to battle back and he took the next three games without reply to lift his third career PSA World Tour title.
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