Welcome to ‘Talking Points’ where we re-live the biggest moments on the PSA World Tour over the past month.
November saw the biggest tournament on the PSA World Tour calendar – the PSA Men’s World Championship – draw to a close, while the Women’s Wadi Degla Open and Men’s Qatar Classic also lit up the world of squash.
Gawad Lifts World Championship Title in Cairo
Egypt’s Karim Abdel Gawad continued the stunning form that has elevated him into the world’s elite by achieving his lifelong dream of capturing the PSA Men’s World Championship – beating compatriot and three-time winner Ramy Ashour in the final.
The 25-year-old has been the man in form across the early months of the season – reaching a maiden World Series final at the Hong Kong Open where he lost to Ashour – but he went up a gear in Cairo to firmly establish himself as one of the world’s greatest players.
Gawad made a slow start to the tournament and required five games to see off both Nathan Lake and Mohamed Abouelghar before finally hitting his stride, culminating in a sensational 3-2 victory over World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy – his first win over his compatriot.
He then recovered from a game down to go 2-1 up against Ashour in the showpiece finale, before the hamstring issues that have affected Ashour over the past two years flared up yet again to force the maverick Egyptian into retiring to hand the match to Gawad – ensuring that he became only the third Egyptian to lift the illustrious title after Amr Shabana and Ashour himself.
Ramy’s Injury Woes Continue
Ashour’s injury problems continue to dog the supremely talented former World No.1 at every turn, and he has now retired from four of his last 10 tournaments through injury.
The last time Ashour was able to complete back-to-back tournaments without being forced off court due to injury was back in the early parts of 2014, where he won the El Gouna International in the April before going on to reach the last four of the British Open a month later.
Ashour completed one of the greatest comebacks in the history of squash in the 2014 instalment of the PSA Men’s World Championship – where he won the tournament despite not having stepped on court for six months – but since then he has been unable to get a run of tournaments together.
Squash fans will be hoping Ashour can do something to remedy the problems in the New Year, with the Egyptian currently in the hunt for a place at the Dubai PSA World Series Finals.
El Welily Topples Gohar in Wadi Degla Open to Ensure Egyptians Make History
Raneem El Welily captured her second PSA World Tour title of the season after defeating Nouran Gohar to lift the Wadi Degla Open title – ensuring that she would join Gohar and fellow Egyptian Nour El Sherbini in the top three of the World Rankings.
That feat makes Egypt the first nation to have three representatives in the world’s top three since Australia in 1996 – when Michelle Martin, Sarah-Fitz Gerald and Liz Irving sat atop the rankings.
El Welly and Gohar – both representatives of the prestigious Wadi Degla Club – were meeting for the sixth time on the PSA World Tour, with 19-year-old Gohar winning their last two fixtures, including a momentous quarter-final victory at the British Open which helped propel Gohar all the way to the final.
But El Welily, who topped the World Rankings between September – December last year before a loss of form saw her drop down the rankings, played some of her best squash to take the win in four and add the title to the Al Ahram Open crown she won in September in front of the iconic Great Pyramid of Giza.
Doha Delight for Gawad as He Claims First World Series Title
Just two weeks after he lifted the World Championship crown, Karim Abdel Gawad earned his maiden World Series title courtesy of a superb victory over ElShorbagy in the final of the Qatar Classic in Doha.
ElShorbagy was aiming to become the first man to win this tournament three times in succession, but it was Gawad who played with composure and accuracy to come out on top in tie-breaks in the opening two games to go 2-0 up.
ElShorbagy tried to halt his compatriot’s momentum in the third, but Gawad – playing with the skill and effortless brilliance that has become par for the course from him this seson – held firm to take it in straight games as his stunning season continues to go from strength to strength.
Gawad’s 3-0 triumph is all the more impressive given that the last time ElShorbagy failed to take a single game in a best-of-five match was all the way back in March 2015.
Gawad Takes Lead on Men’s PSA Road to Dubai Standings
Gawad’s win in Qatar sees him leapfrog ElShorbagy to become the new leader on the 2016/17 PSA Road to Dubai Standings for the first time in his career.
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.
After taking the maximum 100 points on offer for winning the tournament, Gawad sits ahead of U.S. Open winner ElShorbagy in second
U.S. Open finalist Nick Matthew comes next with 105 points, with Hong Kong Open winner Ramy Ashour (100) and U.S. Open semi-finalist James Willstrop (80) rounding off the top five.
Hong Kong Open semi-finalists Max Lee and Ryan Cuskelly, and the younger ElShorbagy brother, Marwan, are the other players currently in the top eight, with the trio all sitting on 65 points.
Matthew and ElShorbagy Lock Horns Once More
The latest chapter of one of the sport’s fiercest rivalries was played out in Qatar, with England’s three-time World Champion Nick Matthew taking on ElShorbagy in the semi-final stage.
The pair had met 19 times previously on the PSA World Tour, with defending champion ElShorbagy winning 11 of them – including the 2013 Qatar Classic final where the 25-year-old Egyptian claimed his first ever World Series title.
Matches between the pair have become synonymous for high-octane and high-intensity squash, with the duo facing off in some sensational matches over the years – and their Qatar Classic bout was no different.
Having surrendered a two-game lead to ElShorbagy in the U.S. Open final a month earlier after suffering an injury, Matthew came out all guns blazing from the outset and again built up a two-game advantage after a masterclass of a performance.
But ElShorbagy overturned a 9-7 deficit to win the third game, which sparked a storming comeback from the Egyptian, who outplayed Matthew in the fourth and ground out a tense win in the decider, with a contentious refereeing decision at match ball going in his favour as he claimed his seventh win over the Yorkshireman in their last eight meetings.
Dessouky Doubles Title Tally at CCI International
Egyptian World No.18 Fares Dessouky lifted the second PSA World Tour title of his career after overcoming compatriot Mohamed Abouelghar in the final of the CCI International JSW ISC tournament in Mumbai.
Top seed Dessouky, whose last Tour title came back in 2013, had been in fine fettle in the build-up to the final, beating Olli Tuominen, Alan Clyne and third seed Chris Simpson to set up the clash with second seed Abouelghar, who saw off Tsz Fung Yip, Mohamed Reda and Nicolas Mueller.
Dessouky edged the opening game after coming out on top in some well-constructed rallies, but Abouelghar levelled in front of a packed crowd after controlling the ball well at the front of the court.
The third game then saw Dessouky get back in front, taking it 11-6, only to see Abouelghar restore parity once more to send the match into a nail-biting decider. A strong start to the fifth from Dessouky saw the 22-year-old build on a 4-1 lead to close out a 3-1 victory in 70 minutes to claim a maiden PSA M50 title.
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