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ToC Final Preview: Gawad, Gaultier, Massaro and Serme Battling for Honours in New York

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Tonight sees four of the world’s leading players do battle for one of the most prestigious titles on the PSA World Tour as the 2017 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions concludes in the stunning setting of New York’s Grand Central Terminal.

2009 winner Gregory Gaultier goes head-to-head with World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad in the Men’s final, while Gaultier’s compatriot, Camille Serme, clashes with World No.5 Laura Massaro for the Women’s crown.

The Tournament of Champions acts as the fourth stage on the Men’s PSA Road to Dubai and the third stage on the Women’s, so vital points for the PSA Road to Dubai Standings will be up for grabs during an electric night of top-class squash action.

Order of Play – 2017 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions: Finals
(All times are local GMT-5)
19:00 [5] Camille Serme (FRA) v [4] Laura Massaro (ENG)
20:00 [3] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v [2] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY)

Find out where you can watch the finals live!

Gregory Gaultier v Karim Abdel Gawad

Karim Abdel Gawad celebrates after his 2016 U.S. Open win over Gregory Gaultier

After prevailing in one of the most bizarre matches ever to take place in Grand Central Terminal, World No.3 Gaultier will be hoping to have fully recovered from the glute injury that almost saw him retire from his semi-final clash with World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy.

The 34-year-old, known as the ‘French General’, dominated proceedings in the early stages of the climactic encounter as he powered to a 2-0 lead, only to see a contentious decision from the video referee turn the match on its head with Gaultier 8-7 up in the third after a pickup from ElShorbagy was erroneously called as good upon review.

Despite an injury break to receive some attention on his troublesome glute, Gaultier was unable to fend off an initia fightback from ElShorbagy, who levelled at two games apiece.

But the momentum shifted once more as the battle-hardened 2015 World Champion fought through the pain barrier to take a magnificent victory in the deciding fifth game, resulting in an animated celebration to go with the ones that had geed up the crowd throughout the match.

The charismatic Frenchman’s charge to the final has come at an opportune time given that, before the tournament, he was marooned in joint 13th on the Men’s PSA Road to Dubai Standings.

With only the top eight players on the standings qualifying for a coveted berth at the season-ending PSA Dubai World Series Finals, Gaultier needed a strong tournament and he has been rewarded with a move into the top five regardless of what happens during his final clash with Gawad, the current Road to Dubai Standings leader.

Gawad claimed a place atop the Road to Dubai Standings courtesy of a runner-up finish in August’s Hong Kong Open and a maiden World Series triumph in the Qatar Classic two months ago, and he has reached back-to-back World Series finals for the first time in his career thanks to a semi-final victory over the in-form James Willstrop.

Gawad has been the player to watch on the PSA World Tour this season, rising from World No.8 to World No.2 within the space of four months, while also lifting the sport’s biggest prize – the PSA Men’s World Championship crown – two weeks before his Qatar Classic triumph.

A two-month break between PSA World Tour events for the 25-year-old from Giza has done nothing to halt his breathtaking form and, after a polished display against former World No.1 Willstrop saw him reach a maiden Tournament of Champions final, he will go into his final clash with hopes of adding his name to a historic list of past winners.

The duo’s last meeting came during October’s U.S. Open, where a virtuoso display from Gawad saw him end a seven-match losing streak against the Frenchman and he will look to draw strength from that win in tonight’s final clash.

Three of the Best

2016 Delaware Investments U.S. Open Quarter-Final: Gregory Gaultier 1-3 Karim Abdel Gawad

2015 Qatar Classic Quarter-Final: Gregory Gaultier 3-2 Karim Abdel Gawad

2015 El Gouna International Second Round: Gregory Gaultier 3-0 Karim Abdel Gawad

Camille Serme v Laura Massaro

Camille Serme (left) and Laura Massaro in the heat of battle during the 2016 U.S. Open

World No.4 Serme will look to extend her lead at the summit of the Women’s Road to Dubai Standinga when she takes on former World No.1 Massaro in a mouthwatering Women’s final clash.

Serme comes into the final off the back of a supreme run of form that saw her become the first Frenchwoman ever to win the U.S. Open last October – with that victory catapulting her to the top of the standings as she looks to claim a place in Dubai for a second successive year.

After vanquishing the woman in second place on the standings, World No.2 Nouran Gohar, in a magnificent quarter-final fixture, the 27-year-old from Creteil came up with a similarly impressive display against current World No.1 and World Champion Nour El Sherbini in the last four – claiming her second straight win over the world’s leading player.

Serme has also had the upper hand in her last few encounters with Massaro and has beaten the 33-year-old Lancastrian in their last three fixtures – including the 2015 Allam British Open where she became the first Frenchwoman to lift the sport’s oldest title.

Massaro, whose last win against Serme came at the 2015 instalment of the Tournament of Champions, could only make it to the quarter-finals of the two previous stages on the 2016/17 Road to Dubai – the Hong Kong Open and U.S. Open – but could go level with Gohar in 2nd place on the Road to Dubai Standings if she takes the title in New York.

Like Serme, Massaro has only dropped two games so far in the tournament, with both of those coming in a tough second round clash with New Zealand’s Joelle King, in which Massaro had to draw on all of her experience to avoid a shock defeat.

Regardless of what happens tonight, their will be a new name adorned on the Women’s trophy.

Serme will look to break new ground once more in her native country by becoming the first Frenchwoman to get her hands on the title, while Massaro has tasted final defeat in 2014 and seen two of her compatriots – Alison Waters and Linda Elriani – come up just short in the past as she too aims to make history.

Three of the Best

2016 Delaware Investments U.S. Open Quarter-Final: Camille Serme 3-2 Laura Massaro

2015 Allam British Open Final: Camille Serme 3-1 Laura Massaro

2015 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions Quarter-Final: Camille Serme 2-3 Laura Massaro

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