The curtain comes down on the 2017 Windy City Open presented by Guggenheim Partners and EquiTrust Life Insurance Company tonight when a trio of Egyptians will battle for honours under the chandeliers inside the University Club of Chicago.
2014 champion Gregory Gaultier is the rest of the world’s lone representative against World Series final debutant Marwan ElShorbagy, while it’s an all-Egyptian final in the Women’s event as defending champion Raneem El Welily and World No.1 Nour El Sherbini face off in a repeat of last year’s final.
With crucial points for the PSA Road to Dubai Standings also on offer, tonight’s final encounters look set to cap off a thrilling week of top-class action with a bang.
Order of Play – 2017 Windy City Open presented by Guggenheim Partners and EquiTrust Life Insurance Company: Finals
18:00  Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v  Raneem El Welily (EGY)
follow on  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) v  Gregory Gaultier (FRA)
Marwan ElShorbagy v Gregory Gaultier
Marwan ElShorbagy (right) takes on Gregory Gaultier in the 2016 Grasshopper Cup final
An emotional week for ElShorbagy could be topped off with the greatest of rewards after he claimed a spot in his first ever World Series final – courtesy of a 3-1 win over fellow Egyptian Ali Farag.
ElShorbagy claimed one of the most important wins of his career in the quarter-final stage after he finally defeated older brother and World No.1 Mohamed for the first time on the PSA World Tour – with both brothers being reduced to tears in an emotional climax to the encounter.
And ElShorbagy will now look to emulate his sibling – who captured this title last year – as he bids to lift a maiden World Series title.
The 23-year-old’s performances in Chicago will also see him surge into contention for a place at the lucrative, season-ending PSA Dubai World Series Finals, with a minimum 65 points up for grabs this evening.
Only the top eight players on the PSA Road to Dubai Standings will qualify for a coveted berth in Dubai, and ElShorbagy – who began the tournament in joint seventh place – will be guaranteed a spot at the showpiece tournament if he can back it up with strong showings at the upcoming British Open and El Gouna International tournaments.
His final opponent, Gaultier, is no stranger to the University Club of Chicago, with the ‘French General’ getting the better of three-time World Champion Ramy Ashour in the final three years ago.
The 34-year-old missed out on last year’s tournament after sustaining an ankle injury, but he has been in red-hot form in Chicago, blitzing past English opposition in Joe Lee, Daryl Selby and James Willstrop to reach the last four without dropping a game.
Awaiting Gaultier in the semi-finals was Spain’s former World No.5 Borja Golan, who was flying high after claiming a shock victory over World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad in the previous round.
But a tightly-contested encounter went the way of Gaultier, who saved four game balls in a mammoth 28-minute second game, to see him through to the showpiece finale – where he will be bidding to become the first non-Egyptian winner of a World Series title since he lifted the U.S. Open crown in October 2015.
Gaultier is also eyeing up back-to-back PSA World Tour titles for the first time since 2012 after he triumphed in last month’s Swedish Open and he comes into his match with ElShorbagy with a 4-1 lead in their head-to-head record.
However, ElShorbagy did beat the Frenchman in the final of the Grasshopper Cup last April to claim his biggest ever Tour title, and a similar display from the Bristol-based Egyptian tonight could see him get his hands on a major title at the expense of Gaultier once more.
Last Two Meetings
2016 NetSuite Open Semi-Final: Marwan ElShorbagy 0-3 Gregory Gaultier
2016 Grasshopper Cup Final: Marwan ElShorbagy 3-2 Gregory Gaultier
Nour El Sherbini v Raneem El Welily
Nour El Sherbini (right) and Raneem El Welily go head-to-head during the 2016 U.S. Open
Reigning World Champion El Sherbini looked to be back to her best after she ended Women’s Road to Dubai leader Camille Serme’s 12-match unbeaten run in their semi-final encounter.
After dominating the Women’s Tour in the first half of 2016, El Sherbini hasn’t quite been able to return to those same heights this season, and has been prevented from adding to her two World Series title by Serme on two occasions this season.
After an out-of-sorts showing at last month’s J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, El Sherbini has returned to the sort of form that catapulted her to the top of the World Rankings last year, beating Nadine Shahin and Victoria Lust in the early stages, before extending her unbeaten streak against the legendary Nicol David to six matches.
The 21-year-old then followed that up by coming from a game behind to dispatch Serme and set up a final berth against compatriot El Welily for the second year running.
Former World No.1 El Welily is aiming to become the first player to claim the Windy City Open crown on three occasions after she toppled World No.4 Nouran Gohar in an intense five-game semi-final battle.
A trio of wins against Jenny Duncalf, Annie Au and Amanda Sobhy elevated the 28-year-old shot-making sensation into the semi-finals, where she was up against it from the off against the hard-hitting Gohar, twice going a game down to the 19-year-old.
But she kept her focus to reduce the arrears in the fourth, before staying strong in the dying stages of the decider to close out the win in five.
El Welily – who beat David and El Sherbini in the 2015 and 2016 finals, respectively – is eyeing up her third PSA World Tour title of the season after two tournament wins in Cairo at the Al Ahram Open and Wadi Degla Open.
Her Al Ahram Open title came at the expense of El Sherbini, with the younger Egyptian avenging that defeat the following month with victory in their U.S. Open semi-final clash.
Last year’s final saw El Welily triumph by a 3-1 scoreline, and El Sherbini will have to be at her brilliant best if she is to prevent her fellow Egyptian from claiming a three-peat in Chicago.
Three of the Best
2016 U.S. Open Semi-Final: Nour El Sherbini 3-1 Raneem El Welily
2016 Al Ahram Open Final: Nour El Sherbini 2-3 Raneem El Welily
2016 Windy City Open Final: Nour El Sherbini 3-2 Raneem El Welily
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