The upcoming El Gouna International Squash Open will see the battle for points on the Men’s PSA Road to Dubai Standings draw to a close between April 7-14 with a world-class week of action in store on Egypt’s Red Sea in Hurghada.
First beginning in 2010 in the Abu Tig Marina, the El Gouna International has since been dominated by Egyptians, with former World No.1 Karim Darwish kicking off a run that has seen all five editions of the World Series tournament won by home talent.
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Darwish picked up the inaugural title with a victory over the enigmatic three-time World Champion Ramy Ashour, but Ashour bounced back two years later to defeat former World No.1 James Willstrop, earning the first of his three titles to date.
Ashour’s title-winning triumphs in 2014 and 2015 came over long-term rival Mohamed ElShorbagy, with the latter of those contests going down in the squash annals as one of the greatest matches of all time – and Ashour’s win was made all the more incredible given that the 29-year-old had spent five-months out of action due to injury.
And it was injury that prevented Ashour from adding a fourth title to his collection during last year’s event as he was forced to retire from his first round clash with World No.5 Marwan ElShorbagy.
Marwan’s older brother, Mohamed, made it third time lucky as he finally got his hands on the title, coming back from two games down to edge World No.1 Gregory Gaultier in a controversial final encounter [hyperlink to GG article].
Gaultier and World No.3 ElShorbagy – who this month lost his World No.1 spot to the Frenchman – are seeded to meet in the semi-finals of this year’s tournament in what looks set to be a titanic encounter.
World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad is also in the hunt for silverware as he looks to usurp Gaultier at the summit of the World Rankings – while the tournament is being held alongside the Orascom Development PSA Women’s World Championship for the first time.
Only the top eight players on the PSA Road to Dubai Standings will qualify for a coveted berth at June’s lucrative, season-ending PSA Dubai World Series Finals, with Gawad, Gaultier, Mohamed ElShorbagy and 36-year-old Englishman Nick Matthew guaranteed a place in Dubai.
Willstrop, Marwan ElShorbagy and Ashour are all but confirmed to make the journey to the Middle East – although they aren’t mathematically certain to finish in the top eight – while Germany’s Simon Rösner faces a tough battle for the last qualifying spot, with Egyptian World No.6 Ali Farag breathing down his neck.