Follow us here for reports and reaction from Dubai Opera as the season-ending PSA Dubai World Series Finals begins with some cracking matches in store.
Bringing together the top eight players on the Men's and Women's PSA Road to Dubai Standings, the World Series Finals sees the world's best go head-to-head right from day one.
Top seed Karim Abdel Gawad begins his tournament against Germany's Simon Rösner, with World No.1 Gregory Gaultier bringing proceedings to a close at midnight local time against Ali Farag – the man who he has beaten to lift his last two PSA World Tour titles.
The other two matches in the Men's event see former World No.1s Mohamed ElShorbagy and James Willstrop face off in Group B, with three-time World Champion Nick Matthew also in action against World No.7 Marwan ElShorbagy.
In the Women's event Road to Dubai Standings topper Camille Serme clashes with number eight seed Alison Waters, while Laura Massaro and Nicol David renew their epic rivalry in a huge Group B fixture.
World No.2 Raneem El Welily meets World Junior Champion Nouran Gohar in the day's first match, with World No.1 Nour El Sherbini taking on British Open runner-up Sarah-Jane Perry later on in the day.
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Here are the groups as they stand at the start of play:
Men's Group A
Men’s Group B
Women’s Group A
Women’s Group B
Order of Play for SQUASHTV & Eurosport Player
(All times are local GMT+4)
15:00  Raneem El Welily (EGY) v  Nouran Gohar (EGY)
15:45  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) v  Nick Matthew (ENG)
16:45  Camille Serme (FRA) v  Alison Waters (ENG)
17:30  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v  Simon Rösner (GER)
21:30  Laura Massaro (ENG) v  Nicol David (MAS)
22:15  Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v  James Willstrop (ENG)
23:15  Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG)
00:00  Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v  Ali Farag (EGY)
First Blood to Gohar in Group A
Nouran Gohar (left) v Raneem El Welily (right)
World Junior Champion Nouran Gohar began the 2016/17 PSA Dubai World Series Finals with her first win in three matches against World Championship runner-up Raneem El Welily.
Gohar, 19, failed to get out of the group stages last year, but the World No.5 signalled her title intentions in the best of three contest to take the win by a 2-1 margin.
All three games saw the eventual winner build on strong early starts, with Gohar marching 4-0 up and then 10-7 up in the opener, only to see El Welily, whose Windy City Open title win helped her secure her place n Dubai, fight back to take the match to a tie-break.
El Welily’s crucial error at 11-10 to the older Egyptian allowed Gohar back into it and the teenager claimed the next two points in a row to take a one-game lead.
A complete momentum shift in game two saw El Welily level the scores for the loss of three points, but a fast start from Gohar in the third – coupled with a number of errors from El Welily – saw the younger woman move in to close out a 13-11, 3-11, 11-3 victory.
“She’s very determined, she never gives up, so I had to stick to my game plan and try to execute it as well,” said Gohar, who was crowned the PSA Women’s Young Player of the Year award for a second year in succession at last night’s PSA Awards gala.
“It was unbelievable [to play in Dubai Opera], when I came here I was amazed by the venue. I had seen the pictures and I was looking forward to getting on court. I’m really pleased to play in such a beautiful venue.
“Last year, I didn’t expect to make it to Dubai. I was really, really excited to play, but I felt a bit nervous. This year, I need to be calm and think about the squash and not the results, I was talking a lot with my coach about it and he was just telling me that I was playing great and just to play my game.”
El Welily, who receives one point in the group compared to Gohar’s two, said: “I thought I played much better in the second game, but I wasn’t happy with my performance. I struggled to get off to a good start.
“The venue is amazingly fascinating, it was amazing.”
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt  Raneem El Welily (EGY) 2-1: 13-11, 3-11, 11-3 (35m)
ElShorbagy Claims First Win Over Matthew
World Series Finals debutant Marwan ElShorbagy prevailed in his first ever match at the prestigious tournament after the Egyptian recovered from a game down to beat World No.4 Nick Matthew.
ElShorbagy is coming off the back of his best ever season on the PSA World Tour after a first World Series final appearance during March’s Windy City Open, but it was the experience of 36-year-old Matthew that proved telling in the opener as ‘The Wolf’ claimed it 13-11.
However, ElShorbagy dug in his heels and put Matthew under relentless pressure in the third as he forced the Englishman into all four corners of the court, with an 11-8 triumph for the 23-year-old seeing him draw level.
Matthew, who reached the 2010 final of this event before weather conditions rendered the final unplayable, was back on top in the fourth and looked to be on his way to starting with a win after going 4-1 to the good.
But ElShorbagy came right back through from 6-2 down, winning nine of the next 10 points in a relentless assault to claim his first ever win over the three-time World Champion.
That's brilliant from
maelshorbagy</a> on the volley<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/squashindubai?src=hash">#squashindubai</a> <a href="https://t.co/XeFdQZo7hV">pic.twitter.com/XeFdQZo7hV</a></p>— PSA World Tour (PSAWorldTour) June 6, 2017
“It feels amazing, it’s a dream come true just to be here,” said ElShorbagy.
“I had to come on court and just enjoy it and I think I did that. Tomorrow I need to find the right balance between enjoying it and sticking to my plan. I played really well, I was going for it and Nick made me do a lot of court overage today.
“It felt like a best of five, it was 49 minutes, which is like a best of five. I’m quite happy to get my first win in the World Series Finals and I’m really excited for tomorrow’s match.
“Even if I lost today, I think there would still have been chances to come back tomorrow. There’s probably more pressure on him [Matthew] now. But we’re playing against the top eight players in the world, so tomorrow is going to be as tough as today.
“They’re all tough matches here, everyone has the same chances, so I think it is still equal.”
A frustrated Matthew said: “It’s an amazing venue and up there with the best, but I felt the match was taken out of my hands today. He wasn’t moving off the ball and the decisions were wrong.
“I have to look at my own game as well as I’m in a knock out now. I have to come out tomorrow and play strong.”
 Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) bt  Nick Matthew (ENG) 2-1: 11-13, 11-8, 11-7 (49m)
Serme Comes Through Waters Test
Newly crowned PSA Women’s Player of the Season Camille Serme came back from a game down against England’s Alison Waters to claim top spot in Group A of the Women’s event after day one.
28-year-old Serme was honoured last night at the PSA Awards gala for a superb season which saw her top the PSA Women’s Road to Dubai Standings after lifting the U.S. Open and Tournament of Champions titles, but a slow start from the Frenchwoman saw Waters take the opening game.
Waters – who qualified for the World Series Finals after an injury to United States No.1 Amanda Sobhy – was full of confidence as she also went 4-1 ahead in game two, but Serme responded by getting in front of Waters and varying the height and width of her shots to halt her opponent’s rhythm.
After levelling the scores, the 2012 semi-finalist dominated the third game, dropping just three points as she moved ahead of the day’s other winner in Group A – Nouran Gohar – after taking a higher proportion of the points in her match than the Egyptian did against Raneem El Welily.
“I was a bit nervous, but I tried to fight as much as I could,” Serme said.
“I wasn’t playing my best with my racket so I had to fight. It was a bit scary [playing in Dubai Opera], it’s a special venue and you want to play well for the crowd and enjoy it as much as you can, then you feel very tense.
“It was very special for me [to win the Player of the Season award]. A few years ago I got the award for the most improvement and the best young player and I was really hoping to get this one, one day.
“I had butterflies in my stomach last night, my dad was here and he was very happy for me as well.”
 Camille Serme (FRA) bt  Alison Waters (ENG) 2-1: 9-11, 11-5, 11-3 (39m)
Rösner Rises to Dispatch Gawad
Germany’s Simon Rösner came up with a huge win in Group A of the Men’s event after the World No.11 defeated World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad to claim his second ever win in the World Series Finals.
The man known as the ‘Tree Chopper’ had never beaten Gawad before, but the best-of-three format looked to play into Rösner’s hands, with Gawad – a traditionally slow starter – going down 11-9 in a high-octane first game.
The high quality squash continued into the second as Gawad began to find his range, with Rösner failing to match the consistency that was the foundation for his first game triumph, and the World No.2 brought the match back to all square by an 11-8 margin.
Gawad had the better of the early stages of the third, at one point leading 7-4, but an almighty effort from Rösner saw the 29-year-old take the next seven points in a row to leave top seed Gawad on the brink of elimination from the prestigious season-ending tournament.
PSA World Tour (@PSAWorldTour) June 6, 2017
“We played some incredible squash today, I thought I managed to play aggressively and at the same time I didn’t make too many errors, which really helped,” said Rösner, who moves into second place behind Marwan ElShorbagy.
“Even though I was down a few times, I didn’t let it go, I just tried to hang in there and made it as tough as I could for him. I think that the key was the aggressive game plan, but I also kept the error count really low.
“The whole group is so strong and the whole event is so open. Anything can happen, you can finish first, you can finish last, but with my win today I got one step closer to making the semis.
“I’m glad to get the win in the first match because the last three years [that he played the event] I got a win mid-way through the event and not at the beginning, so this gives me a big confidence boost and hopefully I can carry on tomorrow with this form.”
 Simon Rösner (GER) bt  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) 2-1: 11-9, 8-11, 11-7 (48m)
Massaro Defeats David in Group B Clash
Laura Massaro (right) v Nicol David (left)
Defending champion Laura Massaro became the first player on day one not to drop a game after the World No.4 defeated the only other person to win the World Series Finals – Nicol David – by two games to nil.
The 33-year-old from Preston and David have contested one of the sport’s most fascinating rivalries of recent times, with David leading the head-to-head record 22-8 having won their last meeting at the 2015 Hong Kong Open.
The match started tentatively, with both players struggling to find their lines and making errors, but it soon developed into a free-flowing affair, with Massaro fighting back from three game balls down to take the first game by a 12-10 margin.
It was nip and tuck throughout the second game, which also went to a tie-break, but Massaro held her nerve at the vital moments to seal the win and earn two valuable points as she aims to continue her 100 per cent record of qualifying from the group stages.
“I didn’t realise no one else had dropped a game, it was tight and in that second game when I was in front I was thinking that I would be gutted if I lost that one and it went to three,” said Massaro.
“I’m really happy to close it out in the end. You know you’ve got three matches either way and you’ve got to do your best in all of them. If I lost today I would have had a bit of an uphill battle tomorrow and the day after, but a win under my belt doesn’t mean anything at this point unless I can get at least one more win.
“I’m off to a good start, but that’s all it is really, a start. In a best of three it helps you a little bit to know that you did it well last year. Warming up is also a bit of a different thing, I think I warm-up fairly well, but you’ve got to make sure you’re ready to go out of the blocks.
“If you miss even a few points at the start of the game, it can make such a big difference.”
 Laura Massaro (ENG) bt  Nicol David (MAS) 2-0: 12-10, 12-10 (30m)
ElShorbagy Holds Off Willstrop
James Willstrop (left) v Mohamed ElShorbagy (right)
World No.3 Mohamed ElShorbagy got the better of England’s James Willstrop in a high-quality 39-minute clash which saw the 25-year-old old extend his unbeaten run over ‘The Marksman’ to three matches.
Willstrop led the pair’s head-to-head record 11-7 coming into the match and the former World No.1 controlled proceedings in the opening exchanges to go 5-2 to the good in the first game.
That is just sublime length and width from
james_willstrop</a>! So <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/tiiiiight?src=hash">#tiiiiight</a> <a href="https://t.co/Ufd93HLxPs">pic.twitter.com/Ufd93HLxPs</a></p>— PSA World Tour (PSAWorldTour) June 6, 2017
But ElShorbagy – himself also a former World No.1 – injected pace into the rallies to unsettle Willstrop’s rhythm and he came out on top by an 11-8 scoreline.
The Bristol-based Egyptian has suffered a disappointing season by his high standards – with the loss of his World No.1 ranking in April bringing a 15-month reign to an end – but he took a step closer to the semi-finals after edging Willstrop in the second to claim maximum points on day one.
“I’m not bothered about making a statement, I’ve proved myself with the 28 months that I’ve been World No.1, so anything else for me is going to be a bonus,” said ElShorbagy.
“I just want to enjoy myself and be happy on court. This season, I haven’t enjoyed it at all, so I’m really happy I did enjoy it today and I want to win. I play to win, I play hard and aggressive in the right manner and I’m really happy to get the win today.
“I thought that James played really well, I thought we played a really high-quality match. I had to play really well today to beat him. If I wasn’t at my best then I wouldn’t have had a chance, but I felt like I was at my best.
Hold and drive- vintage
james_willstrop</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/squashindubai?src=hash">#squashindubai</a> <a href="https://t.co/jGH8co8Lw5">pic.twitter.com/jGH8co8Lw5</a></p>— PSA World Tour (PSAWorldTour) June 6, 2017
“Getting a 2-0 win in the first match is a great advantage because if three players get stuck on the same points, you can see how many games you won or lost, so it’s important. It’s a good day for both me and my brother [Marwan].”
ElShorbagy will take on compatriot and number eight seed Ali Farag next in what will be their fourth meeting of the season.
With two wins apiece and all three matches serving up some spectacular squash, ElShorbagy is readying himself for a testing match.
“Ali is a great player, one of the best players I’ve played against and he reads the game really well,” he said.
“He moves really well and it’s his first time here. He was first reserve, then when Ramy [Ashour] pulled out, he got in, but if anyone deserves to be there it’s Ali.
“He had an amazing season, got to World No.5 and the semis in Chicago [Windy City Open], so he fully deserves to be here. I have so much respect for him and I think we’re going to have a great battle.”
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt  James Willstrop (ENG) 2-0: 11-8, 11-9 (39m)
Perry Seals Massive Win Over El Sherbini
World No.7 Sarah-Jane Perry claimed one of the biggest wins of her career after she defeated World Champion Nour El Sherbini to make in an English double at the top of Group B on day one.
Perry had never beaten El Sherbini in their four meetings on the PSA World Tour and was making her World Series Finals debut, but the 27-year-old came out confidently, hitting good lines to go 6-2 up in the opener.
A loss of accuracy then allowed El Sherbini into the match though and an onslaught of attacking play from the Egyptian World No.1 saw her flip the momentum of the match to tale the lead.
Perry – who qualified for the World Series Finals after the greatest season of her career saw her reach the final of the British Open three months ago – refused to be beaten though and, after a short blood break after a lip injury, she came out fighting to level the scores at one game apiece.
From there, the Birmingham-based number seven seed was on fire as she rattled off winners at will against a helpless El Sherbini and she closed out a huge win by an 9-11, 11-9, 11-4 margin to join compatriot Laura Massaro – who she plays tomorrow – at the summit of Group B.
Lovely touch by
SJPerry15</a>!!! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/squashindubai?src=hash">#squashindubai</a> <a href="https://t.co/9W618Hk0nR">pic.twitter.com/9W618Hk0nR</a></p>— PSA World Tour (PSAWorldTour) June 6, 2017
“I’m feeling pretty amazing, I think this is the first time I’ve beaten Nour, but it’s also the first time that I’ve beaten the current World No.1,” Perry said.
“I’m pretty happy with that. I didn’t really come here with any expectations, I came here to try and impose the game that I’ve been working hard on and trying to show that I’m not just here to make up the numbers.
“I’ve earned my place here, especially in the second half of the season and I want to be a contender. If I play well and move well on the day then I believe that I can beat anyone.
“I’ve not really played much best-of-three before. I felt like I could have kept playing, but you only have three games, so you can have to give it everything and try to play at a really high intensity and get in front of the volley.
“I think that paid dividends today and hopefully I can take that into the best of five next time I play her as well. I’m just taking it one match at a time, Laura is a fierce competitor and she won two really high-quality games of squash today.”
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt  Nour El Sherbini (EGY) 2-1: 9-11, 11-9, 11-4 (37m)
Farag Ends Gaultier’s 27-Match Unbeaten Streak
Ali Farag (right) v Gregory Gaultier (left)
Egyptian World No.5 Ali Farag ended World No.1 Gregory Gaultier’s incredible 27-match unbeaten run in one of the biggest shocks of day one.
Farag initially finished ninth on the Men’s PSA Road to Dubai Standings, but qualified for the tournament after two-time winner Ramy Ashour was forced to pull out due to injury.
And the 25-year-old made the most of his entry into the event with a masterful display against an opponent who had won six tournaments in a row – with Gaultier claiming the last two of those title wins with victories over Farag in the Grasshopper Cup and Bellevue Classic finals.
Farag hit his lines well and dominated the Frenchman in a way that few have managed over the past six months to inflict just a second defeat of 2017 on Gaultier.
“The last two times I didn’t even take one game, so to win today in two games was surprising to even myself,” said Farag, who was making his World Series Finals debut.
“I think I played very well and towards the end I was very edgy because I was 10-6 up in Seattle against him. When he lets loose he plays even better, so I was always on my toes and I’m very happy to win in two today.
“It’s my first World Series Finals, I’m playing best of three for the first time in my life and I didn’t know what to expect. To get off to a good start is crucial and it gave me a lot of confidence.
“Winning the first one is very helpful for the following ones so it’s not playing on your nerves. It’s too early to think about qualification though, any of us can qualify, we’re about the same level, so I have to stay focused and hopefully it will pay off.”
Farag will face Mohamed ElShorbagy – who beat James Willstrop – as he bids to qualify.
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt  Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 2-0: 11-5, 11-7 (28m)