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2016/17 Season Review: Outstanding Performers - Part One

#SeasonReview

Another incredible season on the PSA World Tour drew to a close earlier this month as England’s Laura Massaro and Egypt’s Mohamed ElShorbagy laid claim to the PSA Dubai World Series Finals titles.

We’ll be reviewing all of the major talking points from the past 10 months of world-class squash action over the next few weeks, starting with some of the season’s most outstanding performers.

Gregory Gaultier

World Ranking: #1

2016/17 Honours
British Open
Windy City
El Gouna International
NetSuite Open
Grasshopper Cup
Bellevue Classic
Swedish Open

Played 56
Won 47
Lost 9
Win Percentage 83.9%

The past six months have seen Frenchman Gregory Gaultier dominate like never before in his extensive career, with six successive titles and a 27-match unbeaten run seeing him return to World No.1 to make him the oldest player ever to top the World Rankings.

One of the most popular and charismatic players on the PSA World Tour, Gaultier has been a real tour de force in 2017 and was awarded the PSA Men’s Player of the Season to recognise his achievements.

And yet the 34-year-old started the season poorly, with a shock defeat to Egypt’s Fares Dessouky seeing him exit the Hong Kong Open at the second round stage.

After a runner-up finish at the China Open the following month, Gaultier returned to form at the NetSuite Open in San Francisco, beating former World No.1 James Willstrop to lift his first title of the season.

A lean spell would follow over the next few months for the Frenchman, with an ankle injury bringing an end to his title defence in November’s PSA Men’s World Championship, but he showed a glimpse of what was to come in January’s Tournament of Champions after prevailing in an incredible semi-final match against then World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy.

Under the chandeliers of New York’s iconic Vanderbilt Hall inside Grand Central Terminal, Gaultier stormed to a 2-0 lead against the Egyptian, only to capitulate after being on the end of a questionable in the third.

ElShorbagy pounced and looked to be on course for the win when, in the fourth game, Gaultier was forced off court to have treatment on an injured glute before going on to lose it 11-4.

But Gaultier, playing on one leg, battled through the pain barrier to come out with a remarkable win from the match that was named the PSA Men’s Match of the Season.

Gaultier would go on to lose to World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad in the final, but it would be a while before anyone would slay the Frenchman again.

Victory over Gawad in the Swedish Open final a month later – in which he inflicted an 11-0 bagel defeat on Gawad in one of the games – ushered in a period of complete dominance, with the Frenchman going on to capture the Windy City Open for the second time in his career.

Greater things were to follow though in March as he surged all the way through to the final of the British Open, beating home favourite Nick Matthew to capture the sport’s longest running title for the third time in his career – a win that also saw him overtake Mohamed ElShorbagy to become the oldest player, male or female, to top the rankings.

Gaultier’s hot streak continued into April and May as he took the honours at the El Gouna International, Grasshopper Cup and Bellevue Classic before Egypt’s Ali Farag – who Gaultier had beaten in the Grasshopper Cup and Bellevue Classic finals – finally ended the Frenchman’s unbeaten run on day one the World Series Finals.

A long season looked to have taken its toll on Gaultier after further defeats against James Willstrop and ElShorbagy saw him finish bottom of his group in Dubai to bring an end to his hopes of retaining his title.

With a summer break ahead of him, Gaultier will now have the opportunity to recharge his batteries ahead of next season, where he will be expecting to challenge for the sport’s biggest prizes once more.

Camille Serme

World Ranking: #3

2016/17 Honours
Tournament of Champions
U.S. Open
Cleveland Classic

Played 36
Won 29
Lost 7
Win Percentage 80.6%

World No.3 Camille Serme made it a French double at the PSA Awards gala in Dubai after she was named the PSA Women’s Player of the Year after claiming two World Series titles and topping the Women’s Road to Dubai Standings.

Like Gaultier, Serme started slowly with early stage exits at the Hong Kong Open and the Al Ahram Open, but she played some superb squash to triumph in October’s U.S. Open in Philadelphia.

Serme got better and better as the tournament went on, beating the likes of World No.4 Laura Massaro, United States No.1 Amanda Sobhy and World Champion Nour El Sherbini en route to her second World Series crown.

A surprise semi-final defeat to Alison Waters in her next tournament, the Carol Weymuller Open, did little to halt the 28-year-old’s momentum as she claimed a second successive World Series crown in New York at the Tournament of Champions.

Serme played with skill and determination as she downed World Junior Champion Nouran Gohar and El Sherbini to reach the final, where a climactic clash against Massaro went all the way to the wire.

But the woman from Creteil held her nerve to take the win in five games, becoming the first female French player ever to have her name etched into the prestigious trophy and she was rewarded with a move up to a career-high No.2 ranking in February.

She gained revenge over Waters to lift her third title of the season as the Cleveland Classic a month later before a semi-final and quarter-final at the Windy City Open and British Open, respectively, saw her qualify top of the Road to Dubai standings, earning herself a place in the season-ending PSA Dubai World Series Finals.

A heart-breaking defeat against eventual runner-up Raneem El Welily in the PSA Women’s World Championship followed, but she played a starring role in Dubai as she marched to the semi-final stage without losing a match.

Her tournament was eventually brought to an end by El Sherbini in the last four, but Serme can look back on arguably the greatest season of her career in which she cemented her status as one of the world’s best.

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