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.
This part of our season review sees us look at two more of the players who showcased their exceptional ability over the last 10 months. You can find part one here.
Karim Abdel Gawad
World Ranking: #2
PSA Men’s World Championship
Tournament of Champions
Al Ahram Open
Win Percentage: 82.1%
World No.2 Karim Abdel Gawad has enjoyed his best season to date on the PSA World Tour during the 2016/17 campaign with a rapid rise up the PSA Men’s World Rankings – culminating in him topping the World Rankings in May.
The Egyptian clinched five PSA World Tour titles – including the sport’s biggest prize, the PSA Men’s World Championship – during a successful season that saw him cement his place amongst the sport’s elite.
Gawad reached his first ever PSA World Series final at the Hong Kong Open in August, where he lost out to compatriot Ramy Ashour in a highly competitive and entertaining five-game battle.
After turning heads during the Hong Kong Open, Gawad continued to show a new-found maturity and ruthlessness in his play as he went on to lift the Al Ahram Squash Open NewGiza title, which took place in front of Egypt’s breathtaking Great Pyramid of Giza – making Gawad the first Egyptian man to taste success there since the legendary Ahmed Barada in 1998.
As the season went, on more title wins came for Gawad. The 25-year-old Egyptian captured the sport’s most illustrious title as he lifted the Wadi Degla PSA Men’s World Championship.
Gawad faced three-time winner Ashour in the final in Cairo, with the latter forced to retire after a reoccurrence of his infamous hamstring injuries in the fourth game of their climatic clash after Gawad had battled back from a game down to go 2-1 up.
The win saw Gawad become only the third Egyptian of all time to hold the sport’s biggest title after Amr Shabana and Ashour himself.
Gawad continued to go from strength-to-strength after he put in a superb performance to defeat then World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy in the final of the 2016 Qatar Classic – lifting his first World Series title in the process.
ElShorbagy went into the final having won the tournament twice before in 2013 and 2015, but it was Gawad who played with composure and accuracy to come out on top and claim the title.
Gawad made it three successive Tour title wins with victory against Gregory Gaultier in the final of the J.P Morgan Tournament of Champions, which took place inside New York’s stunning Grand Central Terminal.
Gawad came from behind to win 6-11, 11-6, 12-10, 11-6, to extend his unbeaten run to 16 matches. However, his unbeaten streak came to an end in the final of the UCS Swedish Open, where this time Gaultier came out on top.
The Egyptian – who won the title the year before – looked to be on course to lift a fourth successive PSA World Tour title after he pulled away at the end of game one to take the lead, however a resilient Gaultier fought back to win over four games and seal the crown.
The duo met once more before the season came to an end, this time in the final of the El Gouna International Squash Open, where Gawad suffered another defeat to the experienced World No.1.
Despite the win for Gaultier, Gawad replaced him at the summit of the PSA Men’s World Rankings in May 2017 to become World No.1 for the first time in his career and become the fifth Egyptian to do so.
Gaultier reclaimed top spot the following month, while Gawad’s season came to an end at the hands of former World No.1 James Willstrop in the semi-finals of the PSA Dubai World Series Finals.
Gawad will aim to reclaim his World No.1 ranking next season and defend his World Championship title as he once again challenges for the top honours.
World Ranking: #4
PSA Dubai World Series Finals
China Squash Open
Win Percentage: 82.9%
Massaro continued to show the steely determination and skill that has made her one of the toughest opponents on the Women’s Tour season to clinch four PSA World Tour titles throughout a history-making 2016/17 season.
The 33-year-old started the season with a quarter-final finish at the Hong Kong Open, where she was beaten over five games by Nouran Gohar – who eventually went on to lift the title.
However, the Lancastrian was soon back to her title winning ways when she got her revenge on Gohar to storm to victory over three games in the final of the China Squash Open.
Massaro then made it back-to-back Tour titles by clinching the NetSuite Open. The Englishwoman faced defending champion Amanda Sobhy in the final but it was the former who triumphed over four games, despite a battling performance from the American.
A quarter final finish and a runner-up finish at the U.S. Open and Tournament of Champions followed – both of which she lost to France’s Camille Serme.
Up next for Massaro came the British Open where she faced compatriot Sarah-Jane Perry in the first all-English women’s final since 1991.
The Lancastrian saw off England teammate Perry by a 3-1 margin to become the first Englishwoman since Janet Morgan in 1951 to lift the prestigious British Open title twice.
Massaro made sure to end the season on a high note after a quarter-final finish at the Women’s World Championships, as she retained her PSA Dubai World Series Finals crown at the iconic Dubai Opera.
The 33-year-old was appearing in her third successive final of a World Series Finals and came up against World No.1 El Sherbini, who she had beaten in the previous instalment’s semi-final stage en route to winning the tournament.
The pair had also met earlier on in the tournament – with El Sherbini winning the best-of-three games contest but in the best-of-five games final it was Massaro who emerged victorious, claiming an 11-8, 12-10, 11-5 victory in 35 minutes to become only the second woman after Nicol David to win two World Series Finals titles.
Massaro will now turn her gaze to further successes next season – while a mouthwatering home World Championship in December on the horizon.