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Paul Coll

2016/17 Season Review: Breakthrough Stars - Part One


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 and have already looked back at the outstanding performers over the campaign.

This part of our season review sees us look at some of the players who broke through during the 2016/17 season to surge up the World Rankings.

Paul Coll

World Ranking: #12
2016/17 Honours:
Channel VAS Championship
Played: 33
Won: 22
Lost: 11
Win Percentage: 66.7%

New Zealand’s Paul Coll emerged as a real crowd favourite during the 2016/17 campaign as he picked up his biggest ever title and became the first New Zealander since 1995 to break into the world’s top 20.

25-year-old Coll, known on Tour as ‘Superman’ due to his trademark dives and all-action style, exploded onto the scene back in March 2016 after playing his part in one of the PSA World Tour’s greatest ever rallies against former World No.1 James Willstrop in Canary Wharf.

But he added consistency to his undoubted talent last season.

Ranked at World No.31 at the start of August, Coll initially struggled to make an impact, with early round defeats at the China Open, U.S. Open, World Championship and Qatar Classic – with the latter of those seeing him lost out to Egypt’s Tarek Momen in a brutal 101-minute battle.

November’s Channel VAS Championship saw the man from Greymouth play some of his best ever squash though. After battling through the qualifying stage, Coll came through dramatic five-game clashes against Hong Kong’s Max Lee and former World No.4 Miguel Angel Rodriguez.

Up next came England’s Daryl Selby – who stunned World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy in round one – but Coll was firing on all cylinders as he took a 3-1 victory to set up a rematch with Momen.

In arguably the most complete performance of his career to date, Coll took the win by an 11-7, 13-11, 11-4 margin to claim almost $17K in prize money and was also rewarded with a move into the world’s top 20 for the first time, becoming the sixth Kiwi male ever to achieve the feat.

A first ever World Series quarter-final was to come for Coll the following month at the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions. Coll rounded out the season with a semi-final finish at the Canary Wharf Classic and quarter-final berths at the El Gouna International and Houston Open to bring the curtain down on a superb campaign.

Now ranked at No.12 – making him the fourth highest ranked male New Zealander of all time – Coll will have his eyes on a coveted berth inside the top 10 next season.

Sarah-Jane Perry

World Ranking: #7
2016/17 Honours:
British Open runner-up
Played: 32
Won: 21
Lost: 11
Win Percentage: 65.6%

England’s Sarah-Jane Perry is also coming off the back of a successful season, with the 27-year-old reaching the world’s top 10 and securing her place at the season-ending PSA Dubai World Series Finals for the first time courtesy of a final appearance at the British Open – the sport’s oldest and most prestigious tournament.

Having flirted with a place inside the top 10 for 18 months, Perry began the season ranked at World No.13 and she kicked off her campaign with a second round exit at the Hong Kong Open before making it to the quarter-finals of the China Open shortly afterwards.

It was at the Al Ahram Open though that Perry’s season really began to take shape as she claimed two huge wins over World No.3 Camille Serme and eight-time World Champion Nicol David in front of the incredible Great Pyramid of Giza.

Her tournament eventually came to an end against eventual winner Raneem El Welily in the last four but, after appearances at the U.S. Open and Carol Weymuller Open, Perry avenged her loss with a thrilling 3-2 defeat of the Egyptian at the Tournament of Champions.

Just one day after felling home hero Amanda Sobhy under the chandeliers of Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall in New York, the unfancied Perry raced into a 2-0 lead against El Welily, only to see the former World No.1 storm back to level the scores at 2-2 before taking a 4-1 lead in the decider.

A run of nine straight points for Perry swung the momentum of the match back in the Englishwoman’s favour through and she converted her second match ball to claim a big victory in a match that was eventually voted as the Women’s Match of the Season at the PSA Awards.

Her first World Series semi-final saw her lose out to compatriot Laura Massaro but, after a semi-final finish at the Cleveland Classic and a first round defeat at the Windy City Open over the next few weeks, Perry went one better at the British Open.

Wins over Nele Gilis, Tesni Evans and Donna Urquhart in Hull saw her pitted against David in the semi-finals, where a superb display from Perry saw her upset the odds once again to set up a final clash with Massaro – making it the first female all-English final since 1991.

Perry ultimately fell by a 3-1 margin to miss out on the distinguished title, but she did enough to qualify for the World Series Finals courtesy of a seventh-place finish on the PSA Road to Dubai Standings.

After losing to Nour El Sherbini in the last eight of April’s PSA Women’s World Championship, Perry beat the Egyptian on day one in Dubai, only to lose to Massaro once more on the second day of action.

That left Perry needing a win over David and a defeat for El Sherbini against Massaro to qualify from Group B. While she duly obliged with a third successive win over David, Massaro was unable to capitalise on a one-game lead against El Sherbini to bring an end to Perry’s season.

Perry has shown that she is a real force to be reckoned with at the highest level and she will target a place inside the world’s top five next in the 2017/18 campaign.

Fares Dessouky

World Ranking: #10
2016/17 Honours:
CCI International
Canary Wharf Classic runner-up
Played: 31
Won: 20
Lost: 11
Win Percentage: 64.5%

Egypt’s Fares Dessouky continued his progress on the PSA World Tour last season as he broke into the world’s top 10 and doubled his title tally.

The Alexandria-born 22-year-old took a while to get going, with a quarter-final finish at the Hong Kong Open being followed up with three successive last 16 exits at the China Open, Al Ahram Open and U.S. Open.

A positive quarter-final finish at the World Championship in November was overshadowed by an emotional end to the tournament for the youngster when, after a couple of refereeing decisions went against him in his clash with Ramy Ashour, he inexplicably conceded the match and walked off court to hand the win to his fellow Egyptian.

However, Dessouky bounced back in terrific fashion later that month as he defeated compatriot Mohamed Abouelghar to earn just his second ever – and biggest – PSA World Tour title.

Dessouky began 2017 with back-to-back second round defeats at the Tournament of Champions and Windy City Open, but showed another glimpse of his impressive talent by reaching the final of the Canary Wharf Classic.

A series of composed and mature displays saw the number four seed beat Tom Richards, defending champion Mathieu Castagnet and Spain’s Borja Golan to claim a berth in the final against three-time World Champion.

Dessouky dug in and made life difficult for ‘The Wolf’ with a range of spectacular winners, but Matthew’s experience paid dividends as the 36-year-old took it in four games.

However, Dessouky’s fine showings in Canary Wharf saw him rewarded with a move into the world’s top 10 for the first time in his career.

A hard-fought 3-2 defeat to then World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy in round one of the British Open then followed for Dessouky, but he rounded off the season with semi-final berths at the El Gouna International – where he beat Matthew in the opening round – and the Houston Open to leave plenty of cause for optimism ahead of next season.

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