The PSA Dubai World Series Finals last month brought an end to one of the most remarkable and thrilling seasons on the PSA World Tour.
Over the past few weeks we have been looking back at the major moments that lit up the PSA World Tour during 2016/17 and have already looked at the outstanding performers, breakthrough stars, biggest shocks, comebacks, rallies of the season and the players to keep an eye on during the next campaign.
The latest part of our season review takes us back to October where the stars of the PSA World Tour graced the likes of San Francisco, Philadelphia and Cairo.
The NetSuite Open court in San Francisco
The NetSuite Open returned for its sixth instalment in October and, true to form, hosted a number of spectacular matches at its stunning location in Justin Herman Plaza, San Francisco.
Held against the backdrop of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, the NetSuite Open is staged at one of the premier venues on the PSA World Tour and saw Frenchman Gregory Gaultier take his first title of what was one of the greatest seasons of his career, while England’s Laura Massaro took her maiden NetSuite Open crown.
The tournament started towards the end of September and saw a number of upsets from day one, with qualifiers Gregoire Marche and Diego Elias claiming huge scalps over three-time World Champion Nick Matthew and current World No.5 Ali Farag at the Olympic Club qualifying venue.
On the glass court on Justin Herman Plaza, Gaultier got the better of Indian No.1 Saurav Ghosal, while US favourite Amanda Sobhy overcame Fiona Moverley of England.
However, the night was thrown into turmoil in game one of James Willstrop’s clash with Miguel Angel Rodriguez after a rapid change in temperature meant that the court became too wet and slippery to play on.
After a short delay, the match was moved to the Bay Club, where Willstrop – the tournament wildcard – prevailed to inflict a third successive first round defeat on former World No.4 Rodriguez.
Willstrop followed up his win over Rodriguez by coming out on top in an epic five-game thriller with Germany’s Simon Rösner, while two-time World Junior Champion Diego Elias claimed his first ever win in front of the SQUASHTV cameras with a big win over Marche.
There was also drama in the Women’s quarter-finals, with Malaysia’s eight-time World Champion Nicol David clashing with Egypt’s Nour El Tayeb in a tense encounter until the latter was forced to retire due to injury.
David ultimately exited the tournament in the next round against defending champion Sobhy, whose first ever win over David saw her through to a final clash against Massaro, who saw off Joelle King.
In the men’s event, Willstrop advanced to his biggest Tour final for three years after a masterclass against Elias, while Gaultier axed Marwan ElShorbagy to reach his fourth NetSuite Open final.
And it was the Frenchman who came out on top to lift the 34th title of his glittering career – while Massaro overcame Sobhy to lift the most lucrative Women’s NetSuite Open title ever after the prize money doubled to $50,000 for 2017.
Camille Serme after beating Nour El Sherbini
Gaultier’s compatriot, Camille Serme, kept the French success going in October after she became the first Frenchwoman to lift the U.S. Open crown – her first World Series title since she won the 2015 British Open.
Serme was in breathtaking form at Philadelphia’s Drexel University as she put Delia Arnold and Annie Au to the sword before a virtuoso display from the 28-year-old saw her overcome Massaro in a dramatic five-game contest to reach the last four.
To the delight of her home fans, Sobhy also reached the semi-finals courtesy of a win over Hong Kong Open winner Nouran Gohar, while World Champion Nour El Sherbini and Raneem El Welily set up an all-Egyptian clash in the other semi-final.
Despite the spectators rooting for US No.1 Sobhy, Serme put in a composed display to take a 3-1 victory, setting up a final clash with El Sherbini to ensure that there would be a new name etched into the trophy.
The pair took a game apiece in the opening stages until a crucial third game went the way of Serme after she recovered from 4-0 down to go back ahead and she held her nerve in the fourth to write her name into the history books.
Then World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy had dominated the Tour during the 2015/16 season and claimed his first – and only – title on the PSA Road to Dubai after he lifted the Men’s title in Philadelphia at the expense of an injury-ravaged Matthew.
‘The Beast of Alexandria’ came close to exiting the tournament at the first hurdle after going match ball down to Mexico’s Cesar Salazar on day one, but he did just enough to stay in the competition, with wins over Chris Simpson, younger brother ElShorbagy and Willstrop all seeing him reach the final.
Fourth seed Matthew opened up against tournament wildcard Christopher Gordon before ‘The Wolf’ had to call on all of his experience to push through to the last eight courtesy of a nail-biting meeting with Germany’s Simon Rösner.
Next up for the 36-year-old was a clash with Farag and, in a hotly-contested clash, Matthew prevailed, sealing the victory with a characteristic roar to earn his semis spot.
After besting Gawad in five games, Matthew went on to face ElShorbagy, where the Englishman played with great tenacity to go two games ahead, but a hamstring injury to Matthew – sustained in a length opening game rally – brought their match to a premature end, with ‘The Wolf’ forced to retire in the fifth game to hand a second U.S. Open crown to ElShorbagy.
Elsewhere on the Tour, El Sherbini lifted her first title since lifting the PSA Women’s World Championship crown in April after she overcame England’s Alison Waters in the final of the Carol Weymuller Open in Brooklyn.
Less than two weeks after her defeat to Serme in Philadelphia, El Sherbini was in red-hot form to power to her ninth career title without dropping a game.
For her part, Waters played some of her best squash of the year, beating Serme in five to reach the final, but she fell to El Sherbini in a comprehensive defeat to miss out on silverware.
There was also notable Egyptian success at the CNS International in Islamabad as an injury to top seed Omar Abdel Meguid in the final saw Zahed Mohamed lift his fourth title.