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Camille Serme (left) and Karim Abdel Gawad (right) lift the Tournament of Champions titles

Season Review: January

Last month, the PSA Dubai World Series Finals brought the curtain down on another remarkable season on the PSA World Tour.

Over the past few weeks we have been looking back at the major moments that have lit up the PSA World Tour during the 2016/17 season, including the outstanding performers, breakthrough stars, biggest shocks, comebacks, rallies of the season and the players to watch next season.

This part of our season review sees us take a look at January 2017, which saw upsets and history made at the Tournament of Champions amongst others

New York's Grand Central Terminal was host to the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions

The J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions – played in New York’s iconic Grand Central Terminal – offered plenty of drama that looked like it came straight from a Broadway production as Egypt’s Karim Abdel Gawad and France’s Camille Serme wrote their names into the history books.

In round two, England’s former World No.1 James Willstrop ended a 10-year, 19-match losing streak against compatriot Nick Matthew to knock his fellow Yorkshireman out of the tournament.

Willstrop turned recent history on its head as he took the opener and then recovered from going 1-2 down to record an impressive 11-6, 7-11, 5-11, 11-7, 11-4 victory and his first over Matthew since the 2007 English Open final.

There continued to be joy for the English contingent in New York as Sarah-Jane Perry stunned a capacity crowd when she downed crowd favourite and 2016 runner-up Amanda Sobhy in a thrilling five-game battle to book her place in the last eight of the women’s draw.

The Birmingham-based player then showed no signs of slowing down as she blasted out of the starting blocks against Egyptian Raneem El Welily, racing into a 2-0 game lead in what was to be named the PSA Women’s Match of the Season.

However, the Egyptian soon got a foothold back in the game to level things up at 2-2 and then opened up a 4-1 lead in the decider.

However, a sublime run of nine consecutive points swung the match back in favour of Perry and she went on to prevail 11-5 to set up a semi-final clash against compatriot Laura Massaro, who she would fall to in the next round as she appeared in her first ever PSA World Series semi-final.

The drama continued to unfold as the rounds went on, with Frenchman Gregory Gaultier emerging victorious in a crunch battle with Mohamed ElShorbagy in the semi-finals – which was named the Men’s Match of the Season at the PSA Awards.

The Frenchman dominated proceedings from the outset as he took the first two games and was on course for a straightforward 3-0 win when, at 8-7 up in the third, a pivotal decision from the video referee, incorrectly calling a reviewed pickup good, saw Gaultier capitulate. From that moment on Gaultier struggled and ElShorbagy was able to take advantage.

More drama ensued as Gaultier took an injury break to treat an injury to his left glute as he looked to be on the way home after losing the fourth 4-11. But in the fifth match, the tide turned once again when Gaultier, playing on one leg, displayed all the traits of his ‘General’ moniker as he resumed total control to take the fifth 11-7 and book his place in the final.

In the final, both Gawad and Serme were competing in a PSA World Series tournament title decider for the first time as they prevailed in thrilling encounters with Gaultier and Massaro, respectively, to add their names to an illustrious list of past winners.

Gawad came from behind against Gaultier to win 6-11, 11-6, 12-10, 11-6 to extend his unbeaten run to 16 matches in the process and win his third consecutive major title – adding the ToC crown to the Qatar Classic and World Championship titles he had won a couple of months prior.

Serme, meanwhile proved that she was the player to beat on the Women’s Tour as she downed Egypt’s Nouran Gohar, World No.1 Nour El Sherbini and England’s Massaro to add to the U.S. Open title she won in October 2016.

The Frenchwoman started strongly against Massaro, taking the opening game on the tie-break 13-11, but faded fast as the Englishwoman’s will and determination came to the fore.

But at 2-2, Serme responded impressively, stepping up the court to get the better of Massaro and ran out a 13-11, 8-11, 4-11, 11-3, 11-7 winner to become the first Frenchwoman to lift the title.

At The Motor City Open, then-World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy bid a quick adieu to the tournament after falling to Mexico’s Cesar Salazar in the round of 16.

Salazar put the two-time MCO Champion on notice early on when he took the first game 11-2. ElShorbagy bounced back from a 3-0 deficit in the second game to earn two game balls, but it wasn’t enough to halt Salazar who hit a pair of winners and stole the second game 13-11.

After a win in the third for ElShorbagy, it looked as though the Egyptian had found his form, however, Salazar had other ideas as he earned a 12-10 victory to avenge his U.S. Open defeat where he squandered a match ball and book his place in the next round.

There was further disappointment to come for the ElShorbagy name as Diego Elias pulled off an upset over Mohamed’s younger brother, Marwan.

Elias left himself with a lot to do against the then-World No.6 as he dropped the first game 11-7 before taking the second by the same scoreline. Once ElShorbagy cruised to an 11-4 win in the third, it looked like Elias had fallen short, however the young Peruvian wasn’t ready to throw in the towel as he won the fourth and fifth games to claim victory.

Australia’s Ryan Cuskelly made sure more drama was to come later on in the tournament as he upset defending champion Ali Farag in the final to claim the Motor City Open title in a 3-1 triumph.

In his ninth year participating, Cuskelly advanced to the semi-finals for the very first time, where he beat South African Stephen Coppinger, before taking that accomplishment two steps further as he claimed the biggest win of his career in the process.

It wasn’t all plain sailing for Cuskelly, however, as Farag came out with pinpoint precision to dominate in the first game. Things took a dramatic shift in the second game in the favour of Cuskelly as he chased down ball after ball to claim the second and then backed this up in the third game.

The fourth game had the crowd on the edge of their seats as Farag appeared to regain his steady form with a 9-4 lead. Cuskelly cut that lead to 7-9 and then 8-9 though as he dove on the floor to save the next point and managed to grind out the win to lift the title.

November also saw Pakistan’s Farhan Mehboob lift the President Gold Cup International Squash Tournament title after overcoming Ahsan Ayaz, Tsz Fung Yip, Mohamed Reda and Leo Au.

Full list of winners
President Gold Cup International Squash Tournament – Farhan Mehboob (PAK)
Delaware Pro Singles 2017 – Eddie Charlton (ENG)
Conseil General Du Gard Ville De Nimes Open Du Gard – Jens Schoor (GER)
J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions (Men’s title) – Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY)
J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions (Women’s title) – Camille Serme (FRA)
Corporation Service Company Delaware Women’s Open – Kanzy Emad El Defrawy (EGY)
Malaysian Squash Tour VIII 2017 (Men’s title) – Chi Him Wong (HKG)
Malaysian Squash Tour VIII 2017 (Women’s title) – Tong Tsz-Wing (HKG)
Linear Logistics Bankers Hall Club Pro-Am 2017 – Andrew Schnell (CAN)
PSA Toulouse 2017 – Richie Fallows (ENG)
Savcor Finnish Open 2017 – Jami Aijanen (FIN)
Bahl & Gaynor Cincinnati Gaynor Cup 2017 – Kanzy Emad El Defrawy (EGY)
Edinburgh Sports Club Open 2017 – Julianne Courtice (ENG)
Suburban Collection Motor City Open 2017 – Ryan Cuskelly (AUS)

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