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Gregory Gaultier and Laura Massaro lift Allam British Open titles

Season Review: March

Last month’s PSA Dubai World Series Finals brought down the curtain on another memorable 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.

We’re now looking back at the highlights from March, where the stars of the PSA World Tour headed to South America and then England to compete for the sport’s oldest title – the British Open

Nick Matthew (left) and Fares Dessouky (right) in action at Canary Wharf

At the beginning of the month, England’s Nick Matthew proved age is just a number as the 36-year-old downed Egypt’s Fares Dessouky – who is 14-years his junior – 3-1 to win the 2017 Canary Wharf Classic and lift the trophy for a record sixth time.

In a classy gesture, Matthew also donated all of his prize money to the #Sunshine4Sumner campaign to help fund the treatment costs of 11-year-old promising squash player Sumner Malik, who has been diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma – a rare form of brain tumour.

Next up on the calendar was the Ciudad de Floridablanca tournament, which was the biggest women’s event to be held in South America and also the first women-only tournament, aside from the World Championships, to be held in front of the SQUASHTV cameras.

Top seed Amanda Sobhy’s tournament came to an end as the United States No.1 suffered a devastating Achilles injury at match ball up during her semi-final clash with compatriot Olivia Blatchford.

Amanda Sobhy suffers injury in semi-final against Olivia Blatchford

Sobhy had been putting in an imperious display against her Team USA teammate as she powered two games ahead, taking them 11-1, 11-6 as she controlled the ‘T’ and unleashed some crashing winners to the back of the court.

However, disaster struck, with Sobhy 10-5 up and on the verge of securing her place in the final when the Achilles on her left leg gave way, leaving forcing a stricken Sobhy to retire from the match and the tournament.

Blatchford went on to face Malaysia’s eight-time World Champion Nicol David in the final, with the latter securing her first PSA World Tour title since December 2015 after a dominant display against Blatchford, winning it 11-3, 11-4, 11-8.

David’s win saw her take a share of the $70,000 prize fund, the most lucrative purse ever to be offered at a women’s squash tournament in South America, in addition to claiming the 81st Tour title of her glittering career.

At the prestigious Allam British Open in Hull, French then-World No.3 Gregory Gaultier and England’s then-World No.5 Laura Massaro triumphed on finals day.

Gaultier faced England’s Matthew as an 8-11, 11-7, 11-3, 11-3 victory saw him lift the sport’s oldest and most established title and the third of his career.

Matthew had reached the final courtesy of a 3-1 win over then-World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy and continued the march for England squash at the British Open as he marked the first time since 1953 that England have provided three finalists across both the men’s and women’s games.

The Yorkshireman fought back from 8-6 and 7-3 down in the opening two games to go 2-0 up before ElShorbagy managed to gain some control in the third as he edged it for the loss of eight points.

But the English veteran – roared on by the home crowd inside Hull’s Airco Arena – found his way back on top in fourth to earn his place in the final for the first time since 2014.

However, in the final it was the ‘French General’ who went on to lift the title, in a win that also led to him becoming the oldest player ever to top the PSA World Rankings as, at the age of 34 years and three months, he eclipsed the record of women’s former World No.1 Sarah-Fitz Gerald by a month.

Gaultier’s historic rise came courtesy of a sensational run of form that saw him win three tournaments in succession, with his British Open title following triumphs at the Swedish Open and Windy City Open.

Meanwhile, World Champion, Karim Abdel Gawad missed the opportunity to become the new World No.1 after losing out to fellow Egyptian Mohamed Abouelghar in a shock 3-1 defeat.

Mohamed Abouelghar celebrates shock win over Karim Abdel Gawad

Gawad only needed to reach the quarter-finals of this year’s British Open to replace then incumbent Mohamed ElShorbagy at the top of the World Rankings, but Abouelghar prevented him by causing a huge upset.

In another shock of the tournament, 2016 Allam British Open runner-up Nouran Gohar fell to a surprise defeat in the opening round of the 2017 instalment of the iconic World Series tournament after she succumbed to 16-year-old Egyptian qualifier Nada Abbas.

Abbas counteracted Gohar’s trademark hard-hitting style brilliantly as she slowed the pace down and controlled the ball well at the front of the court to claim a stunning 12-10, 14-12, 5-11, 11-8 victory.

In the women’s final, Massaro became the first Englishwoman since Janet Morgan in 1951 to lift the prestigious British Open title on two occasions after she saw off Sarah-Jane Perry in four games.

Massaro, the 2013 champion, and Perry were contesting the first female all-English British Open final since 1991 after they achieved respective semi-final wins over defending champion Nour El Sherbini and five-time winner David.

England’s No.2 Perry came up with the biggest win of her career to date as she beat former World No.1 David in the semi-finals to reach a maiden World Series final.

Perry started the match on fire, as she took the opener 11-8 against the Malaysian and she continued to control the second until David stepped up a gear to level the scores.

But that was as good as it got for World No.7 David as Perry asserted her strong and powerful game, which saw her take the third in a tie-breaker.

Then, with the English crowd right behind her, Perry was able to take the fourth 11-7 to complete the victory in just 56 minutes to confirm a shock all-English final.

Massaro, meanwhile, produced a stunning comeback against World No.1 and defending champion El Sherbini to cement her place in the final.

The Englishwoman found herself staring down the barrel of defeat against the Egyptian as El Sherbini raced into a 2-0 game lead.

However, Massaro dug in resiliently and swung the momentum of the match on its head in the third to win 11-5 and change the fortunes of the game, eventually going on to win.

In the final, Massaro proved too much for Perry to handle as she imposed her game plan to seal the win by an 11-8, 11-8, 6-11, 11-6 scoreline to etch her name into the record books.

Also in March, Scotland’s Alan Clyne lifted his eighth PSA World Tour title at the Wimbledon Club Squash Squared Open as he beat England’s Tom Richards in the final.

Whilst, Mexico’s Cesar Salazar also captured his biggest ever title as he dispatched Egypt’s Omar Abdel Meguid in the final of the Montreal Open.

Full list of winners
Riga Ladies Open 2017 – Menna Hamed (EGY)
Brisbane City Squash Sandgate Squash MS Open 2017 – Ho Tze-Lok (HKG)
Canary Wharf Classic 2017 – Nick Matthew (ENG)
Ciudad de Floridablanca 2017 – Nicol David (MAS)
Perrier Challenge Cup 2017 (Men’s title) – Chi Him Wong (HKG)
Perrier Challenge Cup 2017 (Women’s title) – Ho Tze-Lok (HKG)
Calgary CFO Consulting Services PSA Women’s Squash Week Open 2017 – Samantha Cornett (CAN)
Pure Blonde Elanora Open 2017 – Zac Alexander (AUS)
The Wimbledon Club Squash Squared Open 2017 – Alan Clyne (SCO)
Annecy PSA Open 2017 – Benjamin Aubert (FRA)
Allam British Open 2017 (Men’s title) – Gregory Gaultier
Allam British Open 2017 (Women’s title) – Laura Massaro
Manitoba Open 2017 – Arturo Salazar (MEX)
Hampshire Open 2017 – George Parker (ENG)
Montreal Open 2017 – Cesar Salazar (MEX)

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