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James Willstrop (left) v Nick Matthew (right) in January's Tournament of Champions

Year in Review: Matches Of The Year - Part One

2017 has seen some incredible matches grace the courts, with a host of memorable battles being contested by some of the world’s greatest players in all four corners of the world.

Here we look back at the standout matches from the past 12 months – focusing on the action that took place from January – June.

January 2017 – Tournament of Champions, New York: Round Two
James Willstrop (ENG) bt [4] Nick Matthew (ENG) 3-2: 11-6, 7-11, 5-11, 11-7, 11-4 (73m)

James Willstrop hadn't beaten elder compatriot Nick Matthew in 19 consecutive PSA attempts – spanning over a decade – going into the 2017 Tournament of Champions.

And with Matthew having reached the latter stages of the U.S. Open and Qatar Classic, it didn't seem like New York would be the backdrop for that streak to end.

But Willstrop battled back from 2-1 down in one of the fiercest battles between the pair in years to record a huge win and end 10 years of hurt.

January 2017 – Tournament of Champions, New York: Quarter-finals
[11] Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt [2] Raneem El Welily (EGY) 3-2: 11-7, 12-10, 10-12, 5-11, 11-5 (56m)

England's Sarah-Jane Perry had halted home favourite Amanda Sobhy to secure an unexpected berth in the last eight of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions – but faced an even tougher task to reach her first ever PSA World Series tournament semi-final in the form of 2015 event winner Raneem El Welily.

Perry looked to blow all predictions out of the water as she raced into a 2-0 lead. But the wheels looked to have come off the track as the Egyptian levelled up at 2-2 before taking a 4-1 lead in the decider.

But Perry wasn't finished.

January 2017 – Tournament of Champions, New York: Semi-finals
[3] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt [1] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) 3-2: 12-10, 11-9, 9-11, 4-11, 11-7 (84m)

This was a match that had it all, and then some. From sublime back and forth rallies in the opening stages to a mental battle between two of the sport's finest practitioners in the latter stages, Gaultier's five-game win over ElShorbagy was one of the tournament's biggest talking points and a match straight out of broadway.

The Frenchman strutted around court during the first two games as he dominated proceedings – gesticulating with abandon – before a pivotal decision from the video referee in the third game saw him capitulate as ElShorbagy pounced.

An injury break, complaints from ElShorbagy and more followed as the match drew to a conclusion

February 2017 – 2017 Windy City Open, Chicago: Quarter-final
[5] Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) bt [1] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) 3-2: 1-11, 11-8, 13-11, 5-11, 11-8 (69m)

On seven previous attempts then 23-year-old Marwan ElShorbagy had failed take more than a solitary game from his elder brother and then World No.1 Mohamed.

And under the chandeliers of the University Club of Chicago it looked like that streak would be extended as Mohamed took the first game for the loss of just one point.

But Marwan fought through the mental barrier to mix up the pace and use deception to level before going on to seal the match, ushering an outpouring of emotion from both.

March 2017 – 2017 Allam British Open, Hull: Semi-finals
[5] Laura Massaro (ENG) bt [1] Nour El Sherbini (EGY) 3-2: 11-5, 11-7, 5-11, 3-11, 6-11 (63m)

2013 British Open champion Laura Massaro looked to be heading for a swift exit at the 2017 edition of the event after an imperious start from El Sherbini saw the World No.1 go two games ahead inside 20 minutes.

But Massaro, who has forged a career on the back of her mental resilience and determination, dug deep, drawing on the energy of the home crowd to mount a huge come back to take the match to defending champion El Sherbini.

March 2017 – 2017 Allam British Open, Hull: Quarter-finals
[5] Ramy Ashour (EGY) bt Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY) 3-2: 10-12, 7-11, 11-9, 11-5, 11-5 (64m)

Mohamed Abouelghar had reached the last eight at the British Open courtesy of a free-flowing attacking display that saw him dismantle Karim Abdel Gawad – preventing his fellow Egyptian from securing the necessary points required to take the World No.1 spot that month.

And up again Ramy Ashour, Abouelghar continued to play at a scandalous level – hitting winners from all corners to take a 2-0 game lead and leave Ashour staring down an unexpected defeat.

But the man known as the Artist stepped up to the plate and showed just why he is considered one of the greatest talents ever to step onto a squash court, matching Abouelghar's attacking prowess in one of the most entertaining matches of the season.

June 2017 – PSA Dubai World Series Finals, Dubai: Semi-final
[3] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt [7] Simon Rösner (GER) 2-1: 9-11, 11-8, 14-12 (62m)

Inside the stunning Dubai Opera, Simon Rösner was serving up a tournament of the highest calibre – having beaten both Karim Abdel Gawad and Nick Matthew to reach the semi-final stages.

And the big German continued to play some of his best squash of the season as he took the opening game against ElShorbagy.

ElShorbagy duly levelled to set up a crucial best of three game decider – and with the pace and intensity increasing through every rally, the duo served up one of the most intense finishes to a match seen throughout the entire 2016/17 season.

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