Another incredible season on the PSA World Tour drew to a close earlier this month as Egyptian World No.1s Mohamed ElShorbagy and Nour El Sherbini claimed the season-ending ATCO 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, starting with some of the season’s most outstanding performers.
This part of our season review sees us look at the players who showcased their exceptional ability over the last 10 months.
World Ranking: #1
Oracle NetSuite Open
Channel VAS Championships at St George’s Hill
Hong Kong Open
PSA World Championships
Windy City Open
Canary Wharf Classic
PSA World Series Finals
Win Percentage: 91.4%
World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy returned to his best during the 2017/18 season, reclaiming his No.1 spot from France’s Gregory Gaultier and taking the World Championship crown after a formidable season.
The Egyptian sealed eight PSA World Tour titles – including four World Series titles and the coveted PSA World Championship title – and only failed to reach the final of two tournaments (Tournament of Champions and El Gouna International) throughout the season.
ElShorbagy endured a frustrating 2016/17 campaign compared to his usual lofty standards as he lost his World No.1 ranking and only picked up one title in Dubai. However, thanks to a change in his training and appointing former World No.1 David Palmer as his coach the ‘Beast from Alexandria’ turned things around to become the player to beat on the Men’s Tour.
The 27-year-old kicked his season off with victory in San Francisco after beating reigning World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad in the final. ElShorbagy backed this up with a runner-up finish at the U.S. Open where he was defeated by compatriot Ali Farag as he claimed his first World Series title.
The Egyptian then showed his true dominance as he captured four successive titles with victories at the Channel VAS Championships at St George’s Hill, Qatar Classic, Hong Kong Open and his maiden World Championship crown.
The Bristol-based Egyptian had never won the iconic World Championship title before, after finishing runner-up on two previous occasions both to compatriot Ramy Ashour. However, ElShorbagy came through a difficult draw in Manchester, defeating Ashour, Nick Matthew and Gregory Gaultier en route to the final before facing his younger brother, Marwan, in the title decider.
The elder sibling took the first game before Marwan battled back each time to level the scores and force his older brother to work hard for the title as he completed an 11-5, 9-11, 11-7, 9-11, 11-6 in 71 minutes in an epic five-game battle.
Following on from his high in Manchester, ElShorbagy suffered a low point during his incredible season when he was knocked out at the last 16 stage of the Tournament of Champions to Australia’s Ryan Cuskelly. However, the Egyptian soon got his season back to winning form with title wins at the Windy City Open and Canary Wharf Classic before losing to compatriot Ashour in the final of the Grasshopper Cup.
This run also led to the Egyptian reclaiming his place at the top of the World Rankings from the ‘French General’ Gaultier in March’s World Rankings after 11 months away from the summit.
At the end of the season, the Egyptian powerhouse narrowly missed out on his third British Open title after he was defeated by unseeded Miguel Angel Rodriguez from Colombia, but went on to defend his World Series Finals title in Dubai, defeating World No.2 Ali Farag in the final to end the season on a high.
Nour El Sherbini
World Ranking: #1
China Squash Open
Carol Weymuller Open
Hong Kong Open
Saudi PSA Women’s Squash Masters
Tournament of Champions
PSA World Series Finals
Win Percentage: 91.8%
Like, ElShorbagy, Nour El Sherbini enjoyed one of her best seasons to date on the PSA World Tour as she set the Women’s Tour alight to claim seven titles which included five World Series titles.
The World No.1 – who has been unmoved at the summit of the World Rankings for 26 months – started the season with a bang as she took the China Squash Open title before falling to a quarter-final finish at the first World Series tournament of the season – the U.S. Open – where she fell to eventual winner Nour El Tayeb.
Following this, the 22-year-old Egyptian went on to feature in the final of every tournament for the rest of the season, except for the Windy City Open when she was knocked out at the quarter-final stage to El Tayeb.
El Sherbini claimed back-to-back titles at the Carol Weymuller Open and Hong Kong Open when she defeated New Zealand’s Joelle King and compatriot Raneem El Welily – a battle which would feature heavily throughout the season – respectively.
The World No.1 and World No.2 El Welily continued to be a consistent final matching at the majority of tournaments throughout the course of the season. Following her win in Hong Kong, the two players contested the final of the PSA World Championships, where El Sherbini was looking to capture her third successive crown, however, El Welily had other ideas as she took the title to be crowned World Champion for the first time in her career.
El Sherbini bounced back strongly, however, as she defeated El Welily in the final of the inaugural Saudi PSA Women’s Squash Masters and El Tayeb in the final of the Tournament of Champions.
In April, the Egyptian met compatriot El Welily once more in a major final, this time on home soil at the El Gouna International when it was the latter who took the plaudits and the prize with a 3-1 win over El Sherbini.
The Alexandria-born Egyptian continued to show her metal though as she ended the season on a high with big wins at the British Open in Hull and World Series Finals in Dubai – defeating El Welily in both finals.
World Ranking: #3
Pakistan Open Men’s Squash Championships
Motor City Open
El Gouna International
Win Percentage: 78.3%
World No.3 Marwan ElShorbagy enjoyed his best season to date on the PSA World Tour as he flew up the World Rankings to a career-high of World No.3 and claimed his maiden World Series title.
The younger ElShorbagy brother started the season slowly only reaching the last 16 and quarter-final stages of tournaments but by the end of 2017 he was fully up and running as he secured a semi-final finish at the Hong Kong Open before going on to shock the field in Manchester and set up a final showdown with his older brother Mohamed at December’s PSA World Championships.
Marwan defied the odds to get to the final, defeating reigning World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad and compatriot Ali Farag to reach the iconic final.
The Bristol-based Egyptian then came up against older sibling Mohamed, who was aiming to secure his first World Championship crown at the third attempt.
Mohamed took the lead twice, with Marwan fighting back each to push it to a tense fifth game where eventually Mohamed was able to run away with it and secure the one title that has evaded him.
Following his surprise run at the World Championships, Marwan then went on to challenge for the Pakistan Open title which he secured after defeating compatriot Mohamed Abouelghar 3-1 in the final.
The 24-year-old then went onto win the Motor City Open PSA M70 title after defeating number two seed New Zealand’s Paul Coll in the final.
The Egyptian continued to make an impact at the big World Series events – reaching the final of the Windy City Open which he lost to older brother Mohamed – before claiming his long awaited maiden World Series title on home soil at the El Gouna International when he defeated World No.2 Farag in straight-games.
ElShorbagy was in strong form as he condemned Farag to a straight-games defeat in the final.
Raneem El Welily
World No.2 Raneem El Welily continued to showcase her talent during the 2017/18 season as she captured one of the few titles that has alluded her in her glittering career – the PSA World Championships.
The Egyptian started the season with a surprise last 16 finish at the Macau Open, after being beaten by young compatriot Yathreb Adel 3-2. El Welily then narrowly missed out on claiming the U.S. Open title after she was defeated by another Egyptian Nour El Tayeb in the final.
The former World No.1 was forced to wait a little longer for her first title of the season as she fell to semi-final and final defeat at the Carol Weymuller Open and Hong Kong Open, respectively.
However, El Welily would not have long to wait before she sealed the title that she has been searching for throughout her career after coming agonisingly close on two previous occasions.
El Welily was featuring in her third World Championship final faced compatriot and defending World Champion Nour El Sherbini in the final in Manchester. The two previously met in last season’s World Championship final where El Sherbini took a comfortable victory. El Welily’s other appearance in the coveted final came back in 2014 when she squandered four match balls as Malaysian icon Nicol David went on to seal the title.
The Egyptian made sure to banish her demons this year, however, as she came from a game down against two-time World Champion El Sherbini to win 3-11, 12-10, 11-7, 11-5 in 43 minutes.
The 29-year-old continued to face El Sherbini throughout the remainder of the season in major finals – losing out narrowly to her compatriot in the Cleveland Classic, British Open and PSA Dubai World Series Finals.
However, El Welily did get one other victory over the World No.1 as they came head-to-head in the final of the El Gouna International when she defeated the 22-year-old 3-1 to lift her only World Series title of the season.