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Raneem El Welily (l) and Nour El Sherbini (r) have won the last three World Championships between them

PSA World Championships: The Contenders

The 2018-19 PSA World Championships are being held in Chicago this year, and it has a storied history, with all the big names having lifted the trophy at some point.

This year, there is extra emphasis on the World Championships, as it will be the first tournament in squash’s history to have a purse of $1million.

Here, we take a look at some of the contenders for the biggest prize pot in the sport…

Men
Mohamed ElShorbagy

Mohamed ElShorbagy will be looking to retain his World Championships title

Although he will not be the World No.1 when the World Championships finish in March, Mohamed ElShorbagy will be one of the favourites for the tournament.

The Egyptian is the reigning champion, having taken the title in Manchester in December 2017, beating his brother Marwan in the final. The ‘Beast from Alexandria’ has also reached the final on two other occasions.

This season, he has been in good form as well, making four finals. ElShorbagy won the US Open and the Hong Kong Open, whilst also making the final of the Oracle NetSuite Open and the Tournament of Champions.

ElShorbagy will get his campaign underway against Englishman Joshua Masters in the first round, with the pair meeting for the first time in their careers.

Ali Farag

Ali Farag is looking to continue his form after winning the Tournament of Champions

Farag will go into the World Championships as the World No.2, but he will end the tournament as the World No.1, a spot he takes over at the start of March.

Last season, ‘Mr. Fantastic’ made the semi finals of the World Championships, but was beaten by Marwan ElShorbagy in what was his best performance on the biggest stage.

The 2018-19 season has been magnificent for Farag, who has only missed out on appearing in the final on one occasion. The Egyptian won the Oracle NetSuite Open, Qatar Classic and the Tournament of Champions, while appearing in three other finals.

His first round opponent in Chicago is Daryl Selby. The pair put on a show in their third round match at the Tournament of Champions in January, with Farag winning 3-0, but all three games went to tiebreaks.

Tarek Momen

Tarek Momen is looking to catch the top two in the world

‘The Viper’ is now at his highest ever spot in the world rankings. Tarek Momen moved up to the No.3 spot in February, ahead of Simon Rösner.

Momen only managed to get to the last 16 in Manchester in 2017, but has been as deep into the tournament as the last four, which he managed in 2015, when the tournament was held in Seattle.

The Egyptian has two titles, from two finals, to his name this season, having won the Channel VAS Championships and the CCI International.

Momen will start his World Championships campaign against home favourite Todd Harrity in the first round. It will be the pair’s first meeting on the PSA Tour.

Simon Rösner

Simon Rösner will attempt to become the first German to win the Worlds

The German has been a fixture of the top 10 or 12 for the last five years, and recently moved as high as No.3 in the world. Rösner is now the World No.4, but is seeded No.3 for this World Championships.

‘The Tree Chopper’ suffered a shock exit in the first round in 2017, and will be looking to bounce back. Surprisingly, he has never got past the third round in the Worlds

This season, Rösner has made the last eight in every tournament he has appeared, including two finals. However, he was unable to convert either the US Open or Qatar Classic final appearances into victories.

Seeded No.3 for the tournament, the German will face Omar Mosaad in the first round. The pair have met eight times in the past, with both men having won four times.

Karim Abdel Gawad

Karim Abdel Gawad is looking for his first PSA World Championship title

Gawad currently sits at No.5 in the world, but has previously been at the top of the rankings, back in 2017.

Last season, the Egyptian made it to the quarter finals of the Worlds, but was knocked out by Marwan ElShorbagy. He is a former World Champion, having won the tournament in Wadi Degla in 2016.

The former World No.1 is a two-time winner on the tour this season, having taken the title in the Golootlo Pakistan Open, and the CIB Black Ball Open.

After the withdrawal of Ramy Ashour from the tournament, Karim Abdel Gawad will no longer face Youssef Soliman. Instead the Egyptian will face a reserve, who is yet to be confirmed.

Paul Coll

Paul Coll is at his highest career ranking ahead of the Worlds

The New Zealander is now up to a career high of World No.6, having spent the majority of the last two seasons as a fixture of the top 20.

In 2017, the Kiwi made it through to the quarter finals, his best run at the World Championships so far in his career.

This season, Coll has been consistently performing well, leading to his new career-best ranking. He has reached the quarter finals of every tournament he has entered, and made the final of the China Open.

In the first round in Chicago, the Kiwi will face Egyptian Karim Ali Fathi. He has only met the World No.47 once on tour before, with the Egyptian coming out on top back in 2013.

Miguel Rodriguez

He won the British Open, can he win the Worlds?

‘The Colombian Cannonball’ is currently ranked at No.7 in the world. He has been as high as No.4, the highest a South American player has ever reached in the world rankings.

In Manchester in 2017, Rodriguez made the last eight of the World Championships, the furthest he has ever got in the biggest tournament of the season.

The Colombian has not been at his brilliant best so far this season, as he has not got past the quarter finals of any of the eight tournaments he has entered.

However, he will look to get his campaign underway with a victory in Chicago. Rodriguez will find out who his first round opponent is after the E.M. Noll Classic, with the winner of the tournament being granted a spot in the World Championships.

Women
Raneem El Welily

Can Raneem El Welily retain her title at the Worlds in Chicago?

El Welily recently became the World No.1 for the second time in her career, having reached the top spot back in 2015. She has been in and around the top five for the last seven years.

The Egyptian is the reigning World Champion, having beaten Nour El Sherbini in the final in Manchester in December 2017. She is also a two-time runner-up, and has made it through to at least the last 16 every season since 2009.

She has only played in five tournament since the 2018-19 season started, but El Welily has made the final in every single one, including winning the China Open and the US Open. She took over the World No.1 spot in December 2018.

The Egyptian will face Alexandra Fuller as she starts the defence of her tournament. She has never faced the South African on the tour before, but the World No.44 could provide an early challenge for her.

Nour El Sherbini

Nour El Sherbini is looking for her third World title

After spending almost three years at the top of the world rankings, Nour El Sherbini currently sits in the No.2 spot, having recently been usurped by her compatriot, Raneem El Welily.

Sherbini has reached the final on four occasions, and has two World Championship titles to her name, winning them back-to-back in 2015 and 2016. She was runner-up to Laura Massaro in 2013, and to El Welily in Manchester in 2017.

The Egyptian has only played in four tournaments since the start of the season, winning last time out at the Tournament of Champions in New York.

‘The Warrior Princess’ will face Englishwoman Lily Taylor in the first round in Chicago. The pair have never met before, with Taylor appearing in her first World Championships.

Joelle King

Joelle King could be the first Kiwi since 1992 to win the World Championships

King is the leading non-Egyptian in the world rankings, and currently sits at a career-high No.3 in the world, after having been in the top 20 in the world for the majority of the last nine years.

The New Zealander made the quarter finals of the World Championships in Manchester in 2017, having also reached the last eight back in 2013.

King is a winner on the PSA Tour this season, having beaten Raneem El Welily in the final of the Hong Kong Open. She also made the semi finals of the Tournament of Champions.

The Kiwi will face Egyptian Heba El Torky in the first round in Chicago. King has three victories from the four meetings on tour, including a win at the 2016 World Championships.

Nour El Tayeb

Nour El Tayeb is looking for a first World title

El Tayeb spent a year at No.3 in the world, but was replaced by King in the February rankings. The Egyptian now sits at No.4, but will still be a threat for the tournament.

She reached the semi finals of the World Championships in 2017, the furthest she has ever got into the draw. She has made it through to at least the last 16 in the last four Worlds.

Tayeb has won twice on the PSA Tour this year, taking victories in both the Carol Weymuller Open and the Cleveland Classic, her most recent tournament entry.

Due to the rankings changes being so recent, the Egyptian will be seeded No,3 for this tournament, meaning her first round opponent is Rachel Arnold. The pair have only met once before, and it was in this month’s Cleveland Classic, where Tayeb won 3-0.

Camille Serme

Camille Serme is looking to become the first French woman to win the Worlds

Serme is the leading European in the ladies’ game at the moment, having been in and around the top ten since 2010. She currently sits at No.5 in the world.

The Frenchwoman has reached the semi finals three times World Championships, including in both 2016 and 2017. Serme has made it through to at least the quarters in every Worlds since 2013.

She has been consistent on the tour this year, having made at least the last eight in every tournament she has entered. At the China Open, Serme finished runner-up to El Welily.

The Frenchwoman will face Jenny Duncalf, who will return from injury at the Worlds. The pair have met 13 times before, with Serme having won the last five meetings between the two.

Sarah-Jane Perry

Sarah-Jane Perry will make her comeback from injury at the Worlds

Perry will return from injury for the 2018-19 World Championships, and will go into the tournament as the World No.6, a position she has held in the rankings since November.

The Englishwoman has never hit top form for the Worlds, though. She has only reached the quarter finals once, back in 2016, and only made the last 16 in Manchester.

Perry is a winner on the tour this season, despite being injured for a couple of months. She beat Raneem El Welily in the final of the Oracle NetSuite Open, and also finished runner-up in the Carol Weymuller Open as well.

She will face Vanessa Chu in the first round in Chicago, and it will be the first meeting between the pair on the PSA tour.

Laura Massaro

Laura Massaro is looking to win a second World Championship

Massaro has been in and around the top ten for more than a decade now, and had a stint at World No.1 in 2016. She currently sits at No.7 in the world.

The Englishwoman is a former World Champion, having beaten Nour El Sherbini in the final in 2013. She has also been runner-up on two occasions, including when Sherbini got her revenge in 2015.

Massaro has a title to her name this season, as she won the Monte Carlo Classic in her final outing of 2018. However, in her other five tournaments, she has not reached a final.

She will face Amanda Landers-Murphy in the first round, and it will be the first time that she faces the New Zealander on the tour.

Amanda Sobhy

Amanda Sobhy could become the first American to win the Worlds

Sobhy is back in the top ten in the world for the first time since 2017, when she ruptured her achilles at the Ciudad de Floridablanca, when she was at No.6 in the world.

This will be her first World Championships since 2015, when she reached the quarter finals. It will only be the fourth appearance at the Worlds in her career.

As she regains her form, Sobhy has made two quarter final appearances this season, at the US Open and the Carol Weymuller, and she has made the last 16 in all the other tournaments she has entered.

The American will face Julianne Courtice in the first round. It will be the first time that the pair have met on tour. Can Sobhy use the effect of the home crowd to her advantage?

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