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2018-2019 PSA World Tour Finals champions Raneem El Welily (left) and Karim Abdel Gawad (right)

Year in Review: A Look back at 2019 - Part One

2019 has been another great year for squash, with two new World Champions crowned, a new men’s World No.1, first-time tournaments and plenty more action around the world.

The 2018-2019 World Championships featured the highest ever prize pot in squash, with the first ever million dollar prize fund available for the tournament. The 2019-2020 World Championships also took place this year, with the event split into two, held at the Pyramids and in Qatar.

Elsewhere, there were five PSA Platinum tournaments held, plus the World Tour Finals in Cairo, which saw the top eight men and women take part of the season-ending crown.

The year started with the CCI International in Mumbai, the only PSA World Tour level event held in India. It would be Tarek Momen that took the title, defeating Fares Dessouky in the final, who himself had been returning to the professional game after a 14-month absence after an ACL injury.

A week later, the first Platinum tournament of the season took place, with a glass court erected at Grand Central Terminal in New York for the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions.

After nine days of high-quality action, both finals came down to the top two in the World Rankings, as Raneem El Welily faced Nour El Sherbini, while Mohamed ElShorbagy took on Ali Farag in an all-Egyptian finals day.

El Sherbini, who was still reeling from losing the World No.1 spot just a month earlier to her opponent, got revenge by taking a straight games victory. Farag made it a double victory for the No.2 seeds, as he overcame ‘The Beast’ in an 84-minute, five-game epic. The win was even more memorable for Farag, who knew he would become World No.1 in the March rankings, taking the top spot for the first time in his career.

Following the Tournament of Champions, there was a run of Silver and Bronze level tournaments in the United States with two Egyptians being successful, along with the new French No.1.

Mohamed Abouelghar lifted the Suburban Collection Motor City Open title, before Nour El Tayeb got the better of Welshwoman Tesni Evans in the final of the Cleveland Classic.

The Three Rivers Capital Pittsburgh Open saw Gregoire Marche, who had taken over the French No.1 spot from the injured Gregory Gaultier, lift the biggest title of his career. He overcame Egyptian Zahed Salem, a previous winner of the event, in the final, to win his first Bronze tournament

In late February, the 2018-2019 PSA World Championships presented by the Walter family were held in Chicago, with the first ever million dollar prize pot in the history of the sport. 128 of the best players descended on Union Station for the most illustrious tournament in squash.

For the second major tournament running, it was an all-Egyptian finals day, but there were different names involved. Both ElShorbagy or El Welily were knocked out in the semi-finals, with the duo of Tarek Momen and Nour El Tayeb earning places in their first World Championship finals.

Neither would taste victory, though, as the El Sherbini and Farag combination would lift the titles once more, following on from their victories in New York six weeks earlier. The ‘Warrior Princess’ lifted her third World Championship title, while just a day after becoming World No.1, Farag became the 17th male player to be crowned World Champion.

The PSA World Tour moved north of the border for the Troilus Canada Cup Squash event in March, with the ‘Peruvian Puma’ winning the title after a brutal 98-minute battle with New Zealand’s Paul Coll.

The Kiwi would earn his first victory of the calendar year just eight days later, though, as he won the Citigold Wealth Management Canary Wharf Classic, held in London.

The PSA Gold event, which was hosted at the spectacular East Wintergarden in London, saw Tarek Momen defeat Mohamed ElShorbagy in a semi-final for the second straight event, with ‘The Viper’ winning out in an hour to book his place in the final against Coll.

‘Superman’ would go on to take the victory, and lift the 12th title of his career, and by far his biggest to date, as he downed Momen in straight games to win the trophy.

At the same time, the Black Ball Sporting Club in Cairo also held a PSA Gold tournament, with 24 of the sport’s best female players looking for glory at one of the best squash facilities on the Tour.

Once again, it came down to the top two in the world in the final, and again it went to five games. However, this time, it would be the World No.1 Raneem El Welily that would take the victory, fighting back from 2-1 down to win 3-2, lifting her first title in 2019.

The end of the month saw the men travel to Switzerland to feature in the Grasshopper Cup, the third PSA Gold event in March, and the former World No.1 took his first crown of the year.

Mohamed ElShorbagy got the better of Tarek Momen for the first time in 2019, beating his compatriot in straight games, with the final lasting 50 minutes in Zurich.

Simultaneous with the Grasshopper Cup was the J Warren Young Memorial Texas Open, which was won by a home favourite. World No.13 Amanda Sobhy overcame England’s Victoria Lust to win the title for a second consecutive year on home soil.

April started with the inaugural DPD Open held in a DPD distribution centre in Eindhoven, one of the most unique venues on the PSA World Tour.

There was success for the World No.1s once again, with Raneem El Welily getting the better of World Champion Nour El Sherbini for the second straight final.

In the men’s event, it came down to Farag and ElShorbagy once more, with the new World No.1 and World Champion taking the victory over the former World No.1, winning out in four games.

At the same time, the Macau Open was coming to a conclusion, with Hong Kong’s Annie Au and Diego Elias of Peru lifting the titles at the PSA World Tour Bronze event. Elias took home his second title in as many months, while Au lifted her second trophy in Asia in six months.

Following on from those events was the El Gouna International, held on the edge of the Red Sea. The PSA Platinum event was the longest of the year, stretching over ten days, with matches being played across two venues.

The event saw the return to form of ‘The Terminator’, with Nouran Gohar reaching her first major final in over two and a half years. The tournament’s No.8 seed had taken out Nour El Sherbini and Camille Serme to reach the final, but it would be World No.1 Raneem El Welily that took victory at her third consecutive event.

Meanwhile, in the men’s event, World No.1 Ali Farag continued his dominance of the Tour, as he overcame Karim Abdel Gawad in the final in straight games. His toughest task came against Tarek Momen in the semi-final, where he found himself 2-0 down inside twenty minutes. However, Farag was able to fight back en route to a first El Gouna International crown.

The month of May started with the inaugural Manchester Open, held at the National Squash Centre, the home of the 2017 PSA World Championships. The PSA Silver event was the highest level women’s only event on the calendar, and brought some of the best to England.

Three Englishwoman made the quarter-finals of the tournament, but none of them made it through to the last four on home soil, with Tesni Evans coming through against Sarah-Jane Perry in five games.

The World No.9 then backed that up with a stunning victory over the tournament’s No.1 seed Nour El Tayeb, as she came back from 2-0 down to defeat the Egyptian to reach the final. However, it would be Joelle King that took the victory, lifting her second title of the season, after her win at the Everbright Sun Hung Kai Hong Kong Squash Open in November 2018.

The Wimbledon Club Squash Squared Open took place shortly after, with Iker Pajares Bernabeu putting in the best performance of his career, as the Spaniard took out Omar Mosaad, Daryl Selby and James Willstrop on consecutive days to reach the final. However, Marwan ElShorbagy was the man to take the title, his first since the El Gouna International twelve months earlier.

The end of May saw the PSA World Tour descend on Hull, for the oldest tournament in the sport, the Allam British Open, held at the newly refurbished University of Hull Sports and Fitness Centre.

After showing she was back in El Gouna, Nouran Gohar firmly put herself back among the best as she lifted the title, after defeating three of the top four seeds en route. Rame El Welily was dispatched in the quarter finals, before Gohar then knocked out Nour El Tayeb in the semis. She then defeated Camille Serme in the final to her second major title.

Once again, the top two in the world would battle it out in the men’s final, with Ali Farag and Mohamed ElShorbagy taking each other on for one of the sport’s most illustrious prizes. This time, it would be ‘The Beast’ that was successful, as he took the title having lost only a single game throughout, lifting his third British Open crown, after wins in 2015 and 2016.

The final event ahead of the season-ending Finals was the XII Torneo Internacional PSA Sporta, held in Guatemala, with Miguel Rodriguez downing Diego Elias in the final for a second time.

The season-ending CIB PSA World Tour Finals 2018-2019 threw up some shocks, with the best-of-three format and the group stages mixing things up.

Neither of the two World Champions, in Ali Farag and Nour El Sherbini, qualified from their respective four-player groups, while No.6 seed Nouran Gohar and No.8 seed Mohamed Abouelghar took their spots in the semi-finals.

Abouelghar would go on to reach the final, but he was beaten in a mammoth 92-minute encounter by Karim Abdel Gawad, while World No.1 Raneem El Welily took home the women’s prize after beating Frenchwoman Camille Serme in the final.

Stay tuned for the second part of our season review, which focuses on the first half of the new 2019-2020 season. A second World Championships, trips to China, the United States and much more…

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