With professional squash now back in the swing of things, following the six-month suspension of the PSA Tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are taking a look back at the story of the 2018/19 PSA World Tour Finals.
The Manchester Open last week saw the PSA World Tour makes its long-awaited return and now we turn our attentions to the CIB PSA World Tour Finals, which will see the best players in the world battle it out in Cairo, Egypt next week between September 28 – October 3.
Here are the biggest talking points from last year’s event which saw Egyptians Karim Abdel Gawad and Raneem El Welily take home the season-ending titles.
Perry Upsets Defending Champion El Sherbini
The opening day of action last year at Cairo’s Mall of Arabia saw English No.1 Perry cause an upset as she continued her good record over World Champion El Sherbini to claim a 2-0 victory over the Egyptian.
It was the Egyptian who started stronger in both of the games, going 8-5 up in the first before losing six points in a row, while she held a 9-3 advantage in the second. But Perry soon whittled down that lead as she found her accuracy and range to devastating effect to make it three wins on the bounce against her opponent after wins at the Hong Kong Open and the Allam British Open during the same season.
In the men’s tournament, defending champion Mohamed ElShorbagy overturned four match balls as he defeated Peru’s Diego Elias to take a 2-1 victory, meaning he finishes the day in second place in Group B.
All four of their previous matches had gone the distance to five games, and despite the best of three format, crowds at the Mall of Arabia were treated to a spectacular 63 minute affair which saw ElShorbagy take a nail-biting third game by a 17-15 margin.
Farag and El Sherbini Fall at Group Stage
There were more shocks to come as both then-World No.1 Ali Farag and defending champion El Sherbini saw their campaigns come to premature ends as they bowed out on the final day of the group stage action.
The first four days of the tournament had been held using a round-robin, best-of-three games, group stage format, and Farag bowed out despite a 2-1 victory over New Zealand’s Paul Coll. His compatriot, Mohamed Abouelghar, defeated World No.4 Karim Abdel Gawad 2-0 to ensure that both him and Gawad would qualify for the semi-finals with eight points, one more than last year’s runner-up Farag.
Tarek Momen was the other man to earn his spot in the semi-finals after he dispatched Peru’s Elias. Momen dominated his opponent in the opening game and recovered from a second game blip to win 11-2, 4-11, 11-8 in 46 minutes, booking a spot in the last four of this tournament for the first time.
He finished second in Group B behind defending champion ElShorbagy.
In the women’s event, British Open champion Nouran Gohar continued her superb form to send El Sherbini to a shock group stage exit, recovering from a game down to win 6-11, 11-5, 11-7 and secure top spot in Group B and also set up a repeat of the British Open final with France’s Camille Serme.
Meanwhile, El Tayeb finished second in Group B after dismantling England’s Perry 11-0, 11-5, while Serme dispatched Wales’ Tesni Evans 11-5, 13-11 to ensure she finished second in Group A behind World No.1 El Welily.
Serme Gets Revenge on Gohar
France’s Serme ensured she would be the only non-Egyptian left standing at the tournament after she got her revenge on Gohar, following her defeat to the Egyptian at the British Open the month before.
Serme emerged victorious after a crucial victory in a mammoth first game laid the platform for her progression into the final, where she would face then-World No.1 and two-time runner-up El Welily, who overcame compatriot El Tayeb 11-9, 9-11, 11-1 in the other semi-final.
In the men’s event, Gawad and Abouelghar ensured that there would be a new name on the men’s trophy after they claimed respective wins over ElShorbagy and Momen.
ElShorbagy had won the two previous instalments of the World Tour Finals, and he started well in his fixture with Gawad as he took an early lead in the opener, before four uncharacteristic errors from the 28-year-old handed Gawad a one-game advantage.
Gawad then powered to victory in the second game, dropping just two points to advance to the final of this tournament for the first time.
Meanwhile, World Tour Finals debutant Abouelghar claimed his first ever victory over Momen at the 10th attempt to reach the biggest final of his career.
Abouelghar, the lowest seeded player in the men’s event, finished top of Group A ahead of Gawad and he played some scintillating squash to recover from a game down to beat Momen, despite five previous defeats to his compatriot this season.
Gawad and El Welily Reign Victorious
El Welily has been the woman to beat on the PSA World Tour last season and had been sensational throughout the tournament, maintaining a 100 per cent record right up to the final and beating Serme to finish top of Group A.
But she was off the pace against Serme in the early stages of their final clash. Nerves looked to have to got the better of El Welily, meaning the Frenchwoman stormed into a two-game lead.
That 2-0 lead would have been enough to see Serme take the win in the group stages or semi-finals, which were played using a best-of-three games scoring format. However, the finals reverted to the traditional best of five scoring, and that played into El Welily’s hands as the Egyptian displayed the trademark winners that have seen her dominate the tour this season to come back and take two games in a row, drawing level.
A tenacious Serme left it all out there on the court in the fifth and was forced to do a lot of running. The physical exertion soon took its toll though as El Welily moved into the ascendancy, and she soon closed out the win by a 3-11, 8-11, 11-7, 11-4, 11-6.
Meanwhile, Gawad captured his second major title of last season after he got the better of compatriot Abouelghar in the men’s final, winning 12-10, 11-6, 5-11, 8-11, 12-10 to lift the World Tour Finals trophy for the first time, a week to the day after he got married.
Abouelghar, the lowest seeded player in the men’s event, downed Gawad 2-0 to top Group A, but found himself on the wrong end of that scoreline as former World No.1 Gawad edged out the opening game, before some clinical attacking into the front corners saw him double that lead.
The third game went the way of Abouelghar as he finally found chinks in his opponent’s armour, with him also claiming victory in the fourth, bringing the match back to all square as he looked to emulate El Welily’s comeback victory.
The battle continued into a dramatic fifth, which saw play halted by a succession of video decisions, while court cleaners were also called into action due to the sweat on the floor. Gawad surrendered two championship balls as Abouelghar came back to force a tie-break, but converted on his third match ball as the younger Egyptian struck the tin to hand the match to his opponent.