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Paul Coll (left) takes on Ali Farag (right) during the 2020 Windy City Open final

Men's Matches of the Year

As we come to the end of 2020, we are taking a look back at one of the strangest years in recent history, and this time, it is the best matches of the year.

In the second part of this two-part piece, we will focus on the men’s game, which has seen pretty much everything over the course of the last twelve months.

Ali Farag started the year as the World No.1, but saw Mohamed ElShorbagy take the top spot after ’The Beast’ lifted the trophy at the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in New York in January. Farag would then claim the summit of the World Rankings following his win at the CIB Egyptian Open in October.

There were also major title wins for Marwan ElShorbagy and Fares Dessouky, with the latter causing a huge upset in the final of the CIB Black Ball Squash Open, the last match to be played on the PSA World Tour prior to the end of the year.

Our panel of experts have narrowed down the quality to five epic matches, with clashes ranging from the second round right through to the final, there has been amazing squash throughout the last twelve months.

5. Mohamed ElShorbagy v Youssef Ibrahim – Qatar Classic Third Round

Coming in at No.5 on our list is one of the biggest shocks of 2020, as World No.2 Mohamed ElShorbagy, who came to Doha looking to take back the summit of the World Rankings, was dumped out of the Qatar Classic at just the third round stage.

Youssef Ibrahim was the man to beat ElShorbagy having already taken out Swiss No.1 Nicolas Mueller and Mexican No.1 Cesar Salazar to reach the last 16.

After winning the first game, the young left-hander found himself 2-1 down in quick time, with ElShorbagy winning the third game 11-3. However, ‘The Beast' failed to capitalise, and missed his chance on a couple of match balls, allowing Ibrahim to take the fourth.

It would be the World No.41 that won the first ever meeting between the pair on the PSA World Tour, surprising the world, and booking his place in the quarter-finals of the Platinum level Qatar Classic.

Result
Youssef Ibrahim (EGY) bt [1] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) 3-2: 11-9, 6-11, 3-11, 15-13, 11-6 (65m)

4. Mohamed ElShorbagy v Ali Farag – St. James’s Place Canary Wharf Classic Final

The 2020 St. James’s Place Canary Wharf Classic final became an instant classic, with Mohamed ElShorbagy and Ali Farag going head-to-head in front of a packed crowd at East Wintergarden in the middle of London’s financial district.

It is the only four-game battle that makes either our men’s or women’s list, showing the quality that the top two players in the world displayed during the last men’s match before the six-month suspension of the PSA World Tour.

After two tight games, the scores were level at 1-1, and it looked like the 20th match between the two on Tour would be going all the way. The drama really started to unfold in the fourth game after ElShorbagy had taken a 2-1 lead in the contest.

The fourth went all the way to a tie-break, with both players having several opportunities to take the game, and in ElShorbagy’s case, the match. He eventually did so, winning it 15-13 to claim victory, in one of the best matches of the year.

Result
[1] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt [2] Ali Farag (EGY) 3-1: 11-8, 10-12, 11-6, 15-13 (79m)

3. Joel Makin v James Willstrop – CIB Black Ball Squash Open Second Round

The most recent match in our top five comes from the CIB Black Ball Squash Open in December, with Joel Makin and James Willstrop’s second round clash slotting in at No.3 on our matches of the year list.

The British pair were meeting for only the third time on the PSA World Tour, with both having taken a sole win over the other in the past. It was the Englishman who held the advantage after three games, leading 2-1 having come from a game down to do so.

However, the Welsh No.1, who is inside the top ten in the World Rankings for the first time in his career, fought back, and took the fourth game on a tie-break. He took it 12-10 to set up a decider, and this epic match would go on.

It went down to the wire, but Makin was able to close it out in the fifth game, winning it after 80 minutes to book his place in the quarter-finals. The match is our 3rd best of the year, but it also gave us the epic triple dive from Joel Makin!

Result
[7] Joel Makin (WAL) bt [15] James Willstrop (ENG) 3-2: 11-7, 8-11, 7-11, 12-10, 11-9 (80m)

2. Gregory Gaultier v Omar Mosaad – J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions Second Round

This match comes in at No.2 for several reasons. Firstly, it was a high-quality affair between two longstanding giants of the game. Secondly, it was a repeat of the 2015 World Championship final. Thirdly, it was the ‘French General’s’ long-awaited return to the PSA World Tour after more than 14 months out through injury.

It was the year-opening J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions and Gregory Gaultier was back. He took on Omar Mosaad in his first match on the tour since the 2018 FS Investment U.S. Open Squash Championships.

Gaultier went behind after the third game, with the ‘Hammer of Thor’ doing what he needed to to take a 2-1 lead. However, the 37-year-old Frenchman showed his class, and was able to fight his way back into the contest, sending it to a decider.

It would be the former World No.1 that took the victory, winning out in 78 minutes to the delight of the crowd in Grand Central Terminal, and he showed off his dancing moves in celebration.

Result
Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt Omar Mosaad (EGY) 3-2: 11-7, 8-11, 10-12, 11-5, 11-9 (78m)

1. Ali Farag v Paul Coll – Windy City Open presented by the Walter Family Final

The best men’s match of 2020, as chosen by our panel of experts, comes from the Windy City Open presented by the Walter Family. The final was played between World No.2 Ali Farag and World No.5 Paul Coll, with the Kiwi having already dispatched two former World Champions in Mohamed ElShorbagy and Karim Abdel Gawad to make it to a first Platinum final.

It was the New Zealander who came out of the gates the quickest, and after taking the first on a tie-break, he then also won the second to hold a two-game advantage in the contest, and it looked like his first major title would be his, and his biggest since his victory in Canary Wharf in 2019.

However, Farag seemed to find another gear, and after taking the third game, it looked like it was his to lose, despite still being 2-1 down in the contest.

The World No.2 took the victory after blitzing Coll in the deciding game, claiming victory in Chicago for the second straight year, having won his World Championship title at Union Station twelve months earlier.

Result
[1] Ali Farag (EGY) bt [5] Paul Coll (NZL) 3-2: 12-14, 9-11, 11-7, 11-6, 11-1 (77m)

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