This year’s PSA World Series Finals are down to the last day after the conclusion of men and women’s semifinals on Friday. The title contenders in both categories have emerged in somewhat contrasting ways. Among men, title favorite and Egyptian world no.1 Mohamed Elshorbagy lost to Australian Cameroon Pilley in the longest match of the day but in two straight games. In the other men’s semifinal, Frenchman Gregory Gaultier defeated Colombia’s Miguel Angel Rodriguez. Among women, English squash Queen Laura Massaro defeated Egypt’s Nour El Sherbini to set up the title clash with another Egyptian Raneem El Welily, who crashed the defenses of former long-time world no.1 Nicol David of Malaysia. The arrangement for 2016 World Series Finals is unique in many ways. The tournament is being staged at the state-of-the-art Dubai Opera, a 2000-seat multi-format venue in Downtown Dubai. The Z-Court playing arena is as modern and techno-savvy as it could be. It is enveloped by an air-conditioned structure with new LED lighting to help capture super slow-motion TV pictures. For the first time, a new front wall has been unveiled to show highlights, sponsors’ messages and live images of the Burj Khalifa, which is bang in front of the tournament venue. This is 19th edition of the World Series for men and only the 2nd for women. The squash World Series derives its format from similar events in tennis and badminton and the competition attracts the best 8 players in the world among men and women. They are split into two groups of players each. The contestants play round-robin matches against one another in their group and the top two from each group make it to the semifinals. The tournament began on May 24 and Saturday May 28 will be the last day.
The glittering Dubai Squash Extravaganza has been conceived by Ziad Al-Turki, the Saudi businessman, who is mad about squash and has been the PSA chairman since 2008. In the first four days, world no.1 Mohamed Elshorbagy and defending champion Nicol David have lost twice and are already out of title contentions. Despite losing his third league match 10-12, 10-12 to Englishman Nick Matthew, Elshorbagy still finished on top in his group and entered the knock-out stage. The same thing happened to 2-time defending champion Nicol David. The Malaysian lost to England’s Laura Massaro 7-11, 11-8, 7-11 in the second round but reached the semifinal with the no.2 finish in her Group.
All semifinals were played on Friday. In men’s draw, Australia’s world no.13 Cameron Pilley caused one of the heaviest upsets by defeating title favorite and world no.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy 11-9, 11-5. Pilley had just managed to qualify for the World Series tournament at the last moment and playing with a nothing-lose-attitude powered his way in both games in a relaxed manner. After losing the tightly fought opening game, Elshorbagy couldn’t get back into the contest. In Saturday’s final, Pilley will take on the second-seeded Frenchman Gregory Gaultier, who defeated Colombia’s Miguel Angel Rodriguez 11-7, 11-7 in just 30 minutes.
Nicol David’s dream of the third consecutive World Series Finals victory took a jolt as she lost the three-game battle against Egyptian Raneem El Welily 5-11, 11-8, 8-11. This was the second successive tournament loss for David after her defeat by England’s Laura Massaro in the league phase. On Wednesday, Massaro had beaten David in three games 11-7, 8-11, 11-7. Massaro also reached the final on Friday by defeating Egypt’s no.2 seed Nour El Sherbini 12-10, 11-6. Therefore, the women’s championship will be fought between El Welily and Massaro on Sunday.
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