Crunch time for Willstrop and Matthew in Dubai
By SEAN REUTHE in Dubai
World No.3 Mohamed ElShorbagy sealed his place in the last four of the Men’s 2016-17 PSA Dubai World Series Finals after the Egyptian beat compatriot Ali Farag on day two in Dubai Opera – meaning last year’s champion Gregory Gaultier crashes out at the group stage.
ElShorbagy followed up an opening day win over former World No.1 James Willstrop with a dramatic victory over Farag, taking it 12-10 in the third-game tie-break to seal qualification from Group B.
“I’m happy that I won using my own strengths, which is something I did when I was World No.1,” said ElShorbagy.
“I was challenged, but I threw myself into that challenge and being 1-0 down and one game away from losing the match was tough mentally. When I was at my best that’s what I was good at and that’s what made me different from other players because I could get through those kind of situations.
“We had some issues in the first two matches we played in the season, in Al Ahram and the World Championship, but it felt like we both got that anger out of each other. Since those two matches we started to have so much respect for each other.”
Gaultier, meanwhile, has failed to make it to the semi-finals for the first time in his career after he lost to Willstrop in straight games.
Gaultier, the current World No.1, had only lost once in 2017 prior to the tournament and had won 27 matches in a row, in addition to claiming six successive Tour titles.
However, the heavy schedule looks to have caught up with him in Dubai after he slumped to a defeat to Willstrop which, added to his first round loss to Farag, means that he is yet to win a game.
“If you get a result over Greg then something is clearly going well,” said Willstrop.
“Nobody is beating him at the minute and it’s difficult for me not to point out that he’s had a tough season.
“I know how difficult it is mentally to have to get yourself up for every tournament for a whole season.”
Willstrop and Farag will clash next to decide who joins ElShorbagy in the semi-finals, while Willstrop’s compatriot, Nick Matthew, is on the brink of elimination from Group A after he slipped to a 2-0 defeat to World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad.
Egypt’s Marwan ElShorbagy defeated Germany’s Simon Rösner to go top of Group A, which means Matthew must now beat Rösner 2-0 in his final match while hoping that Marwan beats Gawad 2-0 to have any hope of reaching the semi-finals, with the percentage of points won being the next qualification criteria.
In the Women’s event, defending champion Laura Massaro is the first player to qualify after she defeated compatriot Sarah-Jane Perry in Group A
A confident display from Massaro saw her follow up her opening day win over two-time winner Nicol David to take the opening game before overturning five game balls in the second to seal the victory by an 11-6, 14-12 scoreline.
“I’m really happy, maybe it’s better that I need to go in and get a result tomorrow,” said Massaro.
“I’ll still want to win tomorrow regardless of whether I’m qualified or not. It’s great to know that I’m in the semi-finals, but there’s still a job to do tomorrow.”
Nour El Sherbini sits in second place in Group A after she claimed an eighth successive win over David, meaning that the Malaysian misses out on a place in the semi-finals for the first time in her glittering career.
A 2-0 win over Massaro for El Sherbini in her final group fixture will see her top the group, while a 2-1 win could also see her qualify ahead of Perry depending on how she does in her match with David.
French World No.3 Camille Serme made it two wins out of two to top Group B, with World Junior Champion Nouran Gohar going down in a 2-1 thriller to leave Serme on the cusp of qualification for the last four.
“I’m very happy, I saw myself winning, then losing, then winning again, so anything could have happened,” said Serme.
“I guess we’ll know more about what’s going to happen after the second group match, but it’s already better than last year, last year I only won one match, so it’s positive and I’m going to give it everything tomorrow.”
Victory for Serme over World Championship runner-up Raneem El Welily will guarantee her a place in the semi-finals, but it’s all to play for as a defeat could allow any two of El Welily, Gohar or England’s Alison Waters to qualify.
The World Series Finals brings together the top eight players on the Men’s and Women’s PSA Road to Dubai Standings who are then split into two groups of four, with matches played in a best-of-three games format.
Players then battle for points to qualify for the knockout semi-finals and beyond.
Dubai PSA World Series Finals 2017, Dubai Opera, Dubai, United Arab Emirates ($160,000 prize money for both men and women).
Men’s Group A Day Two:
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt  Nick Matthew (ENG) 2-0: 11-7, 11-6 (21m)
 Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) bt  Simon Rösner (GER) 2-1: 11-8, 4-11, 11-6 (40m)
Men’s Group A Day Three:
 Nick Matthew (ENG) v  Simon Rösner (GER)
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY)
Men’s Group B Day Two:
 James Willstrop (ENG) bt  Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 2-0: 11-9, 11-4 (28m)
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt  Ali Farag (EGY) 2-1: 8-11, 11-8, 12-10 (56m)
Men’s Group B Day Three:
 James Willstrop (ENG) v  Ali Farag (EGY)
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v  Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY)
Women’s Group A Day Two:
 Camille Serme (FRA) bt  Nouran Gohar (EGY) 2-1: 11-6, 12-14, 14-12 (50m)
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt  Alison Waters (ENG) 2-0: 16-14, 11-7 (26m)
Women’s Group A Day Three:
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) v  Alison Waters (ENG)
 Camille Serme (FRA) v  Raneem El Welily (EGY)
Women’s Group B Day Two:
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt  Nicol David (MAS) 2-0: 11-6, 11-9 (21m)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) bt  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 2-0: 11-6, 14-12 (35m)
Women’s Group B Day Three:
 Nicol David (MAS) v  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG)
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v  Laura Massaro (ENG)
Pictures courtesy of PSA