Gregoire Marche jets in as Fares Dessouky pulls out with a back injury
By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor
Egyptian superstars Ali Farag and Mohamed ElShorbagy, the Men’s World No.1 and No.2 players, have been drawn together in Group A of the CIB PSA World Tour Finals, meaning a fascinating battle for the World No.1 spot will play out at Cairo’s Mall of Arabia between June 22-27.
Farag has held the No.1 spot for eight successive months since dethroning ElShorbagy in November 2020. But, following ElShorbagy’s triumph at the El Gouna International Open in May, the Bristol-based 30-year-old now has a chance to reclaim the coveted ranking in July’s PSA World Rankings.
To add to the 49 months he has already spent atop the World Rankings during his storied career, ElShorbagy must win the tournament, while Farag will need to go out at the group stage with a maximum of one victory.
If Farag secures two wins or more, he will stay at No.1 no matter what ElShorbagy does. The pair are set to face off on match day two, meaning the winner of that clash could take a big step closer towards top spot.
The pair have been drawn together after Farag finished top of the men’s CIB Road to Egypt Standings, while ElShorbagy came sixth.
Egypt’s World No.7 Fares Dessouky has withdrawn from the tournament due to a back injury, meaning Frenchman Gregoire Marche has been called up as a replacement.
Dessouky, who came second on the men’s CIB Road to Egypt Standings, was due to appear at the CIB PSA World Tour Finals for the first time, but it will be Marche who lines up in Cairo instead after he finished ninth on the CIB Road to Egypt Standings, meaning he was next in line to compete at the event in case of any withdrawals.
As part of PSA‘s COVID-19 protocols, Marche had taken a PCR test to ensure that he could join the tournament bubble in case their was a withdrawal and was on a flight to Cairo within five hours of being invited to take part.
Dessouky’s withdrawal means the group draws have been reshuffled, with World Champion Tarek Momen taking Dessouky’s spot as the No.2 seed and moving into Group B as a result.
He will line up alongside New Zealand’s Paul Coll, Welshman Joel Makin and Marche in Group B.
Meanwhile, defending champion Marwan ElShorbagy moves over to Group A, meaning he will feature in the same group as World No.1 Ali Farag, World No.2 and older brother Mohamed, and World Junior Champion Mostafa Asal.
The women’s groups remain unchanged. Group A of the women’s event will also see the world’s top two players go head-to-head as World No.1 Nour El Sherbini takes on World No.2 Nouran Gohar in a repeat of last month’s El Gouna International final, which El Sherbini won. They are joined by World No.4 Camille Serme and World No.9 Salma Hany.
Group B will see defending champion Hania El Hammamy, USA’s Amanda Sobhy, England’s Sarah-Jane Perry and New Zealand’s Joelle King do battle in a bid to reach the semi-finals.
To qualify, players either had to secure a top eight finish on the CIB Road to Egypt Standings – for which points were on offer at all PSA World Tour events throughout the 2020-21 season – or win a prestigious PSA World Tour Platinum trophy.
A $370,000 prize fund will be split equally across both the women’s and men’s events as players compete in a best-of-three games group stage between June 22-25. The top two from each group qualify for the knockout semi-finals, where a place in the best-of-five games title decider will await the winner of those fixtures.
Group stage action will begin on Tuesday June 22 at 19:00 (GMT+2). Six matches will be played per night for the first four days of the event until the group stage has drawn to a close.
Group stage matches will take place at 19:00, 19:30, 20:15, 20:45, 21:30 and 22:00 between June 22-25. The semi-finals will be held at 19:00 on Saturday June 26.
The finals will begin at 19:30 on Sunday June 27.
All matches will be held at Cairo’s Mall of Arabia and fixtures will be streamed live on SQUASHTV (rest of world) and the official Facebook page of the PSA World Tour. The semi-finals and finals will also be shown live on the channels of contracted broadcast partners.
CIB PSA World Tour Finals, Mall of Arabia, Cairo, June 22-27.
Picture and graphics courtesy of PSA