Willstrop stuns world champion
By SEAN REUTHE
It will be England versus Egypt in the finals of the 2016-17 PSA Dubai World Series Finals after a breathtaking night of semi-final action at Dubai Opera saw James Willstrop, Mohamed ElShorbagy, Laura Massaro and Nour El Sherbini seal their spots in the title-deciders.
Former World No.1 Willstrop will appear in the showpiece finale of the World Series Finals for the first time in his career after he overcame World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad, playing some superb squash en route to a 14-12, 11-6 victory.
“I’m 33, I’ve had time out like a few of us have, but I’m not taking it for granted that I’ll be able to get back to where I was when I was 29, it’s not that simple,” said Willstrop.
“So it’s a great feeling when you’ve kept pushing yourself and you’ve gone down to No.20 in the world. To be able to do it again and to do it over four days means you’re still there and it’s a big confidence booster.
“Before I qualified I wanted to be here desperately and there are all sorts of motivations here. Once I got there I was really focused on it. I had other tournaments to play, but this was the big finale and I’ve eyed it up certainly.”
He will face ElShorbagy in a repeat of their Group B fixture after the Bristol-based Egyptian twice overturned match balls for Germany’s Simon Rösner to reach his first Tour final since November.
ElShorbagy, the 2013 runner-up, fell a game behind against an inspired Rösner, but recovered from 8-4 down in the second to force a third game, where Rösner was unable to convert his match balls, handing the win to the World No.3 after a gladiatorial 62-minute battle.
ElShorbagy beat Willstrop 2-0 in their group stage clash, but the final reverts to the best-of-five games format used in all other PSA World Tour events, meaning that it’s all to play for in what looks set to be a thrilling finale to the Men’s tournament.
“I’m born for these kind of matches and these kind of moments and I don’t accept myself being in another position,” said ElShorbagy.
“There is the golden generation of [Amr] Shabana, Nick [Matthew], Greg [Gaultier], James, [Karim] Darwish and [Thierry Lincou]. The only one I haven’t played in a final is James, so it’s such an honour to be in the final with him.”
Massaro and El Sherbini set up a repeat of the 2015 PSA Women’s World Championship final after they achieved respective victories over Nouran Gohar and Camille Serme.
Massaro, the defending champion, was two match balls down to Gohar, but dug into her mental reserves to take the win in three games and reach the final of this tournament for the third time in succession.
“Saving two match balls is brilliant and I’m really proud of myself, but I’m also really annoyed that I let three game balls in the first go,” Massaro said.
“I just need to let it sink in, but I’m really happy to be through for tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, World Champion El Sherbini is through to a second Tour final in a row after she ended World No.3 Camille Serme’s tournament.
Like Massaro, El Sherbini also fought back from two games down despite injuring her hand in the third game and she will look to become the first female Egyptian to lift the prestigious title when she locks horns with Massaro, who she lost to in last year’s semi-finals.
“I thought that I was going to retire from the match because I couldn’t hold the racket,” said El Sherbini.
“But I thought that I should go on and try and I think that it’s the reason I won. Because of my hand I was just thinking that I wanted to finish the points, so I attacked on every point and every opportunity.”
PSA Dubai World Series Finals 2017, Dubai Opera, Dubai, United Arab Emirates ($160,000 prize money for both men and women).
 James Willstrop (ENG) bt  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) 2-0: 14-12, 11-6 (43m)
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt  Simon Rösner (GER) 2-1: 9-11, 11-8, 14-12 (62m)
 James Willstrop (ENG) v  Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY)
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt  Camille Serme (FRA) 2-1: 15-17, 11-3, 12-10 (60m)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) bt  Nouran Gohar (EGY) 2-1: 12-14, 12-10, 11-7 (47m)
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v  Laura Massaro (ENG)
The finals of the 2016/17 PSA Dubai World Series Finals will take place from 22:00 local time (GMT+4) on June 10 and will be broadcast live on SQUASHTV, Eurosport Player and the following broadcasters:
Astro (Malaysia / Brunei)
beIN Sports (Middle East / North Africa)
BT Sport (United Kingdom)
Eleven Sports Network (Singapore / Taiwan)
Fox Sports Australia (Australia)
MNC Indonesia (Indonesia)
Now TV (Hong Kong)
Sky Sport NZ (New Zealand)
Super Sport (Sub-Saharan Africa)
Ten Sports (Indian Subcontinent)
Pictures courtesy of PSA