‘I am back to my best’ says mighty Mo
By SEAN REUTHE in Dubai
Egypt’s Mohamed ElShorbagy and defending champion Laura Massaro claimed the titles at the 2016-17 PSA Dubai World Series Finals after prevailing in their final clashes inside the stunning Dubai Opera.
The World Series Finals is the first sporting event to take place in Dubai Opera and sees ElShorbagy and Massaro banked more than $40,000 each after wins over England’s former World No.1 James Willstrop and Egyptian World Champion Nour El Sherbini.
ElShorbagy ended a difficult season on a high to lift his first World Series Finals crown and his first Tour title since November after beating Willstrop 12-10, 11-9, 11-8 in 57 minutes.
The duo traded points in the opening two games, but ElShorbagy’s power on the forehand side was causing numerous problems for Willstrop and the Egyptian moved three game balls up before squandering them all due to a succession of tins.
However, he held his nerve to prevail in the tiebreak and recovered from 6-3 down in the second game to double his lead. The third game was all ElShorbagy at the start and, despite Willstrop clawing back points in desperation, the 25-year-old held firm to complete an emphatic victory which sees him become the third Egyptian to win the title.
“To win this tournament has been a dream for so long,” said ElShorbagy after lifting his 25th Tour title. “It’s a very emotional win. I lost some confidence in myself during the season but I feel like I bounced back this week.
“I don’t want to lose. I hate losing. This season I didn’t play with my spirit, but I’m really proud I got that back this week. It was my best squash since being World No.1.
“It’s been an interesting season and a few weeks ago I got my motivation back. I feel like I let a lot off people down this season, this title is especially for my mother.
“The way James has come back and played this week is amazing. It was our first final and a great honour to play against him tonight. This venue is what all other events aspire to be. To be standing here winning this title means so much to me.”
Willstrop said: “I thought I could win and went in giving it all I can. It’s an incredible group here this week, so to make the final was a great pleasure.
“I was loving every minute, apart from losing. He responded today and unified everything I tried to do. Full credit to him, he stopped me playing so there are no complaints.”
Massaro became only the second woman ever after Malaysian legend Nicol David to win two World Series Finals titles after she overcame El Sherbini in straight games.
Massaro was appearing in the final for a third time in a row, having beaten Egypt’s Raneem El Welily and lost to Malaysia’s David.
The pair had met earlier on in the tournament, with El Sherbini winning the best-of-three games contest to qualify second in Group B. But, in the best-of-five games final, it was Massaro who emerged the victor after claiming an 11-8, 12-10, 11-5 victory.
“I’m really happy with my performance overall,” said Massaro. “It took a lot of focus, discipline, hard work and I had to keep pushing throughout the whole match. The first two games were really tight and I managed to get that good lead in the third.
“I’m one of the oldest ones on Tour now and as long as I feel as though I’m still in contention to win titles then I’m happy. To be able to win the British Open, to reach the final of the ToC [Tournament of Champions] and to win here really makes me think that I’m still in contention and I can still win titles.”
Massaro, who beat World Junior Champion Nouran Gohar to seal her final berth, raced out of the traps in the opening game as she forced El Sherbini into the back of the court to nullify the World No.1’s attacking potential and she duly took a one-game lead.
El Sherbini played some fantastic defensive squash in the second game to go 4-1 ahead, but Massaro’s incredible consistency paid dividends as she doubled her advantage courtesy of a tie-break win without making a single unforced error.
That victory killed off El Sherbini’s resistance and Massaro was ruthless in the third and final game as she surged to the win, dropping just five points to lift the 22nd Tour title of her career.
El Sherbini conceded that Massaro was the better player on the day, saying: “It wasn’t the best result, Laura played amazing and she was the better player. It was a bad day for me.
“There were a lot of unforced errors and I maybe had the wrong tactic, she was more patient than me. We played two days ago and the challenge was to change your plan – I was trying to attack early and made too many errors.”
The World Series Finals brought together the top eight players on the Men’s and Women’s PSA Road to Dubai Standings who were then split into two groups of four, with matches played in a best-of-three games format.
Players then battled for points to qualify for the knockout semi-finals and beyond, while the final was contested in the regular best-of-five games format.
PSA Dubai World Series Finals 2016-17, Dubai Opera, Dubai, United Arab Emirates ($160,000 prize money in both men’s and women’s competitions).
 Laura Massaro (ENG) bt  Nour El Sherbini (EGY) 3-0: 11-8, 12-10, 11-5 (35m)
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt  James Willstrop (ENG) 3-0: 12-10, 11-9, 11-8 (57m)
Pictures courtesy of PSA