World Series Finals: Reigning champions begin in style
By SEAN REUTHE in Dubai
Defending champions Laura Massaro and Mohamed ElShorbagy claimed opening day wins against World Champion Raneem El Welily and British Open winner Miguel Angel Rodriguez as the season-ending ATCO PSA Dubai World Series Finals got under way at the Emirates Golf Club.
And Nick Matthew was delighted to register a straight-games victory over new world No.4 Tarek Momen as England’s 37-year-old legend began his swan song tournament in fine form.
The World Series Finals brings together the world’s top eight male and female players who qualified through the PSA World Series Standings with the opening three days of action seeing players compete in a best-of-three games, round robin group stage as they bid to qualify for the knockout semi-finals and beyond.
And Massaro, who is eyeing up a third successive World Series Finals title, recovered from a game down to defeat El Welily as she wrapped up an 8-11, 11-9, 11-8 victory to take a step closer to a third successive World Series Finals crown.
“I didn’t think I would win it last year to be honest, everyone keeps saying ‘how do you feel about three times?’ and I can’t believe I won it twice,” said Massaro, who beat World No.1 Nour El Sherbini in the final of last year’s event.
“It really is one match at a time and as [Mohamed] ElShorbagy said yesterday, every match that you play can be like a World Series final and you prepare as if it is a final.
“It’s nice to know you’re coming back for three days in a row regardless of results.”
Massaro sits atop Group B in the women’s event, jointly with France’s Camille Serme after she defeated England’s Sarah-Jane Perry by two games to one. Massaro mets Perry tomorrow in a tough all-England showdown.
World No.1 Nour El Sherbini was also on form on day one as she axed New Zealand’s Joelle King by a 2-0 margin.
The newly crowned PSA Women’s Player of the Year laid down a marker for the rest of the tournament after a sterling display from the two-time World Champion saw her claim victory by an 12-10, 11-7 margin in 27 minutes.
“Joelle’s been playing so well and she has come back after the [achilles] injury so well and has beaten a lot of top players,” said El Sherbini.
“It’s the first match and you could play Joelle in the final of a World Series event, so it’s hard to play her in the first round. I’m glad I fired myself up and won the first game.”
El Sherbini heads up Group A with Nour El Tayeb, who claimed a dominant 2-0 win over Nouran Gohar in just 13 minutes.
ElShorbagy, who was last night crowned PSA Men’s Player of the Year at the PSA Awards dinner, avenged his defeat to Colombia’s Rodriguez in the final of last month’s Allam British Open in a match that saw both players wow spectators at Emirates Golf Club with some blistering rallies throughout the 49-minute clash.
Rodriguez became the first South American ever to win a World Series title when he stunned ElShorbagy in Hull’s Airco Arena in one of the most dramatic matches ever to light up the sport’s longest-running tournament.
The pair picked up where they left off in Hull as they went toe-to-toe in some dramatic rallies. Both players took a game apiece to set up an exciting third game showdown, in which ElShorbagy pulled away from 3-3 to build up a commanding lead before wrapping up the 2-1 victory in 49 minutes.
“He’s been playing really well recently,” said ElShorbagy, who was crowned PSA Men’s Player of the Year last night at the PSA Awards dinner.
“Whatever happened today, it was never going to change that he is the British Open champion and what he did was great and he did his country proud. He’s a such nice guy and we’re really great friends.
“I’m just happy we played another great battle. Our matches have been clean and fair and today was another one.”
Meanwhile, England’s Nick Matthew began the final PSA tournament of his professional squash career with a superb 2-0 victory over Egypt’s World No.4 Tarek Momen which has sent the Englishman to the summit of Group A ahead of World No.1 ElShorbagy.
Matthew thought he’d played his last professional match after bowing out of last month’s Allam British Open due to a shock defeat to German qualifier Raphael Kandra which saw him finish ninth on the PSA Men’s World Series Standings – one place outside the top eight, which would have guaranteed him a spot in Dubai.
But a hamstring injury suffered by World No.3 Marwan ElShorbagy saw ‘The Wolf’ called up at the last minute and he grasped the opportunity with both hands today as he put in a professional performance to overcome Momen three weeks after beating the Egyptian in the opening round of the British Open.
“It’s been a very topsy-turvy couple of weeks,” said Matthew. “I desperately wanted to go out here and have my swansong on this stage. I felt like I could have done a little bit better. Losing out in the second round of the British Open was disappointing in my backyard.
“I made peace with it when Miguel went on and won. If he’d made the quarters and edged me out by five points then maybe it would have been ‘what if’ but when someone wins a tournament like that and goes to six in the rankings then you have to hold your hands up and say it’s incredibly well-played. I had made my peace and then I got the call!”
Matthew goes top of Group A courtesy of dropping fewer games than ElShorbagy, while there were also wins for Egypt’s Ali Farag and Germany’s Simon Rösner, who beat Gregory Gaultier and Karim Abdel Gawad, respectively.
Day two action begins at 15:00 tomorrow (Wednesday June 6) and the action will be shown live on SQUASHTV (Rest of World) and Eurosport Player (Europe only).
ATCO PSA Dubai World Series Finals, Emirates Golf Club, Dubai.
Men’s Group A
 Nick Matthew (ENG) bt  Tarek Momen (EGY) 2-0: 11-8, 11-9 (31m)
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt  Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) 2-1: 11-8, 9-11, 11-7 (49m)
Men’s Group B
 Simon Rösner (GER) bt  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) 2-0: 12-10, 11-6 (28m)
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt  Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 2-0: 11-9, 11-8 (31m)
Women’s Group A
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt  Nouran Gohar (EGY) 2-0: 11-5, 11-4 (13m)
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt  Joelle King (NZL) 2-0: 12-10, 11-7 (22m)
Women’s Group B
 Laura Massaro (ENG) bt  Raneem El Welily (EGY) 2-1: 8-11, 11-9, 11-8 (39m)
 Camille Serme (FRA) bt  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 2-1: 8-11, 12-10, 12-10 (50m)
Men’s Group A Day Two (June 6)
 Nick Matthew (ENG) v  Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL)
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v  Tarek Momen (EGY)
Men’s Group B Day Two
 Ali Farag (EGY) v  Simon Rösner (GER)
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v  Gregory Gaultier (FRA)
Women’s Group A Day Two
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v  Nour El Tayeb (EGY)
 Joelle King (NZL) v  Nouran Gohar (EGY)
Women’s Group B Day Two
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) v  Laura Massaro (ENG)
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) v  Camille Serme (FRA)
Article by SEAN REUTHE (PSA PR and Media Manager). Edited by ALAN THATCHER
Pictures courtesy of PSA