The Beast is back as Mo tames Gawad
By SEAN REUTHE in San Francisco
Egypt’s World No.3 Mohamed ElShorbagy and England’s World No.6 Sarah-Jane Perry are the 2017 Oracle NetSuite Open champions after they claimed respective wins over World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad and legendary Malaysian Nicol David on finals day in San Francisco.
ElShorbagy had a difficult 2016-17 season by his own high standards, losing his World No.1 ranking and struggling for form throughout, but has begun the new campaign in style, backing up a thrilling five-game victory over last year’s runner-up James Willstrop with a sublime display against Gawad, who struggled to back up after a brutal 90-minute semi-final with Peru’s Diego Elias.
ElShorbagy hadn’t beaten Gawad in over a year, losing to his compatriot twice in the meantime, but he outclassed the World No.2 this time around, reading his shots well and playing with stunning attacking force to record an 11-9, 11-6, 11-3 triumph – lifting his 26th Tour title and taking the lion’s share of the $100k prize fund.
“I’m really happy, it’s only my first tournament of the season and I think it’s the first time in my life that I have won the first tournament,” said ElShorbagy.
“When I was World No.1 for 28 months, all of the players studied me every single day but, coming into this season, I’m studying everyone. I’m coming in really hungry and I really want to do well this season.
“I’ve put in a lot of work this summer and there is nothing in my mind apart from getting back to World No.1 this season. I’m going to do everything I can to get back to where I feel I should be.”
Perry saves match ball to beat Nicol David in five
In the women’s $50k event, 2015 runner-up Perry – who dispatched top seed and defending champion Laura Massaro in the semi-finals – had won the last three meetings between her and David but was up against it as her opponent, an eight-time World Champion, surged into a two-game lead courtesy of some precise attacking at the front of the court.
The 27-year-old Perry fought back in the third to halve the deficit before squandering two game balls in the fourth to hand David a championship ball.
But a fortuitous nick off a Perry cross court handed the initiative back to the player from England, and she converted her next game ball before holding her nerve in the decider to seal an 8-11, 8-11, 11-7, 14-12, 11-7 victory that sees her pick up the ninth Tour title of her career and her first since 2015.
“I was just thinking of my nan [at championship ball down], it’s one I’ve got to dedicate to her because she passed away a couple of weeks ago and on that championship ball I told myself that I had to be brave and do it for nan and it worked,” said an emotional Perry.
“If a dead nick isn’t a sign that she’s looking down on me, then I don’t know what is. I had nothing in the tank but I just kept getting another ball back against someone who was playing amazing.
“This is my biggest title and I reached my first World Series final last season, so I’m looking to set my marker down early. Winning this one has kickstarted my season and hopefully it’s a sign of things to come for the rest of the year.”
2017 Oracle NetSuite Open, San Francisco, USA.
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) 3-0: 11-9, 11-6, 11-3 (45m)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt  Nicol David (MAS) 3-2: 8-11, 8-11, 11-7, 14-12, 11-7 (74m)
Pictures courtesy of PSA