New names were etched into the record books of both the Men’s and Women’s J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions on Thursday as Egypt’s Karim Abdel Gawad, World No.2, and France’s Camille Serme, World No.4, were crowned 2017 champions on an electric night inside New York’s Grand Central Terminal.
The pair, both competing in the PSA World Series tournament title decider for the first time in their careers, prevailed in thrilling encounters with Gregory Gaultier and Laura Massaro, respectively, to take the spoils and add their names to an illustrious list of past winners.
The 25-year-old Gawad came from behind against World No.3 Gaultier to win 6-11, 11-6, 12-10, 11-6, extending his unbeaten streak to 16 matches to win a third consecutive major title – adding to the Qatar Classic and World Championship titles he won last November.
“Winning the Tournament of Champions, here in this venue, is an amazing feeling and I feel absolutely fantastic right now,” said Gawad.
“It’s been an amazing week. I’m over the moon. To win three big titles like the World Championship and Qatar Classic is a great feeling and I have to thank my coaches for the support and hard work that has been put in for the past few years.
Reflecting on the tournament, beaten finalist Gaultier said: “I had a great week here and I gave it all that I could. I gave beyond 100 per cent.”
Serme meanwhile proved that she truly is the player to beat at present on the Women’s Tour by downing No.2 Nouran Gohar, No.1 Nour El Sherbini and No.5 Massaro to add the Tournament of Champions title to the U.S. Open crown she won last October.
The 27-year-old French World No.4 started strong against Massaro, taking a tie-break opening game 13-11, but faded fast as the Englishwoman’s will and determination came to the fore. But at 2-2 Serme responded impressively, stepping up the court to get the better of Massaro and run out an 13-11, 8-11, 4-11, 11-3, 11-7 winner.
“I can’t believe it,” said Serme.
“Winning this title and winning two World Series titles in a row, beating the World No.1 and No.2 and coming from 2-1 down today to beat Laura, it is absolutely amazing.”
“I’ve been working hard in training and to see it all pay off like this is so encouraging – I’m delighted.”
Results – Men’s Final: 2017 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt  Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 3-1: 6-11, 11-6, 12-10, 11-6 (64m)
Results – Women’s Final: 2017 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions
 Camille Serme (FRA) bt  Laura Massaro (ENG) 3-2: 13-11, 8-11, 4-11, 11-3, 11-7 (73m)
England’s Sarah-Jane Perry, World No.11, triumphed in a remarkable rollercoaster encounter with 2015 tournament winner Raneem El Welily, World No.3, in New York today (Jan 17) to reach the semi-finals of the iconic 2017 J.P. Morgan Tournament Champions and secure her first ever appearance in the last four of a PSA World Series tournament.
Perry halted home favourite Amanda Sobhy, 2016 runner-up, in an epic five-game thriller yesterday but showed no signs of fatigue as she raced to a 2-0 game lead over El Welily.
But the wheels looked to have come off the track as the Egyptian levelled up at 2-2 before taking a 4-1 lead in the decider.
A sublime run of nine consecutive points however swung the match back in favour of Birmingham-based Perry as she completed the 11-7, 12-10, 10-12, 5-11, 11-5 win to set up a seismic clash with compatriot Laura Massaro, guaranteeing an English finalist.
“That’s my first win over Raneem, to reach my first ever World Series semi-final, and I get to play here again inside Grand Central Terminal tomorrow – so I’m very pleased and very proud,” said Perry.
“I’ve been working hard on and off court for the past year and I’ve got more confidence and belief in myself. And having that self-belief is imperative at this level because I was 2-0 up and all of a sudden she was back and I was down in the fifth – so I had to really work hard to make sure I got back on track.
“I didn’t realise I won 9 points in a row. I was just focusing on each point, getting my discipline back, and refusing to stop believing and I’m excited about the semi-finals tomorrow.
“I’ve played Laura many times and it’s a massive match. I’m just going to focus on trying to play how I want to play and do my best.”
Perry will take on Massaro, World No.5, after the 33-year-old from Preston dominated last eight opponent Omneya Abdel Kawy, World No.9, winning 11-4, 12-10, 11-6, while World No.1 Nour El Sherbini kept her title defence alive with a narrow victory over 8x World Champion Nicol David in a thrilling 64 minute battle.
El Sherbini will now meet Camille Serme, World No.4, after the Frenchwoman knocked out World No.2 Nouran Gohar in a hugely impressive 3-1 win that was inspired by a newly adopted training technique – yoga.
“Nouran beat me twice last year in very tough five game battles so I knew it would be hard today,’ said Serme, who beat El Sherbini 3-1 in the U.S. Open final last October.
“But I had no pressure on me. She’s No.2 in the World and I felt like the pressure was on her – I just focused on what I needed to do, which is exactly what I done at the U.S. Open as well, so I’m very, very happy.
“I’m trying to get into the same state of mind as I was in Philadelphia. I started Yoga recently and anytime I feel nervous I use the respiration techniques to try and let it go – and it seems to be helping!”
In the men’s draw it was another No.11, James Willstrop, who backed up his headline grabbing defeat of perennial rival Nick Matthew – his first win in 20 attempts over his old adversary – with an accomplished 3-1 win over New Zealand’s Paul Coll to reach his first World Series tournament semi-final since the 2013 Kuwait Cup.
33-year-old Willstrop, the 2011 tournament winner, utilised his exquisite court-craft and ball placement to counter the unrelenting physicality of the 24-year-old, ending Coll’s 10-match winning streak, and set up an intriguing battle with Egyptian World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad.
“I’m very happy to get through today because he’s flying at the moment and arguably one of the in-form players out there – to break that run I had to play very well,” said Willstrop.
“I had to make sure I didn’t lose sight of the end goal. He makes the court so small with his physicality and speed that you have to keep putting the work in, move him around as much as possible and try to break him down
“You have to put the ball in good areas against guys like Nick and Paul because they’re such wonderful athletes. I’ve done that well in the past two rounds and I’m excited at the chance to be out on that stage against tomorrow and I’m keen to soak it up.
“But there’s no reason that I can’t look to progress further. I feel alright and if I’m beating players like Paul then I’m set to go and hopefully I can produce it again. It’s my favourite event – the venue speaks for itself – and there’s nothing like being here. I’ve had some great moments here and hopefully I’ll have a few more still to come.”
England’s Sarah-Jane Perry, World No.11, stunned a capacity crowd inside New York’s Grand Central Terminal as she downed crowd favourite and 2016 runner-up Amanda Sobhy in a thrilling five-game battle to reach the last eight of the iconic J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions.
The 26-year-old from Birmingham produced one the best performances of her career as she thwarted Sobhy’s all-out attacking style to claim a huge win that sees her into a PSA World Series tournament quarter-final for the first time since the 2015 British Open, on a day that also saw Egyptian World No.3 Raneem El Welily, No.2 Nouran Gohar and defending champion Nour El Sheribi, World No.1, come through in unconvincing fashion.
“I beat Nicol (David) in September which was huge for me and this win today is similar to that,” said Perry, who won 9-11, 14-12, 12-10, 8-11, 11-5 after 67 minutes.
“They were both big matches in amazing locations (Grand Central and the Pyramids of Giza) against very strong opponents. You don’t get to play in better venues than those so it’s great to get that win today.
“I watched her (Sobhy) here last year and saw how much she enjoyed playing in front of a loud supportive crowd, so I just had to put that out of my mind. I had to focus on playing my way, not going short too much, and I stuck to my plan just enough to edge it.
“I changed coach about 14 months ago and have had some good results in the past six months. It’s all about believing in myself, approaching the game slightly differently mentally and going on court believing that I can compete with anyone and I know if I can stick to my game plan, win or lose I’ll be happy.”
Perry will face 2015 winner El Welily for a place in the semi-finals after she edged past Indian Dipika Pallikal Karthik while 8x World Champion David put in a second consecutive performance of total domination to down Annie Au 3-0 to underline her championship credentials and set up a quarter-final encounter with El Sherbini.
David and El Sherbini met here at the same stage last year, when El Sherbini recorded the second of five consecutive wins over David en route to the title, but the Malaysian will likely have her best chance yet to halt that run and install a needed confidence boost with El Sherbini struggling to hit her stride in the event to date – having narrowly beaten Salma Many Ibrahim in four games today.
“I’m pleased with my performance today,” said David.
“You don’t get to experience something like playing in Grand Central Terminal every day and when you train so hard and work all your life, you just want to be in venues like this competing with the best players and enjoying it.
“I’m excited to play Nour here. I’m going to give it my all tomorrow and we’ll see what happens.”
In the Men’s tournament World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy kept his title defence alive by beating younger brother Marwan, World No.6, in straight games to secure his place in the semi-finals where Frenchman Gregory Gaultier awaits after beating Tarek Momen 3-1.
“I think people enjoy watching us but it’s not fun competing against each other and it’s hard for everyone in the family,” said Mohamed.
“But we have to deal with it and I’m very glad to have won today and to be coming back here to compete in another match in this amazing location.
“The crowd here make it very special and they show us some great support so I’m looking forward to the next round.”