Camille Serme has already doubled her win total at the PSA Dubai World Series Finals as she heads into the final day of group matches in the midst of a flawless run.
The French world No3 made it two wins out of two in Group A of the women’s event after she prevailed in a thriller with World Junior champion Nouran Gohar, 2-1, in the first session of play at Dubai Opera Wednesday.
Both players had claimed wins on day one, with Serme beating England’s Alison Waters and Gohar getting the better of World Championship runner-up Raneem El Welily.
And it was Serme who moved clear at the top of the group, taking the opening game, and having two match balls in the second, before a determined Gohar forced a tie-break and recovered from two further match balls down to take the match into a dramatic third game.
Serme looked to have squandered the chance after Gohar took the opportunity to move three match balls up, but a spirited fightback from the 28-year-old saw her take the fixture to another tie-break, with Serme closing out the game at the sixth attempt.
“I’m very happy, I saw myself winning, then losing, then winning again, so anything could have happened,” said Serme. “I guess we’ll know more about what’s going to happen after the second group match, but it’s already better than last year. Last year I only won one match, so it’s positive and I’m going to give it everything tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, England’s three-time world champion Nick Matthew is unlikely to make it through the group stage of the event for the second year in succession, after the 36-year-old fell to world champion Karim Abdel Gawad Wednesday.
Matthew failed to really get going against an impressive Gawad, who was clinical and accurate throughout the 21-minute contest to earn a chance of qualifying for the knockout semi-finals.
“I’m very pleased to get a 2-0 win today against one of the sport’s legends,” said Gawad.
“Nick is a really tough player to play in a best of three and he is one of the most experienced the players on the Tour.”
Gregory Gaultier’s 27-match winning streak came to an end at the hands of Ali Farag, who only gained a place at the PSA Dubai World Series Finals after Ramy Ashour withdrew last week due to injury.
The 34-year-old from France has been in blistering form this year, winning the last six tournaments, but couldn’t match Farag’s pace in the Dubai opener, going down 11-5 11-7 in 28 minutes.
Speaking after his win, Farag said: “Last time I played Greg I didn’t even get a game off him. I’m really happy with the win. It was very important for me to get that first game under my belt, it took the pressure off.”
Elsewhere, defending champion Laura Massaro got off to a winning start, beating two-time competition winner Nicol David 12-10, 12-10.
Massaro and David have contested one of the sport’s most fascinating rivalries of recent times, with David leading the head-to-head record 22-8.
The 33-year-old from Penang held three game balls in the opener, only to see Massaro fight back to take a one-game lead before winning the second game by the same margin and clinch victory.
“I’m really happy to close it out in the end. You know you’ve got three matches either way and you’ve got to do your best in all of them. If I lost today I would have had a bit of an uphill battle tomorrow and the day after, but a win under my belt doesn’t mean anything at this point unless I can get at least one more win” said Massaro.
Meanwhile, former World No1 Mohamed El Shorbagy edged James Willstrop in straight sets, 11-8, 11-9 in 39 minutes.
El Shorbagy has suffered a disappointing season by his high standards – with the loss of his World No.1 ranking in April bringing a 15-month reign to an end – but he took a step closer to securing a place in the semi-finals with victory over the Englishman.
“I just want to enjoy myself and be happy on court,” said El Shorbagy.
“This season, I haven’t enjoyed it at all, so I’m really happy I did enjoy it today and I want to win. I play to win, I play hard and aggressive in the right manner and I’m really happy to get the win today.
World No.7 Sarah-Jane Perry secured one of the biggest wins of her career after she defeated World Champion Nour El Sherbini 9-11, 11-9, 11-4 to join compatriot Massaro at the summit of Group B.
Tickets for the evening sessions, semi-finals and finals can be purchased at https://dubaiopera.etixdubai.com/shows/show.aspx?sh=PSAUMB
Results – Men’s Group A Day One: 2016/17 PSA Dubai World Series Finals
 Simon Rösner (GER) bt  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) 2-1: 11-9, 8-11, 11-7 (48m)
 Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) bt  Nick Matthew (ENG) 2-1: 11-13, 11-8, 11-7 (49m)
Results – Men’s Group B Day One: 2016/17 PSA Dubai World Series Finals
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt  Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 2-0: 11-5, 11-7 (28m)
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt  James Willstrop (ENG) 2-0: 11-8, 11-9 (39m)
Results – Women’s Group A Day One: 2016/17 PSA Dubai World Series Finals
 Camille Serme (FRA) bt  Alison Waters (ENG) 2-1: 9-11, 11-5, 11-3 (39m)
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt  Raneem El Welily (EGY) 2-1: 13-11, 3-11, 11-3 (35m)
Results – Women’s Group B Day One: 2016/17 PSA Dubai World Series Finals
 Laura Massaro (ENG) bt  Nicol David (MAS) 2-0: 12-10, 12-10 (30m)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt  Nour El Sherbini (EGY) 2-1: 9-11, 11-9, 11-4 (37m)
Nick Matthew was left fuming by “shocking” officiating he claimed was taking squash back 10 years as he lost his opening game of the season-ending PSA Dubai World Tour Finals to Marwan El Shorbagy Tuesday.
The veteran Englishman was furious with perceived blocking tactics by his Egyptian opponent, especially in the deciding third set as the 23-year-old world number seven fought back impressively from going 1-0 down to win 2-1 and claim a maiden triumph over Matthew, 36.
El Shorbagy, whose older brother Mohamed, is also featuring at the tournament, being staged at the stunning Dubai Opera, lost a tight opening game 13-11, before storming back to claim the second 11-8.
In a thrilling match that lasted 49 minutes – the longest of the first day’s afternoon session – the 2012 PSA Young Player of the Year completed a fine comeback by winning the deciding game 11-7, although his opponent, a three-time world champion, was thoroughly unhappy after the contest.
“He’s not clearing the ball the whole match,” said world number four, Matthew.
“It’s an amazing venue, probably up there with the best I’ve ever played in, but the only criticism is the referees have a shocking view. Even if you have 20/20 vision you can’t see from there, it’s impossible.
“It’s supposed to be strokes against for that sort of movement and I’m getting no lets, that’s the difference. Compared to how I felt coming into the event, I was delighted with my form and I felt like it was taken out of my hands there.
“If the ball was in the middle of the court he wouldn’t have had the chance to get in the way, but he was standing in the way the whole match and it’s a stroke against, it’s as simple as that.
“It’s alright bringing the game forward with the 90 second intervals, etc, but that’s something from 10 years ago and it’s shocking.
“Like I said it’s a tough position for the refs and Marwan was a bit more streetwise there, knows what he’s doing, but it’s taking the sport backwards not forwards.”
El Shorbagy claimed victory on his Finals debut and downplayed the war of words with Matthew, claiming he was able to remain calm and focused in order to claim the win.
“It was nothing really. It’s just Nick,” the Alexandria man said of the spat.
“When it gets too tense there can be a bit of trash talk. I didn’t lose my focus and Nick is quite good at that, trying to make his opponent lose his concentration, but I just concentrated on my game, focused on what I did and I don’t think I lost a point after he spoke so it went quite well for me.
“It’s a dream come true to qualify for here so today there was no pressure on me. Just enjoy it and I think I did that. Tomorrow I just need to find the right balance between enjoying it and sticking to my plan, but I played well overall and I enjoyed it.
“Nick made me do a lot of court coverage. It felt like a best of five. I’m happy to get my first win and excited about tomorrow.”
Half of the players featuring in Dubai are Muslim with some choosing to adhere to Ramadan fasting. El Shorbagy isn’t but insists he will catch up on his religious duties.
“It’s unfortunate playing in the afternoon because of course I want to fast, I was hoping I would play in the evening session, but next year hopefully the tournament won’t be during Ramadan,” El Shorbagy told journalists – although he was saddened after his interview when he discovered next year’s tournament will also take place during the holy month.
“This is very important for the Egyptians and Muslim players. I have to deal with it and will probably fast the day after. We need water, food, everything. We need normal preparation.”