An emotional Mohamed El Shorbagy saved his best for last as he won his first event of 2017 and his maiden PSA World Series Final with a fine 3-0 whitewash of England’s James Willstrop.
The 26-year-old Egyptian has endured a mixed year in 2017 during which he suffered a drastic slump in form – including defeats in the British Open final to Nick Matthew in March as well as exiting the Tournament of Champions to Gregory Gaultier in January at the semi-final stage.
That poor form had left him lacking the desire to compete, but he revealed he rediscovered his motivation just a few weeks ago, and he has since returned to something approaching his best form.
“To win this tournament is a dream. The way I was playing, I didn’t expect to play the whole way,” said El Shorbagy, who overcame 33-year-old Willstrop 12-10, 11-9, 11-8.
“It’s been quite an interesting season for me. I felt at one stage like I wanted to quit but then a few weeks ago I got my motivation back.
“Something clicked, I wanted to play. I felt like I wanted to win and be who I was again.
“I have let a lot of people down this season, my team, my mother, and this win is for her. We’ve been through a lot and she means a lot to me. This is the title that means the most to me in my career.”
There was a lot of support for the Alexandria native throughout the week at Dubai Opera, and there was plenty of noise and a few Egyptian flags flying in the audience as El Shorbagy lifted his trophy.
“I want to thank everyone who’s supported me here throughout the whole tournament, I’ve had some great support,” said the world number three, who also heaped praise on his opponent, who he said had inspired him since childhood.
“James, the way he came back from his injury, back into the top 10, and the final of this tournament. He’s been an inspiration for me from when I was growing up.
“And now, my first World Series Finals win is against him, and it’s such an honour. He’s one of the greats of the sport.”
Runner-up Willstrop, who felt he was returning to top form having beaten Karim Gawad in Friday’s semi-final, said: “To be in the final in this company is a great pleasure. I thought I could win and I gave it everything I could. If you’d have said I’d be in a final a week ago, I’d have been very happy with that. I loved every minute, apart from losing.”
World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad moved past compatriot Marwan El Shorbagy to earn his place in the semi-finals of the PSA Dubai World Series Finals.
The 25-year-old was in stunning form throughout the contest, and despite being three game balls down in the second, El Shorbagy looked to be suffering with illness as Gawad fought back to claim the win.
“I didn’t have the best start to the tournament,” said Gawad. “I just wanted to be on court as much as I could. I didn’t expect to get to the semi-finals, especially at the top of the group.”
Elsewhere, France’s Camille Serme survived a tense winner-takes-all encounter with last year’s runner-up Raneem El Welily to top Group A.
Despite taking two wins from her first two matches, Serme had to beat El Welily to progress to the semi-finals, with the Egyptian now out of the event.
“I can barely realise that I’ve made it,” said a delighted Serme, who had only won two of her previous 12 matches with El Welily.
“You can count on one hand the times I’ve beaten her, so I’ll take this one. It could have gone either way, it was so close and I had a different tactical plan from yesterday. I’m very excited for the semi-finals and will have a look at the other matches tonight to know who I will be playing.”
Meanwhile, Nouran Gohar took the other qualifying place from Group A with victory over England’s Alison Waters.
The Englishwoman did push through the gears in the second game to hold three game balls, but Gohar recovered to force a tie-break and take the game 14-12 to seal her place in the semi-finals for the first time.
“I’m really happy to have made it to the semis, it’s a dream to make it to the semis in Dubai,” said Gohar.
“I’m really happy that I get to play one more match on this beautiful court. It was mentally so tough to adapt and it was a crucial match today. To keep calm and relaxed was really important for this match.”
World No11 Simon Rösner became the first German ever to qualify for the last four after beating England’s Nick Matthew to qualify from Group A.
The 29-year-old claimed a first ever win against Matthew at the 12th time of asking, in a thrilling 39-minute battle by a 13-11, 11-8 scoreline.
“It’s huge, just qualifying for this tournament was a huge success for me,” said Rösner. “I tried to play fast today with a high accuracy level. He’s able to come back at any time, so I just tried to focus and concentrate on each point. I’m just glad I made it.”
Tickets to 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 Three: 2016/17 PSA Dubai World Series Finals
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt  Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) 2-0: 11-7, 12-10 (33m)
 Simon Rösner (GER) bt  Nick Matthew (ENG) 2-0: 13-11, 11-8 (39m)
Results – Men’s Group B Day Three: 2016/17 PSA Dubai World Series Finals
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt  Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 2-0: 12-10, 11-7 (17m)
 James Willstrop (ENG) bt  Ali Farag (EGY) 2-1: 4-11, 11-9, 11-6 (40m)
Draw – Semi-Finals
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) v  James Willstrop (ENG)
 Simon Rösner (GER) v  Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY)
Results – Women’s Group A Day Three: 2016/17 PSA Dubai World Series Finals
 Camille Serme (FRA) bt  Raneem El Welily (EGY) 2-0: 11-7, 7-11, 12-10 (40m)
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) bt  Alison Waters (ENG) 2-0: 11-7, 14-12 (35m)
Results – Women’s Group B Day Three: 2016/17 PSA Dubai World Series Finals
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt  Laura Massaro (ENG) 2-1: 6-11, 12-10, 11-2 (35m)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt  Nicol David (MAS) 2-1: 6-11, 11-4, 11-8 (41m)
Draw – Semi-Finals
 Camille Serme (FRA) v  Nour El Sherbini (EGY)
 Nouran Gohar (EGY) v  Laura Massaro (ENG)