Laura Massaro avenged defeat to Nour El Sherbini in the group stages by retaining her PSA Dubai World Series Finals title Saturday night with a comprehensive 3-0 victory against the world number one.
England’s Massaro, 33, had contemplated retirement in 2015 and took an extended break from the game citing a punishing schedule and loss of form. But she returned and hasn’t looked back as the titles have flowed, including this year’s British Open and last year’s World Series Final triumph.
When these two opponents faced each other a year ago, Massaro lost a five-set thriller 3-2 to the young Egyptian, with the win seeing the 21-year-old replace the veteran as the world number one.
But having fought the urge to retire in recent years, Massaro revealed she will be sticking around as long as she’s winning titles.
“I feel as long as I’m in contention to win titles then I’m happy,” said the Great Yarmouth-born world number four.
“I keep saying every World Series event we play, I’m one of the older ones now. To be able to win the odd one and get to finals makes me feel I’m still in contention and win titles.
“If that’s still happening I’ll carry on playing. I’m not going to be around long if I’m not winning. I’m proud of my efforts, the training I’m putting in and getting back to back titles.”
Dubai is a special place for Massaro for a few reasons. Apart from winning two end-of-season titles, it’s also where she came to find solace when she was contemplating calling it a day.
“I came to Dubai when I felt I’d almost had enough,” she added.
“And it put everything in perspective and I realised I still had more to achieve. Luckily in the last two years I have achieved a decent amount and I’m enjoying my squash. As long as that’s the case that’s the main thing.”
Massaro is the first woman to reach two World Series Finals showpieces and her 11-8, 12-10, 11-5 win last night puts her level with Malaysia’s Nicol David with two wins – she lost the 2012/13 final to David.
The first two sets were close last night, with Massaro getting the edge in both, keeping calm and digging in when required, while El Sherbini seemed audibly frustrated with herself.
After going down 2-0 she knew she would have to win three sets on the bounce to stand any chance, but Massaro opened up a massive 8-3 lead, and El Sherbini had no riposte.
“I’m really happy with my performance overall. To get off in three is unbelievable,” added Massaro.
“To get back to back titles is unbelievable. I was thinking if I could get out of the group it would be really good.
“The match I was most nervous for was the first as you never know how you’re feeling. It’s been a long break since the last tournament and I was off colour a bit so that added to the nerves. I had a dream start with a 2-0 win against Nicol and I’ve just got better and better.
Massaro had complained of a cold after her semi-final triumph against Nouran Gohar on Friday, but said a good night’s sleep and some hotel room service had perked her up.
“I got to bed at 04:00 and I’ve been trying to get up to make breakfast at 10:00. Last night I just said I’d sleep until I wake up.
“I got up about 11.45 and ordered room service and felt so much better all day. I think I’ve been missing that extra hour or two so today I felt completely different.”
As for world number one El Sherbini, she had no complaints the better player one, while she also played down suggestions a wrist injury she suffered in her semi-final defeat of Camille Serme had any part to play in her defeat.
“No it was fine, I didn’t have any problem,” she said of the injury to her right wrist, which was again strapped up.
“Laura played amazing and was consistent the whole match. She was the better player today and deserved to win. It was a bad day. I played her two days ago and you need to change your plan so she won’t know the same things you do, that’s the challenging thing.”
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)