2016 has been a phenomenal year on the PSA World Tour.
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As we close towards the midway point of the squash season, it’s a good time to take a look at the first four months of the campaign and evaluate the stand-out performers.
Let’s look at five players who’ve impressed in the opening tournaments.
KARIM ABDEL GAWAD
It’s been a scintillating season to date for Gawad with a world title triumph last month and a number of devastating performances on the PSA World Series.
The 25-year-old Egyptian reached the final in Hong Kong and semi-finals at the US Open, but perhaps his crowning moment came in the Qatar Classic final last month when he beat world No1 Mohamed Elshorbagy in straight sets.
Although he lost in the second round of the Hong Kong Open to Cameron Pilley, the Egyptian stormed back in style to clinch the USA Open title in October.
Defeat in the final at Qatar last month may have shadowed his otherwise positive start, but Elshorbagy is still the biggest star in squash and plays the game at an intensity which is frightening.
The big question pursed on everyone’s lips is whether he can win an elusive PSA World Series title in Dubai or will his dominance finally be curtailed?
The three-time World Open champion is a joy to watch and still moves with the slickness of a gazelle – even at 36.
Matthews led by two games against Elshorbagy in the semi-finals at the Qatar Classic but was beaten in the fifth.
In the US Open final, he also carved out a commanding lead against the Egyptian but was forced to retire in the deciding game due to a hamstring injury.
With plenty of squash left in the elusive Englishman, it’s hard to believe he’ll be closing on 37 when the series rolls into the UAE in May.
It’s been a memorable year so far for Serme as she made history to become the first Frenchwomen to lift the US Open crown in October.
The 27-year-old overcame World No1 Nour El Sherbini in a thrilling final in Philadelphia to seal her ninth career title.
Earlier in the season, Serme was beaten by Nicol David in the quarter-finals at the Hong Kong Open, but still leads the Road to Dubai rankings as a result of her consistent displays.
The 19-year-old proved she can be a major contender in big tournaments as she beat Laura Massaro, Nicol David and Amanda Sobhy en route to capturing a first World Series title in Hong Kong.
In the US Open, she fell at the quarter-final stage to Sobhy but can take pride in the manner she executes her game and never gives up.
An exciting 2017 awaits for the rising star.
World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad’s stunning 2016/17 season continues to go from strength-to-strength after the he put in a superb performance to defeat World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy in the final of the 2016 Qatar Classic held at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex in Doha.
The 25-year-old from Egypt has been the man in form over the past few months and triumphed at the PSA Men’s World Championship just a fortnight ago in Cairo to lift the sport’s biggest prize – beating ElShorbagy in the semi-final, before moving on to overcome Ramy Ashour in the showpiece finale.
ElShorbagy went into the match having won this tournament the last two times it was held in 2013 and 2015, but it was Gawad who played with composure and accuracy to come out on top in tie-breaks in the opening two games to go 2-0 up.
ElShorbagy tried to halt his compatriot’s momentum in the third, but Gawad – playing with the skill and effortless brilliance that has become par for the course from the World No.3 this season – held firm to take it 12-10, 15-13, 11-7 to seal the title.
Gawad’s victory also ensures that he will overtake ElShorbagy at the summit of the 2016/17 PSA Road to Dubai Standings – where only the top eight players will qualify for a place at the season-ending Dubai PSA World Series Finals – after taking the maximum points on offer in Qatar.
“I’m very happy with the way I performed today,” said Gawad.
“For the first time, I was under pressure. When you are a World Champion, people expect you to win and expect that you have a big chance to win. That is a new element I had to integrate into my preparation.
“Being World Champion and Qatar Champion sounds good, really good. I’m living the dream. But next season, I’m aware that I’ll have to make sure I’m very consistent if I want to stay in competition with the top boys.”
ElShorbagy was effusive in his praise of his opponent, saying: “Karim deserves to be the champion, he’s played so well in this first part of the season. It was a great match, and the best player on the day won.
“I need to thank my team for the support they are giving me day in, day out. I couldn’t do it without them.”
Result – Final: 2016 Qatar Classic
 Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt  Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) 3-0: 12-10, 15-13, 11-7 (67m)
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