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Paul Coll (right) after his win over Tarek Momen (left) in December's Channel VAS Championship

Season Review: December

The PSA Dubai World Series Finals last month brought an end to one of the most remarkable and thrilling seasons on the PSA World Tour.

Over the past few weeks we have been looking back at the major moments that lit up the PSA World Tour during 2016/17 and have already looked at the outstanding performers, breakthrough stars, biggest shocks, comebacks, rallies of the season and the players to keep an eye on during the next campaign.

We’re turning back time to last December where the British Grand Prix and the Channel VAS Championship brought the curtain down on 2016

Nick Matthew after his British Grand Prix final win over James Willstrop

England’s three-time World Champion Nick Matthew kept up his superb record at Manchester’s National Squash Centre after the 36-year-old beat arch-rival James Willstrop to lift his third British Grand Prix title.

The veteran 36-year-old was seeking his first title of 2016 after four runner-up finishes throughout the year and he earned his place in the final courtesy of wins over Joel Makin, Max Lee and fellow Englishman Daryl Selby.

Willstrop, meanwhile, had followed up wins over Declan James and Cameron Pilley with a superb comeback from two games down to beat Gregory Gaultier in the last four.

Matthew had beaten Willstrop in the 2012 final during a run that had seen him claim 18 successive wins over his fellow Yorkshireman and the pair had an acrimonious relationship after the fallout from Matthew’s 2009 British Open final victory over the younger Englishman.

Willstrop, however, had returned to full fitness after a hip injury and illness had seen him tumble down the World Rankings and he looked like he was finally ready to end his losing streak against the man from Sheffield.

But, in the scene of Matthew’s third World Championship triumph three years previously, ‘The Wolf’ dominated the clash despite Willstrop threatening a comeback after forcing a tie-break in the second game and he closed out a 3-0 victory to extend his incredible run over his old foe.

The St George’s Hill Lawn Tennis Club in Weybridge staged the Channel VAS Championship in December, where title sponsor Channel VAS donated 100 per cent of all ticket sales to CLIC Sargent, a children’s charity who offer cancer support for young people.

There were shocks right from day one as then-World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy slumped to a surprise defeat against Selby, while rising New Zealand star Paul Coll upset Hong Kong’s Max Lee in five games.

Coll – who began the tournament in the qualification stages – continued to catch the eye in the quarter-finals as he came through a second successive five-game thriller against former World No.4 Miguel Angel Rodriguez to set up a semi-final clash with Daryl Selby.

The other semi-final saw former World No.1 James Willstrop take on Egypt’s Tarek Momen, with the latter prevailing in straight games to seal a place in his biggest ever final.

Coll too was making his maiden appearance in the title decider of a PSA M100 and he put in one of the best performances of his burgeoning career to come out on top against a player who was ranked 22 places above him at the time.

Coll’s triumph saw him jump a colossal 13 places in the PSA Men’s World Rankings to break into the world’s top 20 for the first time in his career, becoming the first male New Zealander since Ross Norman in 1995 to do so.

The 25-year-old from Greymouth would later claim a career-high ranking of World No.12 by the end of the season, a feat that makes him the fourth highest-ranked New Zealander of all time after Norman (No.2), Stuart Davenport (No.3) and Bruce Brownlee (No.6).

Coll was named the PSA Men’s Player of the Month for December, while his partner and fellow professional, Nele Gilis, won the Women’s award after she claimed her biggest ever title at the Open International des Volcans in France.

Full List of Winners
Tournoi Invitation du Club Sportif MAA – Nick Sachvie (CAN)
PSA Valencia – Mazen Gamal (EGY)
Airport Xmas Challenger – Douglas Kempsell (SCO)
Men’s London Open – Charles Sharpes (ENG)
Women’s London Open – Nada Abbas (EGY)
Bitar Cosmetics – Play Squash Women’s Open – Kanzy Emad El Defrawy (EGY)
Wasatch Advisors Salt Lake City Open – Alfredo Avila (MEX)
Old Chang Kee Marigold Singapore Open – Tang Ming Hong (HKG)
AJ Bell British Squash Grand Prix – Nick Matthew (ENG)
ASB Prague Squash Classic – Carlos Cornes Ribadas (ESP)
I.R. Iran Navy Squash Open – Auguste Dussourd (FRA)
Open International des Volcans – Nele Gilis (BEL)
Sutton Coldfield International – Jan van den Herrewegen (BEL)
Life Time Florida Open – Peter Creed (WAL)
LifeStuff Open – Kanzy Emad El Defrawy (EGY)
Channel VAS Championship at St George’s Hill Open – Paul Coll (NZL)
Question Tools Grimsby and Cleethorpes Open – Adam Murrills (ENG)
Khoozestan Squash Association Shahid Daghayeghi Open – Ammar Altamimi (KUW)
Pareti Squash Open – Stephane Galifi (ITA)
IMET Open – Mohammad Alsarraj (JOR)
Men’s Malaysian Squash Tour VII – Iker Pajares Bernabeu (ESP)
Women’s Malaysian Squash Tour VII – Teh Min Jie (MAS)

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