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David Palmer (left) v John White (right) in the 2002 PSA Men's World Championship final

The Greatest Comebacks in World Championship History

The PSA World Championships have been home to some of the greatest matches of all time, with the honour of becoming the sport’s World Champion seeing players delve into their mental reserves like no other tournament on the PSA World Tour.

As such, a number of incredible comebacks have rocked the prestigious tournament since its inaugural edition in 1976, with players fighting back from the brink of defeat to claim the sport’s biggest title and a place in history.

Here, we have a look back at some of the greatest final comebacks ever to grace the distinguished tournament.

2006: David Palmer (AUS) bt Gregory Gaultier (FRA) 3-2: 9–11, 9–11, 11–9, 16–14, 11–2

David Palmer

Frenchman Gregory Gaultier’s imperious form during the 2016/17 saw him break records and make history as he became the oldest World No.1 of all time – more than a decade after one of the lowest points of his career.

Gaultier – then just 23 years of age – had upset the seedings to reach his maiden World Championship final and stunned three-time winner and defending champion Amr Shabana in the semi-finals to set up a showdown with Australia’s David Palmer, who was a losing finalist the previous year.

Played in front of the iconic Great Pyramids of Giza in Cairo, Egypt, Gaultier was in majestic form in the early stages of the encounter as he surged into an early lead, producing some dazzling squash to take the opening two games before Palmer fought back in the third to halve the deficit.

Gaultier steadied the ship and looked a certainty to join the pantheon of former World Champions when he found himself 10-6 up with four match balls in hand.

But a combination of inexperience, nerves and excitement caught up with the Frenchman and Palmer capitalised to level the match against all the odds and force a decider.

A fifth-game collapse from Gaultier saw Palmer storm to victory for the loss of just two points to take his second World Championship title, while the defeat would prove to be a damaging one for Gaultier as he went on to lose a further three World Championship finals.

The ‘French General’ finally got the monkey off his back though in the 2015 instalment as he overpowered Egypt’s Omar Mosaad to claim an emotional win in Bellevue, United States – earning his rightful place in the history books.

2014: Nicol David (MAS) bt Raneem El Welily (EGY) 5–11, 11–8, 7–11, 14–12, 11–5

Nicol David

Malaysian superstar Nicol David has more World Championship titles to her name than any other female player – eight to be exact – and the most recent of those victories saw her showcase the mental resilience and nerves of steel that have set her apart as one of the sport’s greatest ever players.

David was up against Egypt’s Raneem El Welily – who would go on to end David’s nine-year reign at World No.1 less than a year later – in the final and, buoyed by partizan home support in Cairo, El Welily looked certain to become the first Egyptian woman to lift the World Championship crown.

David had fallen in the last four of the previous year’s tournament after a shock semi-final defeat to then-18-year-old Nour El Sherbini and the ghost of that loss looked to weigh heavily on the experienced Malaysian, with only a late comeback against Omneya Abdel Kawy seeing her reach the title-decider.

To the uninitiated, it was El Welily who looked like the eight-time World Champion of the two as she played with a swagger and an incredible shot-making ability to nullify David’s retrieval skills and she was rewarded with four match balls to put herself on the cusp of victory.

El Welily wavered though as an unforced tin enabled David to rally and it was the woman from Malaysia who ended up closing out the fourth to set up a deciding fifth game.

With El Welily’s confidence shattered, David eased to victory in the fifth to seal an emotional eighth World Championship crown.


2004: Thierry Lincou (FRA) bt Lee Beachill (ENG) 3-2: 5–11, 11–2, 2–11, 12–10, 11–8

Thierry Lincou

Former World No.1 Thierry Lincou is the second Frenchman on this list but he was on the right side of a comeback after he recovered from match ball down to overcome England’s Lee Beachill in Doha, Qatar.

Lincou had reached the final a year earlier in 2003 but fell to Egypt’s Amr Shabana.

Eager to atone for that defeat, Lincou had reached the 2004 final after saving match ball against Graham Ryding in the semi-finals and he looked down and out again in the title decider after a series of well-structured rallies from then-World No.1 Beachill saw the Englishman go 10-9 up in game four.

But Lincou held his nerve and contained Beachill with an expertly-taken backhand winner to draw level before two further winners from the man from France took the fixture into a fifth game.

At 6-6 in the final game, Beachill began to tire and Lincou pounced, attacking with vigour to become the first Frenchman ever to win the iconic title.

2015: Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt Laura Massaro (ENG) 3-2: 6–11, 4–11, 11–3, 11–5, 11–8

Nour El Sherbini

While El Welily failed in her quest to become Egypt’s first female squash World Champion, the country didn’t have to wait long for a maiden winner as Nour El Sherbini came back with a vengeance against England’s Laura Massaro to take the sport’s biggest prize.

The fixture was a repeat of the 2013 final – where Massaro defeated a teenage El Sherbini – and the result looked to be going in Massaro’s favour once more as she played with pinpoint accuracy and masterful control to go two games ahead.

But El Sherbini finally won the length battle between the two in the third game as the tide began to turn and, with the wisdom of Shabana ringing in her ears after he offered her some wise words at the end of the second, El Sherbini duly levelled to set up a spectacular final game showdown.

The two head-to-head in a climactic end to the encounter, with a monster rally at 8-6 to El Sherbini bringing the crowd to their feet.

And it was El Sherbini who broke forward to take the victory, becoming the youngest ever World Champion of all time, while she also overtook Massaro in the World Rankings to become World No.1 – a position she has held ever since.


2002: David Palmer (AUS) bt John White (SCO) 3-2: 13–15, 12–15, 15–6, 15–14, 15–11

David Palmer

Palmer was also forced to come from behind to collect the first of his two World Championship triumphs after he weathered a storm against Scotland’s John White.

Palmer had beaten White in all three of the pairs previous meetings, however a dominant display from White – in which he inflicted a barrage of drops and drives on his opponent – saw him storm two games ahead.

The momentum of the match flipped in the third game as Palmer took it to gain a foothold in the game but White raised his game to go match ball up at 14-13.

Palmer cut a composed figure though to level and White returned his next serve into the tin to send the match into a decisive fifth where, boosted by his superb comeback, Palmer stayed on top to complete the victory after an epic 102-minute contest.

The 2017 AJ Bell PSA Men's and Women's World Championships will take place at the National Squash Centre, Manchester and Manchester Central between December 9 – 17, 2017.

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