Another thrilling season on the PSA World Tour drew to a close earlier this month as Egyptian World No.1s Mohamed ElShorbagy and Nour El Sherbini claimed the season-ending ATCO PSA Dubai World Series Finals titles.
We’ll be reviewing the major talking points from the past 10 months of world class squash action over the next few weeks, starting with some of the season’s most outstanding performers.
This part of our season review sees us look at the players who showcased their exceptional ability over the last 10 months. You can read part one here.
World Ranking: #2
Win Percentage: 79.6%
Ali Farag continued to make progress on the PSA World Tour and became a consistent fixture in the latter stages of the major tournaments during the 2017/18 season as he claimed his first ever World Series title and climbed up the World Rankings to a career-high of World No.2.
Cairo-born Farag began the season with a runner-up finish to compatriot Ramy Ashour at the China Squash Open before going onto conquer fellow Egyptian Mohamed ElShorbagy in the final of the U.S. Open, where he lifted his first World Series title alongside his wife Nour El Tayeb, who also claimed the women’s title on the same day, to make sporting history as the first married couple to win the same major title on the same day.
From then on, Farag continued to impress on the Tour, claiming runner-up finishes at both the Channel VAS Championships at St George’s Hill and Hong Kong Open – missing out each time to World No.1 ElShorbagy.
Farag did however add the Swedish Open title to his collection after he beat Germany’s Simon Rösner in the final. The Egyptian saw off his German competition by an 11-7, 6-11, 11-3, 11-5 scoreline to seal the PSA M70 title.
His impressive run of form also saw him move up the rankings to achieve a career high of World No.2 in the April World Rankings.
Farag ended the season with runner-up finishes at both the El Gouna International and World Series Finals – which he lost to the ElShorbagy brothers, Marwan and Mohamed, respectively. The World No.2 lost out at the quarter-final stage at the British Open in Hull – losing out to eventual winner Colombia’s Miguel Angel Rodriguez.
Nour El Tayeb
World Ranking: #3
Windy City Open
Win Percentage: 79.5%
The 2017/18 season proved to be a standout one for Nour El Tayeb as she began the season at World No.14 to move up the rankings to World No.3 and become one of the top performers during the 2017/18 season.
El Tayeb began the season by winning the HKFC International, defeating India’s Joshna Chinappa in straight-games in the final. The 25-year-old then secured the biggest title of her career as she powered to the U.S. Open title – her maiden World Series title.
The Egyptian put together a complete performance throughout as she lit up the tournament. El Tayeb knocked out compatriot and World No.1 Nour El Sherbini in the quarter-finals before putting in a memorable performance in the semi-finals against England’s Laura Massaro as she played with flair and precision to take out the England No.1.
She then came up against compatriot Raneem El Welily in the final, coming from 2-1 down to seal her first World Series title by a 8-11, 11-4, 5-11, 11-7, 11-5 margin in 52 minutes. The win in Philadelphia proved more iconic moments after her win as husband, Ali Farag, took the men’s title to become the first married couple to win the same title on the same day in sporting history.
El Tayeb then continued to put in strong performances at all of the big events, becoming a consistent semi-finalist before she finished runner-up to compatriot El Sherbini at the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions.
The Egyptian then claimed her second World Series title at the Windy City Open in Chicago as she saved game ball and two Championship balls to beat Joelle King in an epic 3-2 final to claim her second World Series crown.
These wins all culminated in El Tayeb reaching a career high World Ranking of World No.3 and cementing her place among the elite of the Women’s Tour.
World Ranking: #5
Tournament of Champions
Win Percentage: 68.3%
After starting the season outside the top ten, things soon began to get brighter for German No.1 Simon Rösner during his history making 2017/18 campaign.
Rösner began the season with semi-final finishes at the Macau Open and Qatar Classic which saw him break back into the top ten on the Men’s Tour in the December rankings. However, it was 2018 when the German truly announced himself as a big contender on the PSA World Tour to break up the Egyptian dominance.
In New York’s Grand Central Terminal, Rösner wrote his name into the squash history books as he became the first German World Series winner after claiming the iconic Tournament of Champions title.
After early round wins over England’s Daryl Selby, Egypt’s Marwan ElShorbagy and good friend Switzerland’s Nicolas Mueller, it was the German’s semi-final victory over former World No.1 Gregory Gaultier that marked him out as a true contender for the victory under the chandeliers of Grand Central’s Vanderbilt Hall.
The German came from 1-0 down with a display of the highest magnitude to take the next three games without reply, claiming a 9-11, 12-10, 11-8, 11-1 victory to cause one of the biggest shocks in Tournament of Champions history.
Rösner then showed he had more in the tank as he played with precision in the final against Egypt’s Tarek Momen to go two games up and then recovered from dropping the third to become the first non-Egyptian male to win the tournament since England’s Nick Matthew in 2012.
He then backed this up with a runner-up finish at the Swedish Open at his next event and remained consistent to reach the latter stages of tournaments for the majority of the season.
His impressive season saw him rise to a career-high World Ranking of World No.5 – the only non-Egyptian player to appear in the men’s top five.
World Ranking: #4
Win Percentage: 73.3%
New Zealand’s Joelle King started the 2017/18 season strongly as she proved that she was back to her best following her return from an Achilles injury – which she suffered in 2014 – as she battled amongst the best at all of the major tournaments throughout the season.
The Kiwi was a consistent figure in the latter stages of tournaments throughout the year – finishing runner-up at the Macau Open, Carol Weymuller Open and winning the Cleveland Classic when she beat Egyptian World No.2 Raneem El Welily to claim her first title since the 2016 Macau Open.
She then put together a brilliant run at the 2018 Windy City Open, where she defeated England’s No.1 Massaro, America’s former World No.6 Amanda Sobhy and three-time Windy City Open champion Raneem El Welily all en route to reaching her first ever World Series final where she was narrowly defeated by Egypt’s Nour El Tayeb 3-2.
The Kiwi held two Championship balls before going down to El Tayeb in the final in Chicago to narrowly miss out on her maiden World Series crown.
Her successful season culminated in King regaining her place amongst the world’s top four in the April 2018 World Rankings – a position which she hadn’t held since October 2014 before her career-threatening injury.
Her successful run at tournaments also led to her qualifying for the PSA Dubai World Series Finals for the first time in her career, which she finished third in the group stages in June.
More success was to come for King as she took to the Gold Coast, Australia for the 2018 Commonwealth Games where she won a gold medal in the women’s singles event, beating England’s Sarah-Jane Perry in a thrilling 3-2 final in Australia.
Miguel Angel Rodriguez
World Ranking: #6
Sporta Guatemala XI Torneo Internacional PSA
Win Percentage: 67.6%
Colombia’s Miguel Angel Rodriguez was the surprise package of the 2017/18 season.
Rodriguez began the season at World No.24 as he secured quarter-final finishes at the Channel VAS Championships at St George’s Hill, the PSA World Championships and the Windy City Open, along with a semi-final finish at the Motor City Open.
However, the Colombian’s biggest moment of his career was to come in Hull at the sport’s oldest and most prestigious tournament – the British Open.
No-one predicted that unseeded Rodriguez would be the one to watch in the tournament as he began his journey on the side courts at the University of Hull when he defeated three-time World Champion Ramy Ashour in the first round.
Rodriguez then continued to face Egypt’s top players. He successfully manoeuvred past former World No.3 Omar Mosaad, before putting World No.2 Farag to the sword in the quarter-finals.
The Colombian faced his only non-Egyptian opponent at the tournament in the semi-finals when he came up against German qualifier Raphael Kandra – who was also enjoying the best tournament of his career – who he defeated 3-1 to set up a giant final clash against World No.1 and reigning World Champion Mohamed ElShorbagy.
The odds were stacked against the Colombian cannonball, but he defied the odds in an epic 102-minute battle to send shockwaves and be crowned the winner of the British Open as he came from 2-1 down to win by a 11-7, 6-11, 8-11, 11-2, 11-9 scoreline.
The win meant that Rodriguez became the first South American winner of a World Series title and wrote his name into the history books and became an instant star back in his home country.
Rodriguez then went onto the Sporta Guatemala XI Torneo Internacional PSA in which he stormed through the field to defeat Peru’s Diego Elias – in the first South American final in the history of the tournament.
His phenomenal end to the season saw him regain his place in the top ten of the Men’s Tour – a position he hasn’t held since November 2016 – when he rose to World No.6 in June’s World Rankings.