Road to Dubai: stars poised to battle in the Big Apple

The PSA World Series resumes in New York this week, and both the men and women will be looking to accumulate valuable points on the Road to Dubai. Will Jones picks the favourites

Few sporting competitions enjoy a setting as dramatic as the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions. A breathtaking space housed in New York’s world-famous Grand Central Terminal, Vanderbilt Hall is a fitting stage for 64 of the world’s best squash players, who’ll be pulling into the station this week in search of points to help them on the Road to Dubai.

The Tournament of Champions is the fourth of seven men’s tournaments, and the third of five women’s events, that count towards the 2016-17 PSA World Series standings. In June, the top eight men’s and women’s players in the standings will travel to Dubai for the prestigious, season-ending PSA World Series Finals – and the line-up is already starting to take shape.

The men’s standings are headed by world No. 2 Karim Abdel Gawad, who’s currently in the form of his life. After winning the world title on home turf in October, the 25-year-old Egyptian edged out world No. 1 Mohamed El Shorbagy to take the Qatar Classic in November. El Shorbagy and England’s Nick Matthew, respectively the winner and runner-up at October’s Delaware Investments US Open, follow Gawad in the rankings.

Gawad is seeded to face Ramy Ashour in the quarter-finals, a mouth-watering prospect if Ashour can stay fit. The mercurial Egyptian suffered the latest setback in an injury-plagued career when he had to withdraw midway through the World Championship final against Gawad with hamstring problems. But if he’s back to full fitness, he is a match for anyone.

The women’s Road to Dubai standings are topped by the winners of the two World Series tournaments to have taken place this season: Egyptian Nourain Gohar, who took the Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Open in August, and Frenchwoman Camille Serme, winner of the Delaware Investments US Open title in Philadelphia. The two women they beat in the finals, American Amanda Sobhy and world No. 1 Nour El Sherbini from Egypt, sit joint third.

Gohar, Serme, Sobhy and El Sherbini, who won the Tournament of Champions last year, will face stiff opposition from a field every bit as strong as the men’s competition. In particular, look out for England’s Laura Massaro and Egypt’s Raneem El Welily, both drawn against qualifiers in the first round, and Malay legend Nicol David, who enjoyed an unbroken nine-year run as world No. 1 from 2006 to 2015.

The JP Morgan Tournament of Champions takes place from 12-19 January at Vanderbilt Hall in Grand Central Terminal, New York

Tickets for the 2017 PSA Dubai World Series Finals go on sale today. Visit www.dubaiopera.com or the Dubai Opera Box Office from 11 January