On 20 January, Karim Abdel Gawad and Camille Serme cemented their positions at the top of the PSA Road to Dubai standings with hard-fought victories at the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions, reports Sam Price
There is no stopping Egypt’s Karim Abdel Gawad right now.
After a stellar 2016 that saw him become world champion for the first time, the coming force of the men’s game picked up the new year where he left off with success in the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions, his second straight PSA World Series title following his Qatar Classic triumph in November.
Having carved out a route to the final that included victories over classy operators Cameron Pilley and James Willstrop, Gawad met last year’s Dubai World Series Finals champion Gregory Gaultier for the showdown in Grand Central Terminal’s jaw-dropping Vanderbilt Hall.
It was Gaultier’s fourth appearance in the New York final and the 34-year-old had shown all his experience and guile to make it there, outlasting defending champion Mohamed El Shorbagy in a bruising 84-minute encounter a day earlier.
Seemingly none the worse for that semi-final battle, the ferocious French competitor known as “The General” had quickly assumed command of the final too, taking the first game. But facing an opponent in the form of his life, Gaultier’s challenge wilted as Gawad delighted the crowd with his full range of strokes to prevail 6-11 11-6 12-10 11-6.
The storyline mirrored the women’s final earlier in the evening, as last year’s Dubai World Series Finals winner Laura Massaro was defeated three games to two by an opponent playing the best squash of her career.
Camille Serme claimed some big-name scalps when winning the previous PSA World Series event in Philadelphia, and was at it again in the Big Apple, taking out Egyptian duo Nour El Sherbini and Nouran Gohar before her come-from-behind victory over Massaro.
Tied with Gohar in the PSA Road to Dubai standings before the tournament, Serme’s first-ever New York title gives her another 100 points and a clear lead as attention now shifts west to the Windy City Open in Chicago, the fourth of five women’s tournaments and the fifth of seven men’s events before the prestigious end-of-season finale at Dubai Opera House.
With a 16-match winning streak under his belt and a similarly clear-cut lead in the PSA Road to Dubai leaderboard, Gawad looking strictly the player to beat in the men’s competition.
“To win three big titles is a great feeling and I have to thank my coaches for the support and hard work that has been put in for the past few years,” said the 25-year-old Egyptian.
“I'm really enjoying my squash at the moment so hopefully I can keep that going in the next tournament.”
Tickets for the 2017 PSA Dubai World Series Finals, on 6-10 June, are now on sale from the Dubai Opera Box Office and www.dubaiopera.com