With the women’s line-up now confirmed for the PSA World Series Finals in Dubai following the climax of the Allam British Open, Gruffudd Owen profiles the eight contenders who will battle it out for the crown in June
Camille Serme, France (lost 6-11, 6-11, 8-11 to Nicol David in the quarter-finals of the Allam British Open)
While a quarter-final defeat in Hull will have disappointed Serme, the Frenchwoman will nevertheless be hugely encouraged by her other performances this season.
Back-to-back titles stateside at the US Open and the Tournament of Champions went a long way to cementing her position at the top of the PSA Road to Dubai rankings, as the 27-year-old chases a first World Series Finals crown.
Nour El Sherbini, Egypt (lost 11-5, 11-7, 5-11, 3-11, 6-11 to Laura Massaro in the semi-finals of the Allam British Open)
So talented is the 21-year-old world No. 1 that she has comfortably qualified for Dubai without winning a PSA World Series event this season.
El Sherbini can be counted upon to reach the latter stages of most major squash tournaments, although she will want to improve on last year’s World Series Finals performance where she made it to the last four.
And despite the lack of silverware in the regular World Series season, the Egyptian is satisfied with the way she has been playing, feeling no pressure to deliver.
“I've done better than I thought. For me, it doesn't matter if I win a tournament or not.
“Of course everyone wants to win, and wants to win every tournament, but I just want to play well, and that's what I'm doing right now.”
Laura Massaro, England (beat Sarah-Jane Perry 11-8, 11-8, 6-11, 11-6 in the final of the Allam British Open)
The defending World Series Finals champion and winner of the British Open in Hull last week, 33-year-old Laura Massaro has certainly proved that she can hold her own against the younger players on the circuit.
A highly driven individual, Massaro seems to be hitting form at an ideal time with the 2017 World Series Finals just around the corner.
“I think the World Series events have shown that whoever plays well during the week is the one who is going to come away with the trophy.
“I don't see why Dubai will be any different.”
Raneem El Welily, Egypt (lost 3-11, 15-13, 6-11, 6-11 to Laura Massaro in the quarter-finals of the Allam British Open)
A beaten finalist in last year’s Finals, El Welily clinched her first World Series title of the season at the Windy City Open last month.
The current world No. 3 has acknowledged that her performances have been erratic at times, although she feels she is prepared for another shot at Finals glory come June.
“My season has been absolutely up and down! I've had really bad results and I've had really good results. But I'm still happy with where I am at the moment.”
Nouran Gohar, Egypt (lost 10-12, 12-14, 11-5, 8-11 to Nada Abbas in the first round of the Allam British Open)
Gohar’s shock first-round exit at the British Open did not put her participation in Dubai at risk, largely thanks to her triumph at the Hong Kong Open back in August.
The Egyptian’s performances have tailed off slightly since that impressive early victory, although one cannot expect too much of a 19-year-old who is only just starting out in her professional squash career.
Playing in Dubai should represent an opportunity to learn and gain valuable top-level experience more than anything.
Nicol David, Malaysia (lost 8-11, 11-7, 11-13, 7-11 to Sarah-Jane Perry in the semi-finals of the Allam British Open)
That the Malaysian squash legend has once again qualified for the World Series Finals in the face of increasingly tough competition from the younger generation is testament to her remarkable physical, technical and mental ability.
Thousands of squash fans across the world would no doubt like nothing more than to see the 33-year-old clinch the Finals title she last won in 2013, although David is under no illusions that such an achievement will be an almighty challenge given the strength of the women’s game today.
“There is real strength in depth in the top 10. The younger ones are really pushing through that barrier as well.
“You never know when you come into tournaments now; no-one is really sure who is going to be the winner because it’s all so close.”
Sarah-Jane Perry, England (lost 8-11, 8-11, 11-6, 6-11 to Laura Massaro in the final of the Allam British Open)
Perry’s commendable run to the final of the British Open earned the 26-year-old a significant boost in Road to Dubai ranking points, meaning she will be heading to the World Series Finals in the emirate this summer for the first time in her career.
Alison Waters, England (lost 4-11, 7-11, 9-11 to Emily Whitlock in the second round of the Allam British Open)
With the world No. 6 Amanda Sobhy almost certain to miss out on competing in Dubai due to a torn Achilles tendon, her spot at the Finals is likely to go to Alison Waters of England, currently ranked ninth in the Road to Dubai standings.
The veteran right-hander has gone no further than the quarter-finals in any of the five World Series events this season. She will need to up her game considerably if she is to make an impact at the Dubai Opera in June.