PSA Road to Dubai: Serme and El Shorbagy claim hard-fought titles in Philadelphia

The Delaware Investments US Open came to a close on Saturday, and with vital points on the line on the Road to Dubai, competitors pulled out all the stops, wowing crowds with some spellbinding squash. Daniel Gardré reports

Following the season-opening Hong Kong Open back in August, the 2016/17 PSA World Series is now in full swing after Mohamed ElShorbagy and Camille Serme clinched hard-fought victories in the men’s and women’s singles events at the 2016 Delaware Investments US Open, propelling the pair to the top of the PSA Road to Dubai standings.

El Shorbagy had gained a mere 15 Road to Dubai ranking points prior to his triumph at Drexel University, having crashed out early to hard-hitting Australian Cameron Pilley in Hong Kong.

And his prompt exit was nearly repeated in Philadelphia, where the world no. 1 was forced to save multiple match points against Mexico’s César Salazar in an unconvincing and nervy first-round win.

However, this scare seemed to sharpen the Egyptian’s focus as he proceeded to drop just one game in the subsequent three matchups to reach the final against Nick Matthew.

The Sheffield native, now 36, scrapped his way to the final, deploying a gritty style that has come to be a trademark of his game. The Englishman faced several tough ties, most notably a 77-minute slog against Simon Rösner in the second round and a monstrous hour-and-a-half epic against Egyptian Karim Abdel Gawad in the last four.

In the final, it was Matthew who started the brightest, racing to a 2-0 lead until a hamstring injury suffered in the first game caught up with him. ElShorbagy took full advantage of his opponent’s ailment and conceded only five points in the next two games.

The heretofore scintillating match was brought to an anticlimactic end early in the fifth when Matthew was forced to yield to his injury and to his rival, who added a second U.S. Open win to his 2014 triumph.

In the women’s draw, France’s Camille Serme faced an intimidating route to glory, having to overcome world no. 2 Laura Massaro in the quarter-finals and Amanda Sobhy of the USA in the semi-finals on her way to the decider against world no. 1 and top seed Nour El Sherbini.

The Egyptian progressed to the championship game on top form, dropping only two games in four matches while never playing for over 40 minutes. While her toughest contest on paper en route to the final was a last four tie against Raneem El Welily, the world no. 5 was nevertheless dispatched in a routine 3-1 victory lasting 37 minutes.

It was Serme, though, who had played the best and most attractive squash throughout the tournament, and so it proved when the players met in the final. After sharing the opening two games, Serme came through in the crucial third, recovering from a 4-0 deficit to win the game through a flurry of dazzling drop shots.

She would take the deciding fourth game 11-9, storming to the top of the women’s Road to Dubai rankings and becoming the first Frenchwoman in history to win the US Open in the process.