PART 1. August 2022 – Christmas 2022.
The 2022/23 World Tour season kicked off in Cairo at the end of August. The CIB Zed Open Bronze event was deemed too small for most of the ‘big guns’, opting to begin their season a few weeks later in Qatar. The was the first of several major Egyptian tournaments this season. In the finals we saw Youssef Soliman beat Victor Crouin for the biggest title win of his career to date (and all without dropping a game), and also Nour El Tayeb defeat Salma Hany to momentously claim her first title since becoming a mother in July 2021.
All of the best male players in the World entered the famous Qatar Classic Platinum event at the start of September. Mohamed ElShorbagy (now representing England) won the event, starting what would become a pretty decent season for the living legend. He beat the confident Soliman, The Colombian Cannonball Miguel Rodriguez (after he’d ousted Ali Farag), Mostafa Asal before dominating Victor Crouin in the final, the Frenchman’s second final in as many events. Victor had a great win in the semi-final against ex-World Champ, Tarek Momen. In contrast to Victor’s relatively new exposure to the main World stage, this was Mo’s 45th PSA title and his first platinum triumph for 15 months.
The first event for the ladies took place at the same time in Houston, The South Western Gold tournament. Nour El Tayeb reached her second final in a row before losing out to The Terminator, Nouran Gohar. Nour El Sherbini and Hania El Hammamy opted not to enter.
A day after these events finished the Open De France Bronze began in Nantes, where the men and women could join up for the first time this season. Again, as it was only a bronze event, this event was not for everyone, however the wonderful setting will always make it an attractive prospect. A sister showdown was particularly newsworthy as Nele Gilis beat Tinne to claim the title, in what will turn out to be a career best season for the elder Belgian sister. Victor Crouin won the men’s event on home soil as he held his nerve to beat Marwan ElShorbagy 12-10 in the fifth. These were the biggest career titles so far for both our champions.
The last week in September we were back in Cairo for the mammoth CIB Egyptian Open Platinum event. Ali Farag defeated Paul Coll to claim his first title of what we will be a phenomenal, in the face of adversity, season for him. In this event we also started to see the return to form of Fares Dessouky after he beat Mohamed ElShorbagy and narrowly lost 3-2 to Paul Coll. Nour El Sherbini began her new season this week but lost out to Hania in the semi-final. Hania then beat Gohar to claim another massive title, continuing the uber-competitive rivalry between the three top-ranked Egyptians that I’m sure we will see for many more years.
September ended with Gohar at World No.1 and Hania leapfrogging Sherbini to take the second place. The men’s top five were Farag, Coll, Asal, Elias and ElShorbagy.
We had the San Francisco Netsuite Silver in first week of October. Many players chose not the play the best-of-three competition. Another sibling final had Mohamed beating younger brother Marwan to win his second title in a month, while Farida Mohamed reached her first major final, losing out to Amanda Sobhy 3-1.
The week after Ali Farag had to withdraw from the final of the US Open Platinum in Philadelphia, handing the title to Diego Elias, who had impressively beaten Mo ElShorbagy in the semi-final. This is the tournament in which Asal hit Lucas Serme in the ear with the ball, and was forced to concede the match for dangerous play – remember? Nouran Gohar beat Nour ElSherbini to claim her second title of the 22/23 season. Sabrina Sobhy caused the biggest upset in Philly when she beat Hania El Hammamy to delight the US crowd.
There was one more World Tour stop in October, this was in Zurich for the Grassshopper Gold. Gohar opted out of this one and Nour ElSherbini beat Hania in the final to clock up her first title of the season. Farag, struggling with injury, lost to the Swiss Rocket Nikki Mueller. We won’t see Farag now for a few months as he tries to recover from a serious injury. Asal went on to lift the trophy as he beat Marwan in the final after Marwan had again impressively beaten Diego the round before to reach his third final of the season.
The October ranking ended with Ali Farag still at number 1, but surely not for long given his injury? El Sherbini jumped above Hania once again but with Gohar still standing on top.
In November Tauranga hosted the New Zealand Open Bronze event. Home hero Joelle King claimed the ladies trophy, but Mohamed ElShorbagy crushed the local hearts by defeating Paul Coll in the final.
Completing an awesome two weeks for the pair, ElShorbagy and Joelle again reigned victorious in the new Singapore Open Gold. Mo defeating Diego Elias convincingly in the final and Joelle stopped El Tayeb from winning her second title since motherhood. Asal retired injured in the semi-final, after he’d thrashed Victor Crouin the round before, starting a mini social media feud between the two!
The have seen the rise of Mazen Hesham this season, becoming a permanent fixture in the World’s top 10, and he won the Malaysian Open Bronze in Kuala Lumpur, getting the better of Joel Makin and then Tarek Momen after being 2-0 down. Nele Gilis had a fine win against Olivia Fiechter in the ladies final.
We finished 2022 in Hong Kong with two events. First up was the ever-massive Hong Kong Platinum. Surprisingly (even though she’s only 22!) Hania El Hammamy had never gone past the quarters in Hong Kong, but she corrected that emphatically by winning the whole event, beating Gohar in the semi and El Sherbini in the final, winning both matches 3-2. Epic! Mostafa Asal recovered from his Singapore ailments to beat Diego in the final after going 2-0 down, after also beating Paul Coll 3-2 the round before. Mohamed ElShorbagy and Diego also had a particularly brutal 3-2 encounter in the other semi-final.
The year was over for most, but some stayed on to play in the 13th World Tour Event of the 22/23 season so far, the Hong Kong Football Club Bronze. Marwan ended a good 2022 for him by beating Soliman in the semi and then Mazen in the final, in two testy affairs.
The year end men’s rankings were as follows: 1. Farag, 2. Asal, 3. Coll, 4. ElShorbagy, 5. Elias, 6. Marwan, 7. Tarek, 8. Hesham, 9. Dessouky, 10. Crouin.
In the women’s, the year ended with: 1. Gohar, 2. El Sherbini, 3. Hammamy, 4. King, 5. Sobhy, 6. El Tayeb, 7. Elaraby, 8. SJ Perry, 9. Nele Gilis, 10. Fiechter.
Both ElShorbagy brothers had a good 3 months. Mohamed winning his 45th 46th 47th and 48th career PSA titles. Diego and Coll were always consistent. Dessouky and Gawad appearing again after lengthy absences, and Mazen Hesham troubling the top guys more and more. Nele Gilis rose inside the top 10 for the first time, where it seems she will be likely to stay. El Tayeb very much back on top form, but can’t quite get inside the top 4 again, and the name Satomi Watanabe starting to crop up in major events.