Aussie Pilley the star as champions fall at PSA World Series finals

Aussie Pilley the star as champions fall at PSA World Series finals

DUBAI – Australian Cameron Pilley led a series of shocks at the season-ending PSA World Series finals on Friday as world number one Mohamed Elshorbagy ended his tremendous season with a defeat.

Cameron Pilley of Australia (R) plays a forehand to Mohamed El Shorbagy of Egypt during their semi-final match of the Dubai PSA World Series Finals squash tournament in Dubai on May 27, 2016

World champion Nour El Sherbini lost to Laura Massaro and Nicol David lost her grip on a trophy she has held for four years as Raneem El Welily, who lost her world number one ranking not long ago, sealed the chance to claim the biggest title of her career.

But Pilley was the big story as he became the most surprising finalist for many years.

The 33-year-old Australian has never yet made the world’s top ten, let alone qualified for the eight-man World Series finals before, but after upsetting all odds with an 11-9, 11-5 win over Elshorbagy he has become the first Aussie to reach the final of the tour’s flagship event for a decade.

Elshorbagy was devastated after his totally unexpected defeat. Pilley kept the ball magnetically tight along the backhand wall and continually frustrated Elshorbagy’s attacking ambitions.

In the second game Elshorbagy looked jaded and seemed to feel the pressure, increasingly arguing against refereeing decisions. Once he was ordered to get on with the match but afterwards he was generous with his praise.

“Cameron barely got into these World Series finals but he didn’t come to make up the numbers,” Elshorbagy said. “He beat seeds, he deserved to win, and now he has a chance to win the title.”

On Saturday. Pilley will attempt to emulate the achievement of his compatriot, Anthony Ricketts, who won this title a decade ago.

But against Gregory Gaultier, the world champion from France, who looks completely revived after a lengthy ankle injury and who despatched the game’s fastest mover, Miguel Angel Rodriguez 11-7, 11-7, that will be very difficult.

The most emotional of all the winners and losers came from the semi-final in which David played her way intelligently to a 5-2 lead in the final game but still found a tiring Welily skilful enough to push through to an 11-5, 8-11, 11-8 victory — a reversal of a world final result.

The match points which David saved in the 2014 final in Welily’s home city of Cairo will live long in the memory, but now hers was the agonising defeat as a title she has held for four years slipped away.

– Positive effort –

It was nevertheless a positive effort by one of the sport’s legends, who adapted well enough to the combination of the lower tin and the shorter format here to come near to beating one of the tour’s most talented stroke makers.

“I can feel her (David’s) game has changed,” Welily acknowledged. “She was also definitely very keen to win today –- she was giving out the vibes, but I wanted to win too and I am glad they didn’t intimidate me.”

The Egyptian was importantly helped by a lucky back wall nick at 9-8, which made the ball roll dead. She had made her luck though by responding boldly to the momentum which David generated, and she had also eked out her energy well.

“I just needed to lengthen the rallies a bit more,” said David, who bravely claimed to have been pleased with her performance whilst looking devastated by the result.

Despite being world champion, Sherbini had always looked vulnerable.

“I know what it is like to win the world title, and how hard it is to keep the training going, so I am sure that Nour hasn’t been hitting the ball much,” said Massaro after beating the 20-year-old Egyptian 12-10, 11-6.

“I’m pleased that I kept my intensity high, and I also reminded myself to make a push to finish it off. I shall try to do the same tomorrow.”

The last time the Englishwoman played against Welily she won, and this time the Egyptian will be the one seeking revenge. The vibes will be different.


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