AJ Bell PSA World Championships – Manchester 2017

The biggest event on the international squash calendar, the 2017 AJ Bell PSA World Championships will light up Manchester from the 8th to the 17th December when the greatest players in the world descend on the UK’s leading sporting city to battle it out for the right to be crowned World Champion.

Qualification and early rounds of the prestigious event will be held at the renowned National Squash Centre, while the quarter-final stage onwards will see the championships move to Manchester Central in the heart of the city.

Of the 150+ players competing, only two will taste the ultimate glory and International Squash Magazine look forward to the main contenders.

Women’s Favourites:
Laura Massaro (ENG)
One of England’s greatest ever squash players, Laura Massaro’s determination and will to win have seen her become a perennial title challenger who, aged 33, shows no signs of slowing down.

What she lacks in natural shot-making flair, Massaro makes up for in a combination of mental fortitude, resilience, physical strength and supreme fitness - forming a package that makes her almost impossible to beat on her day.

The reigning British Open Champion will have the advantage of having a passionate home crowd behind her in Manchester and, having captured the 2013 World Championship title, she has all the big match experience to deal with the pressure.

The former World No.1 will be hoping for a favourable draw in the early rounds to enable her to reach the latter stages in full fitness - where the dangers of an intensely competitive field will lay in wait.

Nour El Sherbini (EGY)
Despite being just 21-years-old Nour El Sherbini has dominated the PSA World Tour for the past 18 months, maintaining the World No.1 spot unbroken throughout that period and winning the past two editions of the World Championship. 

Her victory in 2015, coming from 0-2 down to defeat Massaro, saw her crowned the youngest ever Women’s World Champion and she will be a firm favourite to complete a hat-trick of wins this December.

A sublime finisher and shot-maker, El Sherbini is one of the most exciting players on the PSA World Tour but one who also harbours a fierce inner determination and fire that acts as the back-bone to her success. 

The burden of expectation will not phase a player who has been at the very top of the game since her teenage years. 

Raneem El Welily (EGY)
One of the world’s most naturally gifted and skilful players, Raneem El Welily is an enigmatic character who is at times sublime and at times perplexing.

A consistent figure inside the top five since 2012, a period that saw her become the first player in nine years to dethrone Nicol David and become the first ever female Egyptian World No.1, El Welily has at times failed to deliver on the promise that accompanies her talent.

When she puts her game together she is arguably the best player on World Tour but mental lapses and concentration issues seem to accompany her into every event.

She has appeared in two World Championship finals previously, where she fell to defeat against Nicol David in 2014 after holding multiple match balls and then to El Sherbini in 2016. If she can conquer her mental doubts, she will be a force to reckon with in 2017.

Camille Serme (FRA)
The only female player to claim two World Series titles during the 2016/17 season, lifting both the U.S. Open and Tournament of Champions titles, Camille Serme is a complete all-round player who is both physically strong as well as gifted with the racket in hand.

Since making her bed in 2005 questions had surrounded the Frenchwoman’s mental strength, but a new-found approach adopted at the end of 2016 seemed to put those questions to bed - but she is yet to taste success on the biggest stage of all. A disappointing semi-final exit during the last World Championship instalment, an event she entered in the form of her life, will have fuelled her inner desire. 

Men’s Favourites:
Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY)

A ferocious hitter with incredible physical strength and mental determination, Mohamed ElShorbagy has won every title there is to win - except for the PSA World Championship, and the Egyptian, who now resides in Bristol, will be determined to change that record in his adopted home country this December.

ElShorbagy has twice lost out in the championship final, to Ramy Ashour in both 2012 and 2014 in two of the greatest finals ever, and will deeply feel the absence of the biggest title of all.

The 25-year-old suffered a slump in form during the 2016/17 season after spending over two years atop the World Rankings, but having finished the season on a high with victory at the PSA Dubai World Series Finals, will be out to settle his score with the World Championships this year.

Gregory Gaultier (FRA)
Current World No.1 Gaultier has been an ever-present inside the World’s top 10 for almost a decade and continues to defy age, becoming the oldest ever No.1 at the age of 34.

The enigmatic and charismatic star, dubbed the ‘French General’ for his controlling and dominating style of play, has gone from strength-to-strength during the past two years, only improving with age.
Having banished the mental demons that plagued him during four previous World Championship defeats, Gaultier won the biggest title in squash in 2015 and will be determined to double his tally before he retires.

Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY)
The defending World Champion, Karim Abdel Gawad’s rise to prominence during the 2016/17 season saw him capture the World Championship crown and take the World No.1 spot much to the surprise of squash fans around the world.

The ‘Baby faced assassin’s’ maturity through the season saw him add a new level of physical fitness to his supreme racket control - a combination that allows him to make the game look effortless.

Gawad is often a slow starter and key to a successful title defence in Manchester will be his ability to start strong and avoid a series of consecutive five-game battles en route to the latter stages.

Nick Matthew (ENG)
Champion in 2013 when the tournament last took place in Manchester, 37-year-old Nick Matthew will be hoping for one last hurrah in front of a partisan home crowd in what will likely be his last ever World Championship appearance.

Matthew has forged a career through his fierce competitiveness, mental stubbornness and legendary fitness which has seen him grind down and despatch the sport’s very best players for almost 20 years.

Victories in the 2010 and 2011 World Championships saw him become the first player in 15 years to win back-to-back world titles and with the chance to join Geoff Hunt as joint third on list of all time winners with four titles, rest assured Matthew will leave no stone unturned in his quest for success.

As well as the main contenders, there are also many other key names to watch as the top squash players head to Manchester in December. 

Ramy Ashour is one of the most gifted players ever to play the game and is a real fan favourite on the PSA World Tour - a player of stunning, unpredictable capacity. His victory in the 2014 World Championship after a six-month injury absence was one of the greatest ever, but victory this December would perhaps even go beyond that achievement,

Ali Farag has enjoyed a meteoric rise since joining the PSA World Tour in 2009 with the Egyptian already ranked inside the top five and with many touting him as a future World No.1. With a languid and relaxed style, Farag is a master mover and sublime finisher - traits that could see him sneak under the radar come December.

Nouran Gohar is just 19 years of age and is already a leading contender on the women’s international circuit. A hard-hitting style and physical strength make her a nightmare for all opposition. If she can add a few more nuances to her game, come December she could be unbeatable.

Nicol David is one of the most decorated sports stars of her generation and has been crowned World Champion an incredible eight times. The Malaysian has been on a downwards trajectory for the past two years, but if anyone knows who to win on the biggest stage of all, it is David.

Tickets for the AJ Bell PSA World Championship can be booked online at
ajbellworldchampionships.com