The elite of world squash are back in Dubai this week to battle it out for one of the most prestigious and fiercely contested titles in the sport, the season-ending PSA Dubai World Series Finals, which will take place at the Emirates Golf Club from June 5-9. Image Credit: Courtesy: Organiser

Dubai: Dubai’s hosting of the World Series Finals has helped put squash on the map, according to PSA chairman Ziad Al Turki.

Ahead of this week’s third hosting of the annual season-ender at Emirates Golf Club from June 5-9, Al Turki said, “We’ve been having incredible seasons one after another. Maybe Dubai had something to do with it.

“It was the spark a few years ago that put us on the map. The image we took at the Burj Khalifa went half way across the globe,” he added of promotional shots taken from the past two stagings of the event held at Burj Park and Dubai Opera.

Mohammad El Shorbagy (from left), Christopher May, CEO, Dubai Golf CEO, Saeed Hareb, secretary general, Dubai Sports Council, Ziad Al-Turki and Laura Massaro at a press conference. Clint Egbert/Gulf News

“We’ve had many firsts this season. The first couple to win a tournament together (husband and wife duo Ali Farag and Nour Al Tayeb who both won the US Open). The first joint World Championships with equal prize money. The first German (Simon Rosner, Tournament of Champions) and the first Colombian (Miguel Angel Rodriguez, British Open) to win a World Series event, and the first women’s professional sporting event in Saudi Arabia.

“Now we have the final to end this incredible season and I thank all of the players for making it over in this beautiful heat. Dubai is one of the most exciting cities and we are looking forward to an exciting week.”

The top eight men and women in the PSA World Series standings after seven PSA World Series events have qualified for Dubai where they have been divided into two groups of four. After three best-of-three group stage matches from June 5-7, the top two in each group will progress to the semi-finals on June 8, where the usual best-of-five format returns, and extends into June 9’s finals.

A total prize purse of US$320,000 (Dh1.175 million), US$160,000 each, will be equally split across both men’s and women’s divisions.

Egyptian duo Mohammad Al Shorbagy and Nour Al Sherbini are the top men’s and women’s seeds, and both occupy their respective World No. 1 spots coming into this tournament.

Mohammad Al Shorbagy won this event for the first time in his career last year, while Al Sherbini was denied in the final by England’s Laura Massaro last year and has still yet to win the tournament.

Al Sherbini does come fresh into this event off winning last month’s British Open however, as does Miguel Angel Rodriguez, who became not only the first Colombian but also the first South American to win that event.

Massaro has won two World Series Finals in a row (both in Dubai) and is now looking for a third straight title, while France’s Gregory Gaultier has won this event three times and is now looking for a record-equalling fourth title to match the great Jansher Khan of Pakistan.

Perhaps the most interesting story though is that of England’s Nick Matthew, who comes out of short-lived retirement to end his career on a possible higher note after defeat to a qualifier in the second round of last month’s British Open saw him just miss out on a top eight finish.

Injury to Marwan Al Shorbagy has now seen Matthew enter the finale through the backdoor however as a first reserve and he will now be hoping to sign off with a better performance than he would have otherwise done in the British Open.

Group matches from June 5-7 will take place from 3pm, 3.45pm, 4.30pm and 5.15pm in Group B and 8pm, 8.45pm, 9.30pm and 10.15pm in Group A. The semis on June 8 will start from 8pm, which is the same time the finals will start on June 9.

For tickets go to https://dubai.platinumlist.net/event-tickets/70345/atco-psa-dubai-world-series-finals and visit www.worldseriesfinals.com for information.