Rodriguez and Pilley upset seedings on Opening Day
The opening day of the 2015/16 PSA Dubai World Series Finals saw underdogs Cameron Pilley and Miguel Angel Rodriguez upset the form book to claim significant first round victories in the lucrative season-ending tournament which is taking place in the shadow of the Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest building.
Competing for a share of $160,000 – equal that on offer in the women’s competition – Australian Pilley defeated a struggling Omar Mosaad, the Egyptian World No.4 hindered by a knee injury, while ‘Colombian Cannonball’ Rodriguez produced one of the best performances of his season to claim his first ever win over World No.3 Nick Matthew at the seventh time of asking.
After going one game down Rodriguez, the first South American ever to compete in the tournament, fought back with vocal support from the crowd to come through 8-11, 11-8, 11-9 and take a huge step towards securing a place in the semi-finals of the men’s tournament.
“All the matches are tough and everyone here wants to win – it’s a very special tournament for all the players. It’s not easy playing the best of three format and the court is very bouncy as well so it was a different challenge. I had to adapt as I usually have a slow start but I was patient and in the third I managed to play well tactically well and get the win.
“This is the first tournament in Dubai so it’s great to be here and for me, playing in the World Series Finals was a dream I had growing up. It was a tough match today but there are no excuses for tomorrow – playing the World No.1 will be tough and I need to focus because I have a chance to make it to the semi-finals.”
There were also victories for World Champion Gregory Gaultier and World No.1 Mohamed Elshorbagy during the opening day of action in the Men’s tournament while World Champion and World No.1 Nour El Sherbini lost to compatriot Raneem El Welily in a thrilling encounter in the Women’s draw.
El Sherbini has been the in-form player this year, winning the Tournament of Champions and British Open to add to her World Champion crown, but it was El Welily who came through an exhilarating shot-making exhibition on her fifth match ball.
“I didn’t think I had it, especially at the end where I had four match balls and couldn’t finish the match off,” said El Welily.
“But I’m happy to be through, there are so many emotions playing the World Series Finals. There’s zero pressure, but you also want to do well. You want to win, but you’re actually relaxed, so you don’t know what to do or how you should feel or act on court.
“I’m happy with the way I played today. It’s my first time in Dubai, it’s been great so far, and it’s a great court and a great venue.”
France’s Camille Serme was the other winner in Group B while in Group A World No.2 Laura Massaro and eight-time World Champion Nicol David triumphed in their opening fixtures – with David on course to complete a hat-trick of World Series Finals tournament wins after seeing off tenacious opponent Amanda Sobhy.
“All the players are really excited to be here and it just spurs us on to play even better squash.
“Amanda played some very good shots today and I let her in at times and she took it on when she had an opportunity. But I just stuck to my guns and managed to get the win in the end.
“The best of three format really does mean you to be on your game from the very first point and I think because of that everyone is upping their level – and it’s great for the crowd as well to see that intensity. You don’t want to let anyone in confidence-wise and I was very happy to win 2-0 in the end.”
PSA Dubai World Series Finals – Day One Results:
Men’s Group A
 Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) bt  Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) 11-4, 11-6 (20m)
 Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) bt  Nick Matthew (ENG) 8-11, 11-8, 11-9 (55m)
Men’s Group B
 Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt  Simon Rösner (GER) 11-2, 11-9 (39m)
 Cameron Pilley (AUS) bt  Omar Mosaad (EGY) 11-7, 5-11, 11-6 (52m)
Women’s Group A
 Laura Massaro (ENG) bt  Nouran Gohar (EGY) 11-7, 13-11 (33m)
 Nicol David (MAS) bt  Amanda Sobhy (USA): 11-6, 13-11 (26m)
Women’s Group B
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt  Nour El Sherbini (EGY) 12-10,17-15 (29m)
 Camille Serme (FRA) bt  Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY) 11-9, 13-11 (23m)