It will be England versus Egypt in the finals of the 2016/17 PSA Dubai World Series Finals after a breathtaking night of semi-final action at Dubai Opera saw James Willstrop, Mohamed ElShorbagy, Laura Massaro and Nour El Sherbini seal their spots in the title-deciders.
Former World No.1 Willstrop will appear in the showpiece finale of the World Series Finals for the first time in his career after he overcame World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad, playing some superb squash en route to an 14-12, 11-6 victory.
“I’m 33, I’ve had time out like a few of us have, but I’m not taking it for granted that I’ll be able to get back to where I was when I was 29, it’s not that simple,” said Willstrop.
“So it’s a great feeling when you’ve kept pushing yourself and you’ve gone down to No.20 in the world. To be able to do it again and to do it over four days means you’re still there and it’s a big confidence booster.
“Before I qualified I wanted to be here desperately and there are all sorts of motivations here. Once I got there I was really focused on it. I had other tournaments to play, but this was the big finale and I’ve eyed it up certainly.”
ElShorbagy, the 2013 runner-up, fell a game behind against an inspired Rösner, but recovered from 8-4 down in the second to force a third game, where Rösner was unable to convert his match balls, handing the win to the World No.3 after a gladiatorial 62-minute battle.
ElShorbagy beat Willstrop 2-0 in their group stage clash, but the final reverts back to the best-of-five games format used in all other PSA World Tour events, meaning that it’s all to play for in what looks set to be a thrilling finale to the Men’s tournament.
“I’m born for these kind of matches and these kind of moments and I don’t accept myself being in another position,” said ElShorbagy.
“There is the golden generation of Amr Shabana, Nick Matthew, Greg Gaultier, James, Karim Darwish and Thierry Lincou. The only one I haven’t played in a final is James, so it’s such an honour to be in the final with him.”
Massaro, the defending champion, was two match balls down to Gohar, but dug into her mental reserves to take the win in three games and reach the final of this tournament for the third time in succession.
“Saving two match balls is brilliant and I’m really proud of myself, but I’m also really annoyed that I let three game balls in the first go,” Massaro said.
“I just need to let it sink in, but I’m really happy to be through for tomorrow.”
Like Massaro, El Sherbini also fought back from two games down despite injuring her hand in the third game and she will look to become the first female Egyptian to lift the prestigious title when she locks horns with Massaro, who she lost to in last year’s semi-finals.
“I thought that I was going to retire from the match because I couldn’t hold the racket,” said El Sherbini.
“But I thought that I should go on and try and I think that it’s the reason I won. Because of my hand I was just thinking that I wanted to finish the points, so I attacked on every point and every opportunity.”
With an equal, lucrative $160,000 prize purse up for grabs, the World Series Finals brings together the top eight players on the Men’s and Women’s PSA Road to Dubai Standings, who are then split into two groups of four where matches are played in a best-of-three games format.
Players then battle for points to qualify for the knockout semi-finals and beyond, while the final will be contested in the regular best-of-five games format.
Semi-Finals: Men’s 2016/17 PSA Dubai World Series Finals
 James Willstrop (ENG) bt  Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) 14-12, 11-6 (43m)
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt  Simon Rösner (GER) 9-11, 11-8, 14-12 (62m)
Semi-Finals: Women’s 2016/17 PSA Dubai World Series Finals
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt  Camille Serme (FRA) 15-17, 11-3, 12-10 (60m)
 Laura Massaro (ENG) bt  Nouran Gohar (EGY) 12-14, 12-10, 11-7 (47m)