The opening day of the 2018-2019 CIB PSA World Tour Finals saw defending women’s champion Nour El Sherbini fall to a surprise defeat against England No.1 Sarah-Jane Perry as the season-ending tournament got under way at Cairo’s Mall of Arabia.
The PSA World Tour Finals is the final tournament of the PSA World Tour season, with the first four days featuring round-robin matches during the group stage. Fixtures are held using a best-of-three games format and Perry marched into first place in Group B as she claimed a 2-0 victory over the World No.2.
It was the Egyptian who started stronger in both of the games, going 8-5 up in the first before losing six points in a row, while she held a 9-3 advantage in the second. But Perry soon whittled down that lead as she found her accuracy and range to devastating effect to make it three wins on the bounce against her opponent after wins at the Hong Kong Open and last month’s Allam British Open.
“I just relaxed and remembered that there wasn’t any pressure on me,” said 29-year-old Perry.
“I remember playing her on this court in Gouna a couple of years ago, and I got an absolute lesson and have had a few of those over the years. It makes it a bit of a bonus being here at the end of the season following my [elbow] operation, so I’m just trying to seize any opportunity that comes my way on the court.
“You can’t afford to have a bad start and you can’t afford to go 9-3 down in any game. I didn’t think about winning that game when I was 9-3 down, I just tried to play my way back in because I knew how important the third game was.”
Perry takes the maximum four points on offer to top Group B, with the other two players in Group B - Nour El Tayeb and Nouran Gohar - set to meet tomorrow.
In Group A, World No.1 Raneem El Welily got her title challenge under way as she stormed to a 2-0 win against Welsh World No.9 Tesni Evans, beating her 11-4, 11-6.
Fresh from winning a quartet of awards at the PSA Awards dinner last night - including the PSA Women’s Player of the Year - El Welily was in dominant form as she swept her opponent aside, with the Alexandria-born 30-year-old moving top of her group.
“As Egyptians we are very lucky to be playing the last tournament at home and not having to travel on a plane," said El Welily.
"We are very lucky to be able to play in front of our home crowd and to be playing in a tournament where my family and coaches can watch and also playing in a tournament that CIB and Wadi Degla, my own sponsors, are sponsoring.”
France’s Camille Serme sits in second in Group A after she defeated New Zealand’s Joelle King. All three games went to tie-breaks as both played to an intense tempo in Cairo. However, it was the Frenchwoman who was able to hold her nerve and close out as she claimed a 12-14, 12-10, 12-10 victory in 55 minutes. The 2-1 win means Serme takes three points, while King also claims a point as she moves into third place.
Results: CIB PSA World Tour Finals - Women’s Group A
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt  Tesni Evans (WAL) 2-0: 11-4, 11-6 (18m)
 Camille Serme (FRA) bt  Joelle King (NZL) 2-1: 12-14, 12-10, 12-10 (55m)
Results: CIB PSA World Tour Finals - Women’s Group B
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt  Nour El Sherbini (EGY) 2-0: 11-8, 11-9 (23m)
Draw - Women’s Group A: To Be Played June 10th
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) v  Camille Serme (FRA)
 Joelle King (NZL) v  Tesni Evans (WAL)
Draw - Women’s Group B: To Be Played June 10th
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) v  Nouran Gohar (EGY)