The PSA World Championships take place in Chicago in May, but this year there are 12 qualifying spots available, to be earned in the qualifying event at Edgbaston Priory from 12th to 14th April.
The Round One losers all went home with $500, while quarter-final losers will receive $625 and both finalists will earn $750 … but only one would get that precious qualifying spot.
Final World Championships Places Decided With Twelve Qualifying Event Winners
It was a fateful day at the PSA World Championships Qualifying Event in Birmingham, as the remaining twelve spots for this season’s premiere tournament were decided. Twelve matches took place across two courts at the Edgbaston Priory Club in Birmingham, with all of the winners booking their spots at the PSA World Championships in Chicago next month.
Spain’s Marta Dominguez secured a spot for the second year in succession. She made the final of the Val de Reuil Normandie in 2022, which guaranteed her a place in Cairo, and this year, she defeated England’s Alicia Mead to assure her a place in Chicago.
The Spaniard will join compatriot Cristina Gomez in the draw after her victory. Mead had defeated the tournament’s top seed a day earlier, but it was Fernandez who started strongly. The Englishwoman levelled the contest in the second, but from there, the Spaniard was in control. She came through to win in four, to reach the sport’s biggest event for the second year in a row.
“I am really happy. It is the second time that I have got to the World Championships. For me it is amazing, it is a dream! I never thought that I could do this, so I am really happy!” Fernandez said.
“Yesterday, she played a really good match, she beat the top seed of the tournament. She was playing really well. I think I prefer against Alicia because I beat her in Odense. For me, it was better! I was nervous, but I thought I played really well so I am happy with that and to be in the World Championships of course!”
The Malaysian trio of Aira Azman, Ainaa Amani and Yasshmita Jadishkumar were among those to make it through to the World Championships, with all three making it into the main draw for the first time. Azman will join older sister Aifa in the draw for the World Championships, with Aira set to feature for the first time in her fledgling career. The young Malaysian defeated Egypt’s Menna Hamed in straight games.
She went two games to the good, before a collision on the opening point of game three saw Azman suffer a dead leg. After receiving treatment, she returned to court, and went on to take a straight games victory, to book her place in Chicago next month.
“Very happy to qualify for the World Championships for next month. It was a nice game just now, we both wanted to win, she played quite well but we wanted to do whatever it takes to win. “I just tried to push myself through because I was already 2-0 win, and I just wanted to win so much. It will be my first time playing the World Championships, I think our mum was quite delighted to know I am there. It’s my first time so it will be good to go through it together.
Amani was the first Malaysian to book her place, as she defeated German No.2 Katerina Tycova in four games. The German won the opening game 11-6, but Amani fought back brilliantly, and won the next three games to book her place in Chicago. Like many of the others in action today, she will feature at the PSA World Championships for the first time.
“It was incredible, I came here without any pressure, because I knew I would have to play one of the top seeds. This was my first time playing in a Qualifying Event, and it feels really great to be in the World Championships!” Amani exclaimed.
“After the win yesterday, today I stepped onto the court without any pressure. I had a feeling that today was my day and I was going to give it my all today! It still feels so unreal. I worked hard to come here. Before I came here, I had won back-to-back titles on Tour, but this feels incredible.”
Jadishkumar was the last woman to make it through as she beat fellow Malaysian Chan Yiwen. Jadishkumar fell two games down, but fought back to win in five, and to reach the Worlds stage for the first time.
“Honestly, I am still in disbelief, that I even passed the first round. I was actually coming back from an injury. A month ago I hurt my left knee and I was recovering. I went back to Malaysia for three weeks and I am only here for a couple of weeks,” the Malaysian said.
“I haven’t been training much, winning three matches with three good players, it is one of my best weeks so far! “Chicago wow! I have to sort my visa first! I am really looking forward to it. It will be my biggest tournament so far. I will be hoping for the best!”
Egypt’s Zeina Zein and Malak Khafagy were the other two women to qualify.
Khafagy, who claimed her maiden Tour title earlier this season at the Odense Open, got the better of Asia Harris. The pair, who are both still juniors and have been on opposing teams for their respective nations in the past, did battle in the fifth match of the day on Court 4. Khafagy started strongly, and never looked like losing, coming through to take the win 11-9, 11-6, 11-6.
“Outrageous! I am so happy. I can’t believe I made it. It has been a dream! “All the matches were really tough, especially yesterday, it was so close. I am happy I got the win in five, and happy I am through! Everyone is playing at 100%, giving everything to get a spot and I am happy I made it,” Khafagy said.
She is joined in the draw by compatriot Zein. The 18-year-old overcame India’s Tanvi Khanna in straight games to book her ticket to the sport’s premiere tournament in Chicago.
“I am super happy to be into my very first qualification, for my very first World Championships. I am very happy to there, I have always dreamt of going there and playing, it is the biggest tournament on the PSA calendar, so it’s outstanding!” Zein said. “There have been lots of ups and downs, lots of tournaments I should have won but had bad losses. It happens, but there were some ups, where I won good matches, and had good form. I am looking to keep that good form, and my plan solid!”
In the men’s event, Mohamed Abouelghar continued his return from injury, as the former World No.7 secured himself a place in this year’s draw. The Egyptian had been out for over a year prior to his return at the Hong Kong Football Club Open in December. He downed James Peach in four games, regrouping after losing the third game of their contest to book his spot in a first PSA World Championships in two years.
“I feel great! Before starting my comeback, I knew that potentially there was a chance that I would have to qualify [for the World Championships]. I am very happy I am through,” Abouelghar said. “He is very deceptive. In the third game, I let my foot off the gas and he had a good start. I lost me length a little bit and he took advantage of that. I found that again in the fourth, better squash, and I am happy I am through!”
The English duo of Simon Herbert and Curtis Malik both featured as tournament wildcards at the British Open earlier this week. The pair were two of the six men to also grab their places at the PSA World Championships today Edgbaston Priory.
Malik was the top seed for this week’s Qualifying Event, and was coming off the back of making the second round of a major tournament for the first time, and defeated Germany’s Yannik Omlor to secure a place in Chicago.
“Really pleased! I tried to separate the two events, even though they are in the same week,” Malik explained. “After the Paul Coll match, I wanted to learn as much as possible to bring to these couple of matches here. Really pleased to be able to get past those two tough opponents. “It hasn’t sunk in just yet, I think it will when I started booking my flights! This will be my first main draw at a World Championships. I did the qualification in 2018 when I was a junior, but the first main draw and I am really looking forward to it.”
Meanwhile, Herbert was unable to come through his first round in the British Open. He bounced back to take a place at the sport’s biggest tournament, thanks to a victory over the Czech Republic’s Martin Svec in straight games.
“I did get a late call-up for the British. It was a surreal experience, I played Manchester last year but this year I am in better form and I feel like I can challenge these boys,” the Englishman said. “Playing [Raphael] Kandra was great practice because he was a left-hander, I have played two of those in this event. It set me up quite well! “Playing Martin, I played him in my first ever tournament years ago. My coach told me he starts well so I took the upper hand from the off, played attacking, risky squash, but it paid off for me! It hasn’t sunk in yet but it will in a couple of hours!”
The other three matches saw English defeats. India’s Abhay Singh, one of the stars of the Challenger Tour in the 2022-2023 season, defeated Ben Coleman. Singh has won five titles on the Challenger Tour this season, and one of his goals for the year was to reach the main draw in Chicago. He did so thanks to a straight games victory over the Englishman, with a 27 minute first game being crucial to the win.
“Very happy! It is a goal I had set as soon as I knew the Qualifying Event was out. Something I was looking forward to. Obviously, I have never played in a Platinum event or one of the big events, so this being my first one, it is quite special,” Singh said. “I am quite happy now, I know I am going to Chicago, but to know that I will be one of the best 64 players in the world is quite satisfying. Hopefully it sinks in soon!”
Edwin Clain will add to the French contingent in Chicago, after he defeated England’s Tom Walsh in the longest match of the day. The pair did battle for more than 75 minutes, with Clain eventually coming out the winner in a tough fifth game.
“It feels amazing! It is the biggest win of my career, along with the first PSA title I won earlier this year, it kind of feels the same. Even better!” Clain said. “That match was brutal, Tom had a tough match yesterday. I had a tough one as well so we gave it our all. It was a good match, but I am so happy to make it through to the World Championships.”
Malaysia’s Ivan Yuen was the last man to secure a place, thanks to a victory over another Englishman in Finnlay Withington. He will feature at the Worlds for a fifth straight year, and will be looking to reach the second round for the first time.
“It is great to make it to the main draw at the World Championships. I have not been playing tournaments for four or five months now. It is good to be back winning again,” Yuen admitted. “I am definitely happy to qualify for the Worlds this year, and I am so looking forward to it! I didn’t think too much about the Qualifying Event. I just want to enjoy the game and do the best I can. The more you think about it, the more pressure you put on yourself.”
The PSA World Championships presented by Walter Family will take place from May 3-11 in Chicago, with a glass court being erected in Union Station. All the action will be streamed live on SQUASHTV, with the semi-finals and finals being shown on selected broadcasters around the world.
Day TWO : Mead takes out top seed as upsets abound at Edgbaston
Another busy day at Edgbasrton Priory, with 24 semi-finals which produced a number seeding upsets, plus eight English and five Malaysian players through to tomorrow’s finals.
The afternoon session saw big upsets in the Women’s draw as the top two seeds were beaten – home favourite Alicia Mead came from a game down to beat top seeded Egyptian Nardine Garas, and Malaysia’s Ainaa Amani despatched German second seed Saskia Beinhard in straight games.
“I thought I was going to bet bageled in the first,” said Alicia. “I had to calm, down and try to find a length, I was getting pummelled across the middle. The second was so crucial, I knew I needed a big push to try ant take it, I thought it would change the momentum of the match. I came out in the third with a lot of momentum and with familiar faces in the crowd and everyone cheering me on I was really into it. Buzzing, just buzzing!”
There was success for Germany as Katerina Tycova came through a second gruelling match in a row, holding off a comeback from Austria’s Jacqueline Peychar to win in four games.
“I’m so, so tired,” said Karina. “It was a big effort to win the first two games, I just needed a rest in the third, and she played better too. My coach told me to just push and push in the fourth, to just think about the final ten minutes.”
In the finals Mead will meet eighth seeded Spaniard Marta Dominguez while Tycova and Amani will play for a qualifying spot. Third seed Aira Azman eased through to the finals where she will face Egypt’s Menna Hamed.
There were no upsets on the men’s side as seeds Curtis Malik, Martin Svec and Abhay Singh won through to finals against Yannik Omlor, Simon Herbert and Ben Coleman.
13/24 seed Coleman, celebrating his birthday today, is through to the finals with two straight game wins.
“I’m really pleased to get through both matches in three,” said Coleman. “I’m feeling relaxed and positive on court and my eyes are fully set on a place in Chicago. It’s been a great week and I’m excited about tomorrow.”
The evening session opened with a second successive five game victory for England’s James Peach – both against higher seeded Malaysians! Having saved match balls in the fifth yesterday, today he came from two games down to oust seventh seed Addeen Idrakie.
“Two tough games for sure,” said Peach, “I was in difficult situations in both. Today I just had to stay strong and strangely enough once I was two-nil down I started playing some good squash, feeling good on my touch and accuracy. Happy to be through, but it’s going to be tough tomorrow …”
Tomorrow Peach comes up against Egypt’s former World #6 Mohamed Abouelghar.
That was far from the end of the upsets, as France’s Edwin Clain continued his fine run to beat third seed Muhammad Asim Khan and US-based Englishman Tom Walsh squeezed past ninth seeded Egyptian Ibrahim Elkabanni in a fierce five game tussle.
In the women’s draw Malaysia’s Chan Yiwen came from a game down to beat Swiss sixth seed Nadia Pfister, while Egypt’s Malak Khagafy beat fifth seeded Aussie Jessica Turnbull in five.
European U19 champion Asia Harris reached the finals with a five-game win over compatriot Anna Kimberley, making her one of eight English players winning through to tomorrow’s finals, including Finnlay Withington, who was last on for the second day in a row.
Today Finn beat 11th seeded Spaniard Edmon Lopez in four games to set up a meeting with Ivan Yuen, one of five Malaysians through to the final.
“Yes, two tough games, it’s always hard going on last it doesn’t help your preparations,” said Withington. “It will be tough against Ivan, I saw him slotting in a few nicks in his match, but I’m looking forward to the chance of getting a spot in the Chicago draw.”
Finals start at 12.00 tomorrow, on two courts.
There were a number of marathon matches, especially in the men’s, with six of the twelve 7/12 seeds falling at the first hurdle and ten English winners.
In the opening set of matches home favourite Alicia Mead made a confident start with a straight games win over Saran Nghiem, who had only just flown in form a break in her study program from Harvard.
“First on, on my home courts, I wasn’t nervous at all actually,” said Alicia. “This event has come at a good time for me, I’ve struggled in recent weeks but playing on my home courts and sleeping in my own bed is just what I needed. I felt I played well today, very pleased with how it went.”
Mead faces top seeded Egyptian Nardine Garas in tomorrow’s semi-finals.
In the early men’s matches there were marathon 71 minute wins for Israel’s Daniel Poleshchuk and South Africa’s Dewald van Niekirk who overcame higher-seeded opponents Emyr Evans and Seif Shenawy.
There are two Austrian players in the draws, and Jacqueline Peychar held off a terricic comeback from Australian Sarah Cardwell to prevail in five games.
“I started well,” said Peychar, “I started well but she came back strongly, she’s very experienced. I just had to dig in and I’m very happy to get through.”
Many-time Austrian champion Aqeel Rehman found no joy against Japan’s Ryunosuke Tsueke, going down in straight games. Tsukue didn’t play on tour at all during Covid and this event marks something of a comeback for him.
Tsukue meets former world #6 Mohamed Abouelghar, also on the comeback trail, tomorrow and the Japanese is looking forward to it.
“It will be tough but I’ll just have to try my best, I’m really excited to be able to play against a top player like that.”
The afternoon session concluded with another men’s marathon as Spain’s Ivan Perez beat Czech Viktor Byrtus in 68 minutes, the loser scoring at least eight points in each of the five games.
“Viktor was playing well, going for lots of shots,” said Perez. “I tried to get a better length, be patient and wait for the opportunities because I knew he would be going short. He was getting tired towards the end, but it was still very close!”
In the early evening matches England’s James Peach and Malaysia’s Addeen Idrakie both won in five almost simultaneously, both saving match balls in the deciders, and they’ll meet in tomorrow’s semi-final.
Fresh from her double European U19 triumph, Asia Harris came from a game down to beat Malaysia’s Xin Ying Yee, one of the 7/12 seeds favoured to reach the finals.
“I only had one day to recover form ten days of intense squash, it’s not enough” admitted Harris who won the Euro U19 individual title in Zurich and put the England team on course for the team title. “I’m still tired and I need a good session to get the lactic acid moving.
“I haven’t even looked at who I might be playing next (it’s compatriot Anna Kimberley) but I’ll be giving it all to qualify.”
In the final match of the day, England’s 2022 Euro U19 champion Finnlay Withington came from match ball down in the third to beat USA’s Spencer Lovejoy.