Welsh squash sensation Tesni Evans is taking on her biggest challenge yet – and is relishing the prospect.
Cardiff-born Evans, who lives in St Asaph in North Wales, is the first female Welsh player to qualify for the PSA World Tour finals which feature eight of the World’s best players. Evans follows the lead set by former Welsh male players David Evans and Alex Gough,who both played previous finals.
British champion Evans battled fiercely to hold off a powerful World rankings surge by American Amanda Sobhy in the battle to earn a place in the finals.
The PSA tour event, being played at Cairo’s Mall of Arabia, next to the Pyramids, between Sunday, June 9 and Friday, June 14.
“This is an incredible achievement by Tesni,” says Squash Wales director of coaching and development Mike Workman. “Amanda Sobhy came on strong during the run-up to qualification and Tesni responded superbly to earn her place.
“It’s our icing on the Squash Wales cake at the end of a hugely successful season.”
Evans joins World number one Raneem El Welily and three other Egyptians among the eight women who will compete in the PSA Tour finals.
“I can’t wait to compete at my first World tour finals,” tweeted Evans. “Excited to head to Cairo next week.
Evans, aged 26, already created history by becoming the highest ever ranked Welsh female squash player, when she reached a career high of World number nine.
“My big target at the start of the season was to break into the top 10, but now I have achieved that there is no way I want to stop there and rest on my laurels,” said Evans.
“There are parts of my game I will have to improve to keep climbing the rankings as there is a big leap to get into the top eight and then another one to make the top five, but the key to that will be hard work.”
Evans coached by dad Andrew and David Evans, the former British Open champion, and her status among the World’s best players has seen her eclipse Swansea-based Tegwen Malik’s previous Welsh best career high World No.16 ranking in 2000.
Former World Champion Cassie Jackman is Evans’ squash icon, saying: “The biggest influence on me growing up was Cassie.
“She played an exhibition against Sarah Fitz-Gerald at St Mellons, which was my squash club as a kid. I was aged seven or eight and I got some court time with her which was awesome and I always followed Cassie after that.
“But I owe so much to my dad, Andrew, who has been coaching me since I was small. We have built a really close team with David (Evans) also coaching me and the help of Mark Harris, my fitness coach, and Hamish, our sports psychologist who has also made a massive difference to me.
“The people at Bangor University have also been a major influence and, of course, everybody at my sponsors, Karakal.”
While Evans prepares for her World Tour finals appearance, Amanda Sobhy, the first American-born player to achieve World top 10 status, is aiming to continue her climb.
Sobhy finished her student days with a 62-0 collegiate winning record playing for Harvard.
The 25-year-old from Sea Cliff, New York, and her younger sister, Sabrina, have been compared to tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams in the USA. Amanda finished the squash season in style, but could not overhaul Welsh ace Evans.
The World Tour Finals are the 2018-19 season finale. To qualify, players must either rank inside the top eight on the PSA World Tour Leaderboard – with points on offer at all PSA World Tour events through the season – or win a PSA Platinum tournament.
The reigning PSA World Champions automatically qualify.
Five titles throughout the season saw World number one El Welily finish top of the women’s leaderboard with 17,120 points, ahead of World Champion Nour El Sherbini, who amassed 12,760 points.
World Championship runner-up Nour El Tayeb came third ahead of British Open runner-up Camille Serme from France, while Hong Kong Open winner Joelle King (New Zealand) came third.
British Open victor Nouran Gohar, Oracle NetSuite Open winner Sarah-Jane Perry and Manchester Open runner-up Tesni Evans have also qualified for Cairo.
Men’s World number one Ali Farag finished first on the men’s leaderboard with 23,025 points. The Egyptian has enjoyed a stunning season which has seen him win five PSA World Tour titles, including the World Championships, JP Morgan Tournament of Champions and the Qatar Classic.
The man he lost to in Sunday’s Allam British Open final – Mohamed ElShorbagy – came in second with 18,365 points after claiming four PSA titles throughout the campaign, with major wins coming at the US Open and Hong Kong Open, in addition to his British Open triumph.
ElShorbagy also beat Farag in the final of last season’s World Tour Finals.
The World Tour Finals will feature two groups of four in both the men’s and women’s events on a round-robin system. The top two players from each group qualify for the knockout semi-finals.
A best-of-three games format will be used up to and including the semi-finals, while the final will revert to the traditional best of five scoring.
The scheduled Bangor Classic, a PSA World Tour event due to be played next month, will not take place.
Tesni Evans is a driving force behind the Classic and the first event was a huge success in 2018 when Scotland’s Lisa Aitken, the top seed, emerged champion.
There are strong plans to organise the second PSA Bangor Classic in 2020 when regulars from the World Tour, including home-grown Welsh players, will make up the draw.