PSA Rank Variation in the Top 10 Ranks for Season 2018-2019

Individual Images courtesy of PSA

As in every professional sport, the PSA World Tour players gain ranking points by winning matches. In professional squash, a player’s ranking points are determined by how far they progress in tournaments as well as the grade (Platinum, Gold, etc.) of those tournaments. Therefore by winning more matches and progressing further in tournaments a player’s ranking position can improve. In the PSA World Tour, the average number of ranking points each player has at any given time depends on their final rank in the tournaments for the last 12 months. For more information on how the points are broken down please refer to Squash Stat’s blog post on this topic entitled “Prize Money & Ranking Points in PSA World Tour Tournaments”. This current blog post investigates the changes in the top 10 ranking positions for the 2018 – 2019 season, which we define as September 2018 – July 2019.

Ranking History of the Top 10 Players

Before looking at the ranking variation of the top 10 during the 2018 – 2019 season, let’s first take a closer look at how they got there in the first place. We select all players that were in the top 10 ranking at any time throughout the aforementioned season (13 male players and 13 female players) and plot their historical ranking since the beginning of our available data (since 1999). This provides an overview of how the players’ ranking position varied over time. However, at any given time, different players are at different stages of their career. Some players may be ending their career whereas others are just starting. This leads to a somewhat unfair comparison at a specific time. To try to normalise these differences in career stages, the players’ ranking position was also plotted as a function of a player’s age. Both these graphs (rank variation as a function of time and age) are plotted below for both genders. The graphs are color coded whereby each colour represents a specific player in a particular gender which is indicated in the legend. For continuity, the same colour code is maintained for all plots throughout this blog and the order of the players in the legend is in numerical ranking order of June 2019

Ranking History of the Top 10 Male Players

The historical ranking of the top ten male players of the 2018 – 2019 PSA World Tour season are illustrated below. Note that data prior to the year 1999 is not considered in this dataset. On closer examination of these plots a few observations can be made:

  • On a large scale, most players see a continuous rise in rankings over time.
  • As time progresses, players start their respective careers with a lower and lower starting rank positions. This is most likely due to the fact that PSA has allowed a higher number of players to be ranked as time progressed. In 2000 there were 240 ranked male players and in 2019 there were 544 ranked male players
  • Gregory Gaultier has by far the earliest career start in (year: November 1999… start of our records, age: 16.8) and Diego Elias the latest career start (year: June 2013, age, 16.5)
  • Ali Farag sees a huge drop in rankings from 2011 – 2015 due to a focus on education. See ranking dip summary table below.
  • Miguel Rodriguez also sees a drop in ranking from 2003 to 2005 possibly due to a focus on junior squash. See ranking dip summary table below.
  • Ranking dip summary table below.
  • A recent drop in ranking can be seen for Ramy Ashour (year: September 2018, age: 31, reason: retirement) and Gregory Gaultier (year: April 2019, age: 35, reason: injury)
  • All players have had a top 100 ranking before the age of 21, Paul Coll being the oldest at the age of 20.9 and Mohammed El Shorbagy being the youngest at the age of 16.9. 
  • Ramy Ashour was the youngest player to reach a top 10 ranking at the age of 19 in November 2006.
  • In April 2019 Saurav Ghosal became the oldest player to reach the top 10 for the first time at the age 32.7.
  • Mohamed El Shorbagy, Ali Farag, Karim Abdel Gawad, Ramy Ashour, and Gregory Gaultier all held the number one spot at one time or another (four of the five number ones are Egyptians)
  • Gregory Gaultier is the oldest player still playing at the age of 36.7 (as of June 2019)

Historical Ranking of the Top 10 Female Players

The same plots were generated for the females in the top 10 rankings throughout the 2018 – 2019 season. The following observations can be made from the below plots:

  • Nicol David had the earliest career start (year: <2000 , age: <17… our records only go back to 2000) and Nouran Gohar had the latest career start (May 2011, aged: 13.5).
  • Raneem El Welily and Nour El Sherbini had the youngest start to their PSA career, being ranked when they were only 13 years old
  • Tesni Evans had the oldest career start being ranked when she was almost 18 (July 2010)
  • Similar to the male category, the starting ranks of players decreases the later they start. Again this is most likely due to more players being ranked as time progresses. For example in 20004 there were 115 ranked female players and in 2019 there are 544 female ranked players.
  • Dips in the ranking positions due to injury breaks can be seen in the ranking positions of Alison Waters, Joelle King and Amanda Sobhy. A summary table is provided below.
  • Sarah-Jane Perry’s ranking position varied substantially during  2008 – 2011 most likely due to focusing on her university education.
  • Before Nicol David’s dominance at the top, her ranking also went through a dip in ranking position due to lack of tournaments played.
  • Summary of female ranking dips
  • All players have had a top 100 ranking before the age of 22, Sarah-Jane Perry being the oldest at the age of 21.2 and Raneem El Welily being the youngest at the age of 13.4.
  • Nour El Sherbini was the youngest player to reach a top 10 ranking at the age of 16.4 in June 2012.
  • In February 2017 Sarah-Jane Perry became the oldest player to reach the top 10 for the first time at the age 26.8.
  • Nour El Sherbini, Raneem El Welily, Laura Massaro, and Nicol David all held the number one spot at one time or another
  • Alison Waters is the oldest player still playing at the age of 35.6 (as of June 2019).
  • In terms of age, female players join the PSA ranking at a much younger age than men with Raneem El Welily, Nour El Sherbini, Nour El Tayeb, Nouran Gohar and Amanda Sobhy all having ranked positions before they were 15.

2018 – 2019 Season Summary

The following tables provide the round in which the top ten players were knocked out of the relevant tournaments. Additional information regarding each tournament such as date, location, prize money and tournament grade is also shown in the tables. Such tables can be used to determine the success of the players in the relevant tournaments and over time. These tables will be referred to later in this document to provide evidence as to why certain players increase or decrease in ranking positions and average ranking points. At the bottom of this table a row indicating the total number of tournaments played by each player. This table can also be used as a crude comparison between similarly ranked players. 

Table Legend: P = Platinum, G = Gold, S = Silver, B = Bronze, WC = World Championships, WTF = World Tour Final, SF = Semi-Finals, QF= Quarter Finals, L = Last (eg L16 = Last 16).

Ranking Variation in the Men’s Top 10

The top 10 player rankings always draw the most attention. The line plot below shows the trajectory of each player in the top 10 over the 2018 – 2019 season. A brief summary of the plot can be given as follows:

  • Gregory Gaultier falls in rankings (November 2018) due to injury. From the season summary table above it can be seen that Gaultier plays in very few tournaments after this time with only three tournaments at the end of the season
  • Mohammed El Shorbagy and Ali Farag, swap positions towards the latter part of the season (March 2019) for the top two ranks. This is mainly due to Ali Farag having a better ranking than Mohammed El Shorbagy for 6 of the previous 8 PSA tournaments. This is evident from the summary table.
  • Karim Abdel Gawad retakes a position in the top five (January 2018) after some impressive squash throughout the season.
  • Marwan El Shorbagy drops swiftly (from November 2018) in ranks after reaching his highest rank of three. This drop however is due to not playing tournaments at the beginning of the season. From the summary table one can see he starts playing again in January of 2019. However, due to the fact that the average ranking points is determined by the number of tournaments in the last 12 months, which is assumed to exceed 10 tournaments for males, it takes several months for his ranking to catch up.
  • Great season for Paul Coll breaking with a gradual increase in ranking throughout the season which was achieved by continuously finishing in the top eight players in each tournament. He broke into the top five for the first time in April 2019, which was preceded by winning the Canary Wharf tournament (March 2019), and coming second in the Troilus Cup tournament (March 2019). 
  • Mohamed Abouelghar and Diego Elias break into the top ten both for the second time. Both players had a mixture of good and bad results in their respective tournaments.
  • A great end of the season for Saurav Ghosal who breaks the top ten for the first time (April 2019), towards the end of the season.
  • Tarek Momen remains consistent as ever and gains 1 position through the season, completing all his tournaments in the top six ranks, and finishing at rank three.
  • 7/10 players that started the season in the top ten, also finished in the top 10.
  • The season finished with the top four players being Egyptian, five out of 10 Egyptian players in the top end ranks, seven Egyptian player being in the top 10 during the season.

Ranking Variation in the Women’s Top 10

  • A great start to the season by Raneem El Welily allows her to retain her position at number one (December 2018) forcing Nour El Sherbini into second place. This is due to Raneem El Welily achieving a better final rank position than Nour El Sherbini in all previous tournaments in the season.
  • A great end of the season for Nouran Gohar jumping four positions in one month (June 2019) to finish the season in the number four position. This sudden increase was due to winning the British Open (Platinum tournament) in May-2019. This jump in ranking can be examined more closely later in this blog when the average ranking points are plotted for the 2018 – 2019 season.
  • Annie Au just breaks into the top 10 at the very end of the season (June 2019) once again, having spent the last 12 years rank in the top 20.
  • Nour El Tayeb and Joelle King drop 2 ranks each finishing the season in rank positions number five and six respectively.
  • Great season for Amanda Sobhy breaking into the top 10 once again after an injury comeback.
  • Also great season by Camille Serme jumping up 2 ranks and finishing at rank number three.
  • Laura Massaro drops out of the top ten after her retirement.
  • The season started and ended with 4/10 of the Egyptian players in the top 10.

Points Variation of the Top 10 Males

The above plots illustrate how the ranking positions vary over the 2018 -2019 season. However, it does not provide a scale as to how well players are doing relative to each other. By looking at the number of average ranking points each player has throughout the season, one can scale the performance level of each player. The plots below illustrate the variation of the average points for each player that has been in the top ten ranks during the 2018 – 2019 season.

  • Mohamed El Shorbagy and Ali Farag stand above the other players in terms of average ranking points.
  • At the beginning of the season  (September 2018), Marwan El Shorbagy was very close to Ali Farag (who was rank number two at the time). However, a great start of the season for Ali Farag and lack of tournament for Marwan El Shorabagy drove them apart.
  • The remainder of the male ranks (other than Mohamed El Shorbagy and Ali Farag) are relatively close together and continuously interchange as the season progresses.
  • A great season for Tarek Momen whose average ranking points steadily rose throughout the season. Such trends are not as clearly visible when only looking at the ranking position only.
  • A steady increase in average ranking points throughout the season for Karim Abdel Gawad is also clearly visible.

Points Variation of the Top 10 Females

The ranking points variation is also plotted for the female category.

  • As with the male category, the top two players (Raneem El Welily and Nour El Sherbini) are well above the other ranked players in terms of ranking points. Nour El Sherbini and Nour El Tayeb have a poor first half of the season with their average ranking points decreasing until March.
  • At the beginning of the season Nour El Tayeb was in an intermediate level close to the top two ranks and well above the other players. However, she failed to increase her average points to gain on the first 3 positions and her average ranking points dropped for the first half of the season.
  • Amanda sobhy saw a steady on continuous rise in average ranking points throughout the season
  • Both Laura Massaro and Nicol David saw a continuous downward trend.
  • Camille Serme has a great second half to the season recovering a drop in average ranking points during the first half of the season.
  • In gereanal, March can be seen as a turning point for several players where a recent downward trend in average ranking points suddenly starts to increase again. This is the case for Raneem El Welily. Nour El Sherbini, Nour El Tayeb, Camille Serme, Sarah-Jane Perry, Nouran Gohar, Annie Au and Amanda Sobhy. This trend is likely due to an increase in tournament density and thus can have a larger effect on the ranking points. This trend is somewhat visible in the male category but not as extreme.

Seasonal Rank Difference Variation in the Male Top 10

The above plots help in providing an understanding of how the ranking positions vary over time. However, a player’s season may be crudely summed up by the rank difference between the start and the end of the season. This is illustrated in the graphs below for the top 10 players where once again the order of the player is in numerical order of the respective ranks at the end of the season (June 2019). Players that increase their ranking position (i.e. a lower rank number) have a positive value on the x-axis that corresponds to the number of rank positions they dropped. Conversely, players that decrease their ranking position (higher rank number), will have a negative value in the x-axis.

  • As expected from previous analysis Marwan El Shorbagy, Gregory Gaultier and Ramy Ashour drop in ranking and thus have a large negative values on the x-axis below.
  • Mohamed Abouelghar gained the most rank positions (+6) with Karim Abdel Gawad and Paul Coll following closely behind with +4 ranking positions

Seasonal Rank Difference Variation in the Female Top 10

Below are the differences in ranking at the beginning and end of the season for the womens’ PSA World Tour.

  • As mentioned in the previous section, Amanda Sobhy had a great season dropping 10 ranks to enter the top 10 once again.
  • Nicole David and Laura Massaro drop in ranking positions due to their retirement.

Outlook

The intent of this blog posting was to analyse the ranking variation within the top ten players. This was performed by looking at the ranking positions throughout the season, the rank difference between the start and end of the season and the variation of the average ranking point through the season. As the 2019 – 2018 season comes to a close we look forward to performing the same analysis on this season.

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