Is it time for a best-of-three format?

Source: PSA World Tour

Egyptian brothers Mohamed and Marwan ElShorbagy have opposed calls for PSA World Tour events to move to a best-of-three games format after renowned coach Malcolm Willstrop penned an article advocating a change in the wake of last month’s PSA Dubai World Series Finals.

Following on the coattails of last month’s explosive action in Dubai – which featured a best-of-three format throughout the group stage and semi-finals – the prospect of a move from best-of-five games to best of three for other events on the Tour has been a hot topic of discussion in the squash community.

But the ElShorbagy brothers have had their say on the debate, with both of the Bristol-based Egyptians arguing against a change in format.

“Best of three is a bad idea,” said World No.7 Marwan on social media.

“It’s a good idea for the World Series Finals, but not for every tournament. Don’t change our sport, keep it the same way!”

Marwan’s older sibling, Mohamed, was in agreement, saying:

“You take out the physicality and the mental strength part of the sport [if it was changed to best of three] which is a huge part of our sport. The World Series Finals had amazing matches, but it was at a high pace because we knew it was best of three. My final with James [Willstrop] was different and had more variation to the pace as we knew it was best of five You take out the tactical side in a best of three and the physicality.”

Mohamed and Marwan’s stance was backed by the likes of compatriot Mazen Hesham, France's World No. 1 Grégory Gaultier and England’s World No.34 Chris Simpson, while Germany’s Simon Rösner lent his support for a change to best of three.

World No.13 Daryl Selby – who serves on the PSA Board of Directors – said that he was open to the prospect of trialling the scoring system at one or two tournaments throughout the season.

PSA Chief Operating Officer Lee Beachill weighed in on the debate last week and confirmed to SQUASHTV that the PSA are considering looking at the potential options of trialling the best-of-three format in the coming years.

“There are sports that are a lot bigger than squash that are also looking at the format of their events and how their sports are played,” said the former World No.1.

“In my personal view, the fact that the top players in the world can play a best-of-three match at that intensity and recover in time to do that day in, day out is a massive bonus for us. It's definitely something that we should look at trialling over the coming months and years. I thought it added to the spectacle of the event, it was absolutely brilliant. The best-of-three format isn't something that we were specifically trialling at the World Series Finals, it's been that format for the last four or five years, I believe.

But I think that particular format added to the spectacle of the event. I'm a huge fan of that format and have been ever since it was introduced to the World Series Finals a good few years ago. This year in particular, the level of squash, the intensity, the match lengths and the way that the players went about their business during that event, I just thought from a spectator's point of view it was great.”

Beachill also addressed concerns that a switch to a best-of-three format could result in shorter match lengths and a drop in physicality, saying:

“I think that we have to consider the fact that, during our World Series tournaments in particular, we have some long days, we have eight matches back-to-back.

You're expecting someone to come and buy tickets but we regularly see people watching a couple of matches, go away and then come back. Maybe that is part of the experience of watching a day of squash, but I feel that the best-of-three format lends itself to more exciting squash. I think the important thing to remember is the actual game lengths during a best of three wouldn't move and could potentially get a little bit longer. I would see that as a positive and I think another big positive is the importance of the first game. We've all seen matches during a best of five where a player can get two or three points ahead and all of a sudden the first game hasn't got the same importance to the outcome of the match.

I don't think thats the case during the best of three and we saw that in action during the tournament in Dubai. As soon as players went two or three points down in that first game, you could see the mental change in players because they really didn't want to lose it because they would already be getting towards the middle stages of the match. I think that's a huge plus.”

Agree with the ElShorbagy brothers? Or do you think that the sport would benefit from a switch to a best-of-three games format?

The Men's World Team Championship format will be the usual best-of-five.


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