Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
16 - 22 September 1999
Issue No. 447
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Issues navigation Current Issue Previous Issue Back Issues

 
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Waiting for No 1

By Nashwa Abdel-Tawab

To the winner of today's final match in the Al-Ahram World Squash Open will go the title of the best player on earth. The championship is hosted by Egypt, organised by Al-Ahram and sponsored by MobiNil, and for each of these organisations, it represents a first. Above all, however, it is a fitting tribute to the organisation whose name has become synonymous with the sport over the past several years.

With the sudden fall from grace of the prestigious British Open, postponed from April due to lack of funds, the Al-Ahram tournament has arguably taken over as the place to shine for the world's leading players.

Hosting the championship has been an achievement in itself, but the thought of a homegrown local winning it outright has brought a special urgency to the atmosphere around the event. It may be asking for too much, but in Ahmed Barada, ranked No 4 in the world, Egyptians believe they have a genuine contender.

Barada started off in admirable fashion, crushing Sweden's Daniel Forslund, seeded 39, 15-6, 15-8, 15-7. He later breezed by 34th seeded Tony Hands of Britain 15-10, 15-5, 15-10, before being charged with the unwelcome task of playing countrymen Omar El-Borollossi, whom he defeated in three straight sets, 15-10, 15-8, 15-10.

El-Borollossi, No 22 in the world, had won his first two matches against Pakistani players ranked 62 and 48 respectively.

Squash Ahmed Barada is all concentration on his way to defeating Anthony Hill of Britain to reach the semi-finals
photo: Hossam Diab
Should Barada want to go all the way, he will first have to meet at least one of the likes of Jonathan Power, Peter Nicol, Paul Johnson, Martin Heath, Simon Parke or Anthony Hill, who are all ranked in the top 10.

Sixty-four players entered the main draw of the World Open, the first round of which took place at Cairo Stadium's squash complex. For the later stages, the venue switched to an outdoor glass court sited in an imposing position close to the Pyramids.

The first and second rounds brought few surprises, except for the upset of Australian Rodney Eyles to Egypt's Amr Shabana 15-9, 13-15, 15-8, 15-13. The 32-year-old Eyles, the 1997 world champion and president of the Professional Squash Association (PSA), was beaten into submission in 55 minutes by Shabana, 17, who is ranked 36 in the world.

Shabana, the younger brother of Egypt's women's squash champion Salma, went on to defeat world No 20 Nick Taylor of Britain 15-13, 15-9, 15-13 in a 47-minute encounter before going down to world No 1 Jonathan Power of Canada 15-13, 15-13, 15-7.

Al-Ahram, far from sitting on its laurels with the World Open, is also sponsoring the Third Al-Ahram International Women's Championship, the winner of which will also be discovered today. Twenty-seven players from Australia, New Zealand, Britain, South Africa, Scotland and Egypt entered the event, of whom 12 qualified for the main draw -- 11 of the world's top ranked players, plus wild card holder May Hegazi of Egypt. Michelle Martin, Leilani Joyce, Cassie Campion, Natalie Gringer, Suzanne Horner, Sabine Scheone, Carol Owens, are the names to watch out for. Injuries kept world No 2 Australian Sarah Fitz-Gerald and No 6 Sue Wright of Britain out of the action. But it's Martin, currently the world's best, who is the girl to beat. The Australian is fresh from winning the Heliopolis Open for a fourth consecutive year, downing Leilani Joyce of New Zealand, ranked No 6, in straight sets, 9-7, 9-7, 9-5. Not to be outdone, the women's final will also be staged at the foot of the world's seventh wonder.

As if two competitions were not enough, tomorrow sees the opening of the Al-Ahram World Teams Championship in Cairo. Thirty countries are participating: five from Africa, five from Asia, 15 from Europe, two from Oceania and three Latin Americans. Since its inception in 1967, the world team championship has been won by only three countries, Australia, Pakistan and Britain, which gives some indication of how tough this particular event is. This year will be Egypt's second shot at hosting the tournament, the first being in 1995. The country has managed to notch up a series of impressive placings, coming fourth six times since 1971 and finishing third in 1977 and 1995.

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