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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Squash success

IT IS FITTING that the second century of squash will draw to a close with the 1999 Al-Ahram World Open, potentially the sport's wealthiest-ever tournament.

The annual Al-Ahram squash championship has become the Professional Squash Association (PSA) Tour's definitive event. For 1999, the tournament is boasting a total of $170,000 in prize money and a 64-man draw. Simultaneously, the women's Al-Ahram International, part of the World Grand Prix circuit, will also be running alongside the upgraded men's event.

From the start, the Al-Ahram Organisation was determined to organise the championship. Chairman of Al-Ahram Organisation and editor-in-chief of Al-Ahram, Ibrahim Nafie, wanted it to have as high a priority as any other project Al-Ahram might take on. Total prize money worth $100,000 was therefore allocated to the first championship, making the tournament the world's seventh richest championship even then.

On 28 May, the PSA confirmed that the 1999 Men's World Open Squash Championship would be held in Egypt from 10-16 September, to be sponsored by Al-Ahram. The final stages of the competition are currently being fought out on the open-air glass court by the Giza Pyramids.

The location of the squash court blends the past with the present. The site was chosen for two purposes: the historical site of the Giza Plateau would help publicise the championship, while also honouring the Pharaohs who were the first to play squash 5,000 years ago.

The success of the first Al-Ahram championship, held in May 1996, was rooted not only in its superb organisation, but in the outstanding accomplishment of Egypt's young prodigy Ahmed Barada. Although he was defeated by then world No 1 Jansher Khan, Barada received a telephone call from President Hosni Mubarak, himself an avid squash enthusiast, congratulating the youngster on his performance.

In its second year, the prize money was raised to $140,000 and the women's event inaugurated, Australian, Sara Fitz-Gerald, clinching the title, while Peter Nicol of Scotland was crowned the men's champ after beating Khan in the final.

In the third championship, Barada won the title in a searing finale against world champion Nicol, and Australian champion, Michelle Martin, took the women's crown.

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