Monday,20 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1262, (10 - 16 September 2015)
Monday,20 August, 2018
Issue 1262, (10 - 16 September 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Queen of the world

Egyptian Raneem Al-Welili is crowned the world’s best female squash player, Ghada Abdel-Kader reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

Egyptian squash star Raneem Al-Welili climbed to the world’s No1 ranking, overtaking Malaysian superstar Nicol David who held the title for nine years running. David, the 32-year-old Malaysian, dropped to No 2 in the world, according to the September 2015 PSA (Professional Squash Association) women’s world rankings.

Al-Welili thus joined her fellow countryman Mohamed Al-Shorbagi who is the men’s world No 1 in the PSA world rankings.

 “I am absolutely thrilled to have achieved something that I have been dreaming of ever since I was a kid,” Al-Welili said. “Still so hard to believe, but I must say I was blessed to have all those people around me from day one to help me get where I am today. A special thanks to my family and my coaches.

“The next phase is not going to be easy at all, but I plan on being more organised, sharper, and more motivated to work much harder to learn more and try to hold on to that spot for as long as possible. Egyptian women’s squash has never been stronger and I am sure that I won’t be the last Egyptian to achieve that. Thanks to you all for the support and encouraging words,” Al-Welili said on her Facebook page.

Al-Welili, 26, becomes just the 13th player to hold the No 1 ranking after David who stayed atop the squash world for 109 months starting in August 2006. David won the World Open eight times, in 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014 and also the British Open in 2005, 2006, 2008, 2012 and 2014.

Al-Welili’s star shined in the 2014-2015 season in which she reached the final in six championships out of seven.

Her biggest wins during that stretch were the Women’s World Championship in Egypt held from 12-20 December 2014 when she won the individual title. She took her second Malaysian Open title in 2014, beating Nour Al-Tayeb in the final. She also won the four championship titles: the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in January 2015, the Cleveland Classic in the US in February, the Windy City Open in Chicago in March, and the Alexandria International Squash Open in Alexandria. The last was a PSA World Tour event with money prize worth $100,000.  It was held at the Library of Alexandria from 4 -10 June. In it, Al-Welili beat her compatriot Omneya Abdel-Qawi 11-6, 11-5, 11-9 in the final. In the semi-final, Abdel-Qawi had defeated David 11-7, 11-7, 8-11, 1-11, 12-10.

Al-Welili’s mother Reem Mansi told Al-Ahram Weekly after her daughter became No 1: “All her family were so happy. It was her dream. She spent a lot of years to achieve this. It wasn’t an easy task for her to beat David who was the world No 1 for nine consecutive years. David is really a prodigy and a big talent that we will never see again. I always thought that when David retired Raneem would be world No 1 but I never imagined that she could beat her.”

“This is the first time ever that an Egyptian female player in any sport becomes the best in the world,” executive director of the Egyptian Squash Federation Nassef George said.

Explained George, “The result of Al-Welili in Alexandria determined the whole issue. The tournament added a lot of points to her world ranking plus other points she accumulated from other championships she participated in during the year. All these points pushed her to world No 1 in September 2015.”

Al-Welili also captured the China Open in Shanghai from 1-6 September after beating her compatriot Nouran Gohar 13-11, 11-7, 11-7 in 32 minutes in the final match that had total prize money worth $58,000.

“I am glad with how I started the season and how I was focused and steady throughout the tour. I won today against a real fighter that will soon break into the top 10 and will make Egypt proud as well as my other teammates,” Al-Welili wrote on her Facebook page at the time.

In the men’s final in China, second-seeded Frenchman Gregory Gaultier won the title after beating Egyptian Al-Shorbagi 11-6, 11-2, 11-4 in 40 minutes.

“The final match was truly pure Egyptian,” George said, smiling. “Al-Welili was against world junior champion U-19 Gohar. It was an extraordinary event.” In the semi-finals, Al-Welili defeated American fourth-seed Amanda Sobhi 11-5, 11-5, 11-9. Egyptian world No 13 Gohar beat French world No 3 Camille Serme 11-8, 11-9, 11-8.

In the quarter-finals, Al-Welili beat Hong Kong’s fifth-seeded Annie Au 11-2, 11-0 who was forced to retire due to injury. Gohar, 17, defeated Malaysian David 9-11, 11-8, 11-5, 11-9 in 45 minutes.

 In the first round, Al-Welili beat fellow Egyptian Heba Al-Torki 5-11, 11-7, 11-8, 11-5. Gohar defeated New Zealand’s sixth-seeded Joelle King 14-12, 11-4, 11-5. David beat French Coline Aumard 11-6, 11-8, 10-12, 11-5.

Gohar is a young promising talent. She captured her first world junior individual Open title at the WSF World Junior Squash Championship in The Netherlands. She claimed the title after beating Habiba Mohamed 11-6, 7-11, 11-7,17-15 in the final match. The tournament included men’s and women’s under 19 individual and women’s team events.

In the women’s team competition, Gohar was on the Egyptian team which beat the US 2-0 in the final, winning the team title for a record seventh time in a row.

 “In any international championship, Egypt topped the overall country classification table followed by England and France,” added George.   

In the current women’s squash world standings, four Egyptian female players are in the top 10: Al-Welili, Omneya Abdel-Qawi at No 6, Nour Al-Sherbini No 7 and Nour Al-Tayeb No 8. Inside the top 20 are Gohar at No 13 and Salma Ibrahim No 20.

In the men’s squash, again four Egyptians are among the top 10: Al-Shorbagi, Rami Ashour No 5, Omar Mossad No 6, and Tarek  Mo’men world No 10.

What’s next on the ESF agenda? “The technical committee drew up a comprehensive training plan for the women’s team of Al-Welili, Abdel-Qawi, Al-Sherbini, Nour Al-Tayeb, Nouran Gohar and Habiba Mohamed immediately after the China Open,” George said. “They will compete in big international tournaments until December in order to get them ready for the big challenge, the Women’s World Championships in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia from 11-18 December.

 “The Minister of Youth and Sports Khaled Abdel-Aziz will honour Al-Welili on her achievement in his office Sunday morning, 13 Sept. The ESF will also pay tribute to her in the minister’s office.”

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