Sunday,22 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1313, (29 september - 5 October 2016)
Sunday,22 October, 2017
Issue 1313, (29 september - 5 October 2016)

Ahram Weekly

A couple at the Pyramids

Al-Ahram’s International Squash Open returned to the Pyramids after a 10-year absence

Karim Abdel-Gawad
Karim Abdel-Gawad
Al-Ahram Weekly

The men’s and women’s Al-Ahram squash championship saw two Egyptian players claiming both titles despite the participation of the world’s top players. In front of one of the most iconic sporting backdrops of all time – the Pyramids of Giza – it was local man Karim Abdel-Gawad, the world No 6, and women’s world No 5 Raneem Al-Welili who took the honours in the 2016 Al-Ahram Squash Open in New Giza and write their names in Egypt’s sporting history books.

In the shadow of the iconic structures Abdel-Gawad, who defeated world championship runner-up Omar Mosaad to reach the title-decider, overcame Ali Farag – the Cairo-born world No 10 – in straight games to become the first Egyptian to taste success here since the legendary Ahmed Barada in 1998, while Al-Welili overcame the challenge of compatriot and world No 1 Nour Al-Sherbini to become the first Egyptian woman ever to win the famed title.

Receiving almost $17,000 each – the first time a major squash tournament in Egypt has offered parity in prize money – the duo delighted the capacity crowd to claim arguably the most important wins in their careers so far.

“It’s a great pleasure for anyone to play at this amazing venue – which is one of the most amazing locations of all time,” said Abdel-Gawad. “As a player it is a dream just to be here, but to win it is incredibly special. At the beginning of the tournament my only aim was to win my first round and to get to play one match at the Al-Ahram glass court. So I am so happy to hold and raise the trophy now. It was only at championship ball that it hit me, that I was about to win this tournament,” Abdel-Gawad told the audience after his victory.

“Ali and I played a good match and we both played the best Egyptians in the world all week. Today, I tried to be very strong mentally, and in particular during the first game. I wanted to show him that I was strong and determined, and very focused and it paid off for me.”

The women’s winner Al-Welili spoke after her thrilling five-game win over current world No 1 and world champion Al-Sherbini, which saw her take a two-game lead before Al-Sherbini’s fightback set up a tense decider. “Like before every match of this event, I went there with no expectations, with nothing in mind really and today, I didn’t feel any pressure on me. Even after the third and fourth, I thought I would start to feel pressure, or get nervous, but I surprised myself by coming back in the fifth extremely positive.

“Nour is the best player out there at the moment in women’s squash. She played a great match today and really fought hard until the end and I think we both gave it everything we had – which is fitting for this final.

“What made the difference today I think is that I truly didn’t mind losing,” Al-Welili said. “Of course, the support I got made a big difference, Tarek and the whole family, and my friends who came and supported me every day this week. No doubt the support made the difference.”

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