British Open champion sets sights on world crown
Interview by NATHAN CLARKE
In-form Egyptian World No.2 Nour El Sherbini is relishing the prospect of competing in the upcoming PSA Women’s World Championship which gets under way in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Monday April 25. And she insists she is a different person from the one that lost out in the final two years ago in the same country.
The Alexandria native became the youngest World Championship finalist in 2014 where a stunning run in Penang that saw her take out a quartet of seeded players, including home hero and eight-time World Champion Nicol David, put her up against current World No.1 Laura Massaro in the showpiece event.
Despite narrowly going down in five to Massaro, El Sherbini credits that defeat as something of a watershed moment in her career, as she soon surged to the upper echelons of the game. This culminated in a historic victory at last month’s Allam British Open which saw her become the first female Egyptian winner and the second youngest winner of the prestigious tournament at the age of just 20.
“I feel a lot of things changed (since the World Championship final defeat),” said El Sherbini.
“I was always told that I played well but I didn’t manage to close the match and win so I was frustrated.
“But now I feel that I went through a lot of situations in that glass court that changed me as a person in general and not just as a squash player. Hopefully, I will keep going the same way.”
El Sherbini has established herself as one of the world’s leading players, with a first World Series title at the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in January preceding her British Open triumph.
Her sensational season has also catapulted her into reckoning for top spot in the World Rankings if results go her way but David, a previous incumbent of the World No.1 position, could stand in El Sherbini’s way with the duo seeded to face off in a potentially electrifying quarter-final matchup.
El Sherbini has won the last four meetings between the pair, with the most recent coming in the British Open, but is wary of the threat that David, who will be backed by a partizan home crowd, poses to her dream of becoming the winner of the most lucrative Women’s World Championship of all time.
“Beating any player even 100 times doesn’t count in squash,” she said. “I will just go in there giving each match 100 per cent concentration and sticking to my game plan.
Picture Gallery by PATRICK LAUSON (www.patricklausonphotography.co.uk)
“Nicol is a legend and will always be a legend so playing her anytime is never easy, no matter the result, and I am looking forward to a great match if we both make it to play each other.
“Winning the British Open was certainly a great boost to my career as I was always dreaming of winning a big title, that’s what any player dreams of. But the World Championship is something different. I will be going there as if nothing happened and I am starting again from the beginning, match by match.
“Becoming the World Champion would mean everything to me, it’s what I dream of all the time. I will give it everything, for myself, my parents, my team, my club and my country, Egypt.”
El Sherbini begins her campaign in Malaysia against Australia’s Donna Urquhart, with a fixture against either Dipika Pallikal and Annie Au to follow if she wins.
All matches will be played at the National Squash Centre between Monday April 25 – Saturday April 30, Bukit Jalil and admittance to the event is free of charge. For more information and details, visit here: http://psawwckualalumpur.com/
Pictures by PATRICK LAUSON (www.patricklausonphotography.co.uk) and STEVE LINE (www.squashpics.com) courtesy of PSA