Saturday, July 20, 2024

Alan’s Blog: Egypt rules the rankings

Egypt rules: world champion Ramy Ashour and world number one Mohamed Elshorbagy
Egypt rules: world champion Ramy Ashour and world number one Mohamed Elshorbagy

The future has arrived as Egypt dominates world squash

By Alan Thatcher, Squash Mad Editor

Karim Darwish once joked that one day there would be 11 Egyptians in the world top 10. That day is almost upon us. The future has already arrived.

Five Egyptians are in the latest PSA men’s and women’s top 10 rankings. Both tables are headed up by Egyptians, with Mohamed Elshorbagy proudly celebrating his first year at number one and Raneem El Welily in her second month on top after ending Nicol David’s extraordinary record of nine years in front of the women’s standings.

Following Mohamed Elshorbagy, Egypt have world champion Ramy Ashour at four, Omar Mosaad at seven, Tarek Momen at eight and Marwan Elshorbagy at 10. Three more Egyptian players are ranked between 11 and 20, Karim Gawad (12), Fares Dessouki (19) and Mazen Hesham (20). 

The record would have been even more impressive but for the recent retirement of the great Amr Shabana.

With Raneem El Welily on top of the women’s standings, Egypt really does rule the rankings.

Omneya Abdel Kawy is at six, Nour El Sherbini at seven, Nour El Tayeb is at eight, and Nouran Gohar has moved into the top 10 for the first time to join them at nine.

The best selfie in the history of squash with two number ones, Mohamed and Raneem
The best selfie in the history of squash with two number ones, Mohamed and Raneem

A wave of young Egyptian girls will soon be knocking on the door of the top 20 as this relentless drive towards global domination continues. Egypt really is the new master race in squash. 

That mantle has been held in previous decades by England, Australia and Pakistan (men only). It is cyclical, but not entirely unpredictable.

Anyone studying junior form over the past decade could see this coming, with events like the World Junior Championships and the British Junior Open dominated in most age groups by Egyptians.

With only one Englishman (world number two Nick Matthew) now in the top 10, and with James Willstrop slipping outside of the top 20, the change of guard is being keenly felt in England.

Peter Barker, a long-term resident of the world top six, has slipped to 11, and his Essex team-mate Daryl Selby is the only other Englishman in the top 20 at 18.

The last time the world top 10 featured just one Englishman was in September 1992, when the two-handed Peter Marshall moved up to 10.

Six months earlier, in March 1992, it was ZERO, the highest-ranked English player being Del Harris at 12.

In the women’s rankings, England’s Laura Massaro and Alison Waters are ranked three and five respectively. Both are 31 years old, extremely fit and still hungry to succeed,  and will hopefully be at the top of the game for many years to come, although both suffered shock defeats this week in the first round of the Weymuller Open in Brooklyn.

Raneem Elwelily has moved ahead of Nicol David
Raneem Elwelily has moved ahead of Nicol David

It is a fascinating period in the game, with many national federations investing resources in producing a coaching and development model to rival that of the Egyptian conveyor belt.

Several leading players of the past two decades, now self-employed coaches, are also working towards the same goal.

Many independent academies, especially those operating in England, USA, Canada and Australia, are beginning to produce impressive results, sometimes in partnership with national federations and occasionally with unwanted friction.

As for Pakistan, every few months the media conducts the same old interview with Jahangir Khan and Jansher Khan, lamenting the passing of the golden years and suggesting new training camps to help their boys improve.

Sadly, they never discuss how to develop a new generation of young female squash players. Perhaps that also has something to do with young Pakistani girls being brutally attacked whenever they ask for basic human rights such as an education and the right to play sports. Some countries are clearly learning nothing from the Egyptians. 

And just think, if Raneem had not squandered all those match balls against Nicol David in Cairo last year, Egypt would also have both world champions, with Ramy Ashour beating Mohamed Elshorbagy in the last two men’s finals.

Who can stop Egypt? It is the biggest question in squash, and may be for years to come.

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