Friday, February 23, 2024

Exclusive: Hania El Hammamy has ‘goosebumps’ ahead of World Team Championship title defence

Hania El Hammamy says playing for Egypt at this week’s WSF Women’s World Team Championships in Cairo will give her “goosebumps” and make her fight even harder for victory in front of her home crowd. 

El Hammamy’s renowned never-say-die attitude was to the forefront in Hong Kong last weekend where she captured the Eyebright Securities Hong Kong International Open with a stunning 89-minute five game victory in the final over Egypt team-mate and reigning world champion Nour El Sherbini. 

Before that, El Hammamy had beaten world no.1 and arch-rival Nouran Gohar in the semi-finals, with the 22-year-old fighting tooth and nail to overturn a 2-1 deficit and prevail 11-2 in the fifth after a mere 84-minutes of lung-bursting squash. 

Yet now just a week later, El Hammamy joins Gohar and El Sherbini in the same Egyptian team to defend the title they won four years ago in Dalian, China, along with Nour El Tayeb, whom El Hammamy beat in the quarters at Hong Kong. 

With the streets of Cairo adorned by life-sized billboards of these four national superstars, it’s no wonder the world no.3 can’t wait to get going when her team open up against Switzerland on Saturday (December 10). 

The British Open champion said: “It is just amazing how we have billboards on the streets with all our pictures! Everyone can’t wait for the tournament to start and it is just so amazing it is on home soil. 

“It just gives me goosebumps that it is being played in Egypt and also that it is the World Team Championship and not an individual World Championships. With an Egyptian shirt on it will definitely make us all fight even harder. 

“Nouran, the two Nours and I have only had three or four days’ break from Hong Kong which is not the best scenario for us and it has been a tough run up. 

“But with the World Team Championships in Egypt we don’t even care about that, all we want is to defend the title and lift it in front of our families in Cairo. We want to make our country proud. We have it on home soil, we are the defending champions, and it couldn’t be any better. 

“I had my first training session with the girls on Thursday afternoon and it was very interesting to see how everyone works and I hope it is all benefitting each one of us. 

“It is my first world team event and the other girls have already played one so if anyone is going to learn something it will definitely be me. To work with all that experience will be very interesting.” 

The Egyptian team is being coached by Engy Khairallah, the 40-year-old former world no.11. She actually played El Sherbini in June 2009 when the world no.2 was a 13-year-old prodigy and became the youngest player ever to reach the final of a WISPA World Tour event. It was in the Atco Miro Classic in Cairo with Khairallah prevailing in a dramatic five-game encounter. 

For her part, El Hammamy is delighted to have Khairallah in the team’s corner: “To have Engy coaching us for this event is fantastic. She was a great player herself and everyone has great respect for her. Playing for her will definitely give us all extra motivation. 

“I have played in the World Junior Championships for Egypt where I was the senior girl in the team but this is very different as I am the new player and this is my first World Senior Championships. 

“Nour, Nouran and Nour have all won it before with Raneem [El Wellily], so it’s an honour to be one of them and I am really looking forward to the week ahead. Hopefully we can create more memories together as a team and not as competitors against each other!” 

The Egyptians are no.1 seeds, but for El Hammamy it is second seeds USA who stand out as the clear and present danger to home hopes of a successful defence. She also has a sentimental reason for expecting a strong French challenge. 

“USA are a strong team. Obviously you have Amanda and Sabrina Sobhy and Olivia Fiechter and they are all very much on form,” said the world no.3. 

“France will also be very interesting with Camille [Serme] back. It is great to see she has come back for this as her final tournament. I have always loved playing against her. We haven’t had a proper goodbye so it is amazing she is coming out to Egypt. 

“I am sure just her presence will be very positive for the French team and it will be interesting to see how she plays as I know she will have trained hard with it being her final tournament. 

“But we also have a strong team and hopefully we can make home advantage count.” 

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