Egypt’s phenomenal depth of quality
By ALAN THATCHER and SEAN REUTHE
Egypt’s Raneem El Welily has reclaimed the number one spot in the PSA Women’s World Rankings for December 2018. In a sport currently dominated by Egyptians, she has overtaken compatriot Nour El Sherbini at the pinnacle of the women’s game.
El Welily, who is married to fellow squash star Tarek Momen, will be 30 on January 1st.
She epitomises the Egyptian style of attacking squash that has changed the squash landscape in the past few years. She brings an aggressive, physical dimension to the game, coupled with great shot-making abilities that make her one of the strongest players in the history of the game.
Since folding against Nicol David in the final of the 2014 Women’s World Open in Cairo of all places, where she failed to take advantage of several match balls, her confidence has grown and with it her flair for finishing rallies in fine style.
She lost another World Open final, to El Sherbini in El Gouna in 2016, but finally got her name on the winner’s trophy when she reversed that result in Manchester the following year.
El Welily became the first female Egyptian in any sport to become a World No.1 when she ended Nicol David’s record nine-year reign in September 2015. She then topped the rankings for four months until surrendering the spot to England’s Laura Massaro in January 2016.
But her run to the final of the Hong Kong Open last week, coupled with a quarter-final defeat for El Sherbini, means that El Welily has once again claimed the coveted World No.1 spot, ending El Sherbini’s 31-month reign in the process.
“I started this season with the target of doing my best in every tournament and every match, to try and make it to as many finals possible and hopefully maybe win a title or two,” said El Welily.
“I was lucky to have a good start to the season, but the second half of the season will definitely be very exciting. The women’s game is currently so competitive, and each girl is proving to be at her best this season.”
El Sherbini drops to No.2 ahead of another Egyptian, Nour El Tayeb, while New Zealand’s Joelle King rises three places to No.4 after she beat El Welily in Hong Kong to win her first PSA World Tour Platinum title. France’s Camille Serme completes the top five.
Elsewhere, Sarah-Jane Perry (No.6) becomes the new England No.1, with the previous holder of that honour, Laura Massaro, tumbling three places to No.8 to record her lowest ranking since March 2011.
Nouran Gohar rises to No.7, while Wales’ Tesni Evans and England’s Alison Waters close out the top 10. Malaysia’s eight-time World Champion David drops out of the top 10, falling two places to No.12.
Hong Kong’s Annie Au rises one place to No.11, with United States No.1 Amanda Sobhy staying at 13. England’s Victoria Lust rises two places to 14, while India’s Joshna Chinappa falls to No.15.
Egypt’s Salma Hany (16), United States’ Olivia Blatchford Clyne (17), Hong Kong’s Joey Chan (18), Australia’s Donna Lobban (19) and Hania El Hammamy are the other players to feature in the top 20.
For Egypt, one wonders how long this reign of power will continue. With six players in the world top 20, and a production line with so many more future stars rising up the rankings, the depth of quality is simply phenomenal.
Last week the Women’s World Team Championship winning squad were joined by coach Amr Shabana when they were invited to a special reception hosted by the President, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, where they were presented with Medals of Honour alongside the Egyptian men’s football team.
PSA Women’s World Rankings Top 20 – December 2018.
Main picture by PATRICK LAUSON. Graphic courtesy of PSA