Squash king, queen eye PSA world finals

Squash king, queen eye PSA world finals

El Shorbagy of Egypt and Malaysia's Nicol set for glass court challenge



by

Moni Mathews

Published: Sun 10 Apr 2016, 2:22 PM

Last updated: Mon 11 Apr 2016, 12:15 PM

Dubai got know a little more about two of the finest players squash has produced in recent times.
Twenty five-year old Mohamed El Shorbagy of Egypt, the world number 1 and Malaysian superstar Nicol Ann David, till 2015 the undisputed queen of the court, were in Dubai to promote the PSA Dubai World Series Finals, which will run from May 24 - 28.
Speaking to Khaleej Times after the announcement of the glass court venue at the Buj Park for the PSA showdown, Elshorbagy said: "The glass court experience in Dubai is going to be something special for all of us who qualify for the world finals. Playing inside the walls of glass is a different ball game altogether with the speed and bounce of the ball varying according to the temperature outside."
On Egypt's unbelievable success in world squash, Elshorbagy, said: "We are highly motivated with so many previous legends to look up to. The fact that we have five men's players in the world top 10, and three women in the PSA ranking top 10 makes our job easier.
"The motivational aspects come automatically thanks to the legends we have at home and making improvements with extra hardwork for the world rankings and the majors become routine for us."
"I am from Alexandria where the sport is popular and so is Cairo especially at the club I am from - Smouha, which is also into top division football. "There two big squash clubs in the capital and they do a lot for the sport, so there is always continuity when it comes to talent spotting and grooming," he added, "I now train and attend university in Bristol in England. Former legend Jonah Barrington has been my mentor and guide after I reached England on scholarship at the age of 15."
"I have an advantage too as I am in always in top grade levels by playing regularly with my brother who is also a top 10 player. The next line of youngsters waiting to take over is big in numbers and this is such an encouraging factor for the development of the game, worldwide and in Egypt," said the mega star who reached a career-high world ranking of world No. 1 in November, 2014.
Elshorbagy entered the record books behind only Pakistani legends Jahangir and Jansher Khan, who both topped the rankings aged 18, and compatriot Ramy Ashour who became number one aged 22. "Former legend Amr Shabana is the one who started the trend among us to play squash at a higher gear. He was my idol and still is. It feels unbelievable right now,"said Elshorbagy.
Elshorbagy was the world junior squash champion in 2008 and 2009 and became only the second man, after Ashour to win the title twice.
Honoured in Malaysia with the title 'Datuk', 25-year old Nicol comes from the island paradise of Penang, way up in the north west of the country.
From August 2006, David was the world number one for a record-breaking 108 consecutive months, finally conceding the top ranking in July 2015 to Egypt's Raneem El Weleily
Nicol has won the World Open a record eight times and the British Open crown five times, and she was the first squash player to land the world junior title twice. 
Considered by some to be one of the greatest women's squash players of all time, her presence at the Dubai showdown in May along with seven other top qualifiers will be a great source of inspiration and entertainment for the connoisseurs of the sport here.
"My turning point came when I was 18 and my decision - supported by my parents and the government of course - to move to Amsterdam under former legend Liz Irving, as the single most important thing in my life. I was convinced in a short time that turning pro, sacrificing everything else including higher studies, was the right move for me. I worked very very hard after I was baptised into the sport thanks to a new court set up in Penang when I was five," Nicol said.
Nicol added: "I continue to train and live in the Netherlands and have realised there is still scope for improvement. I know I have been in it for a long time. Look at the strong Egyptian players who have very effective attacking styles and they have so many great players, past and present. I am as motivated as they are. They have greatly enhanced the standards among the top 20 today."
"The Dubai finals inside a glass court is going to be something one should not miss coming over to see the sport in a new dimension. The bounce varies and the 17-inch tin from the traditional court 19 is going to make the accuracy and speed levels reach an astonishing level," Nicol said.
Big time squash in Dubai including a well run five-division league existed in the 80s and the 90s, some of us who covered the sport here a long time ago, will remember.
The world's top four played in a Khaleej Times promoted round-robin event at the Hyatt Regency followed by the first ever glass court matches in the region in the beginning of the 90s.
The legendary Khans - Jehangir and Jansher - visited Dubai quite often and played exhibition matches at the various courts including the brand new ones that came up at the Aviation Club and at the once existent Dubai Country Club.
Championing the cause of the sport here then and even now are Dubai Police where coach Abbas Khan, a former world top 15 player along with the officials, spend time to promote the sport at the grassroot level.
Athens Olympics (2004) double trap (shooting) gold medallist Shaikh Ahmed Hasher Al Maktoum was the undisputed UAE champion during the 90s and he took part in some of the international exhibition games held during the time in the emirate.
World squash will reach new heights next month at the season-ending spectacular, the PSA Dubai World Series Finals in an innovative all-glass facility in Burj Park, Downtown next to the Burj Khalifa and The Dubai Fountain.
Attending the media announcement on Sunday were Saeed Hareb, secretary general, Dubai Sports Council; PSA chairman, Ziad Al Turki; president of the UAE Squash Association, Major General Abdul Aziz Al Bannai, and senior PSA representatives.

World no. 1 men's player Mohamed Elshorbagy (Egypt) and Nicol David (Malaysia), queen of women's squash the past decade, and current world no. 5, get used to the glass court facility in front of the iconic Burg Khalifa in downtown Dubai.
Photo by Moni Mathews
Big time squash in 80s and 90s
Big time squash in Dubai including a well run five-division league existed in the 80s and the 90s, some of us who covered the sport here a long time ago, will remember.
The world's top four played in a Khaleej Times promoted round-robin event at the Hyatt Regency followed by the first ever glass court matches in the region in the beginning of the 90s.
The legendary Khans - Jehangir and Jansher - visited Dubai quite often and played exhibition matches at the various courts including the brand new ones that came up at the Aviation Club and at the once existent Dubai Country Club.
Championing the cause of the sport here then and even now are Dubai Police where coach Abbas Khan, a former world top 15 player along with the officials, spend time to promote the sport at the grassroot level.
Athens Olympics (2004) double trap (shooting) gold medallist Shaikh Ahmed Hasher Al Maktoum was the undisputed UAE champion during the 90s and he took part in some of the international exhibition games held during the time in the emirate.
World squash will reach new heights next month at the season-ending spectacular, the PSA Dubai World Series Finals in an innovative all-glass facility in Burj Park, Downtown next to the Burj Khalifa and The Dubai Fountain.
Attending the media announcement on Sunday were Saeed Hareb, secretary general, Dubai Sports Council; PSA chairman, Ziad Al Turki; president of the UAE Squash Association, Major General Abdul Aziz Al Bannai, and senior PSA representatives.
moni@khaleejtimes.com


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