In an unprecedented victory, the Egyptian squash players Mohamed El Shorbagy and Nour El Sherbini won first prize in both the men’s and women’s finals of the British Open Squash Championship (BOSC).
The players made history for Egypt with their double victory for the country at the oldest and most prestigious squash tournament in the world.
An Egyptian in the finals looked likely from the outset, with four seeded Egyptian players coming into the tournament looking for a win. This year was the first time one country has dominated the BOSC finals since 1977, when Australian players Heather McKay and Geoff Hunt won both the men's and women's championships.
El Sherbini, currently ranked as the women's world No. 5, defeated Nouran Gohar 3-2, making her the first Egyptian woman to win the championship since 1922. El Sherbini seemed to be in disbelief at her victory, describing how "weird" it was to hear her name announced as champion.
"I'm very proud being the first Egyptian [woman] to win. It's a huge thing and hopefully other Egyptians will make us proud," she told AFP.
It was a different scene with the defeated Gohar, who tried to hold back her tears during post-match interviews. “I was so close. It was my first final and I didn't quite have the experience to win it," she said.
Meanwhile, top-seeded Elshorbagy retained his title with 11-3, 11-5, 11-9 against Ramy Ashour, who said he was not sufficiently prepared for the tournament.
“I should have prepared mentally better than I did today," Ashour told AFP; “On this tour you always play extremely tough matches from start to finish." Ashour became the world No. ranked player in January 2010 and won the squash World Open in 2014.
But for the elated Shorbagy, “it's been a crazy season," he said. In the slow grind of preparations for the tournament, Shorbagy had expressed doubts to his family over whether he could keep up his performance from last season.
So far this season, he seems to have exceed even his own expectations: "I've won five titles already so this is a dream for me” he told AFP.
Shorbagy won his first PSA World Series squash title in 2013, beating squash great Nick Matthew in the final of the Qatar Classic.
Egypt has clearly dominated world squash courts for years, with Egyptians taking a clean sweep of the internationally acclaimed British Junior Open in 46 championships, stretching right back to 1999. The under-19 men's category was won by a string of Egyptian champions between 2006 and 2013, and the under-17's for consecutive years between 2004 and 2012.
In the last 18 years of the women's Junior Open, Egypt has seen 15 overall wins in the under-15's category, and 12 in the under-19's.
In 2015 Egyptian Raneem al-Welily was crowned world No. 1 ranked squash player, according to the September 2015 PSA Women’s World Rankings. Welily is the first Egyptian and Arab female ever to claim the top spot — not only in squash, but in any professional sport.
The dominance of Egyptian squash players dates back to the early history of the game. The sport was introduced to Egypt during the British occupation, when the British built clubs for colonial officers in both Cairo and Alexandria and allowed Egyptians to use the courts out of hours.
Egypt's first great international champion was F.D Amr, an Egyptian diplomat who took up the sport while based in Britain. He won six consecutive British Open championships in the 1930s. His success was inspired by other Egyptian pioneers in the sport who had previously achieved top prizes in world championships.