No.1 Nour El Sherbini triumphed over compatriot Raneem El Welily -
the woman she lost to in the final of last month’s Women’s AJ Bell
PSA World Championship final - to win the inaugural Saudi PSA
Women's Squash Masters in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia today (January 12) in
a historic moment in squash history.
In what was the first professional women’s squash tournament ever to
take place in Saudi Arabia, the duo stormed through the field to
reach the title-decider but it was El Sherbini who controlled
proceedings to prevail a comfortable 3-0 winner and become the first
female athlete in any sport to win a professional tournament staged
in the country.
The 22-year-old managed to get off to a strong start in the opening
game to set up the platform for the victory, which sees her capture
the first PSA World Series title of 2018.
"I felt that I was in control but at no time it was easy, even
though I was ahead in the score, she was always coming back,” said
"After losing in the World Championship final, this match and this
victory means a lot to me. But I know we will have many many more
"I am extremely proud to have been part of this historical
tournament. I want to thank everybody that made this event possible
for us, we are blessed to have been part of it.
"I am proud to be the first PSA Saudi Women's Masters champion - I
hope to come back next year to defend my title - and from the bottom
of my heart, I want to thank HRH Princess Reema, Ziad Al-Turki,
Fatma and the crowd that came and supported us all week."
Speaking after the match, El Welily said: "This was an incredibly
"We all want to thank those who have achieved great things by
putting on this event. We are grateful to Saudi Arabia for the
opportunity to play here and to HRH Princess Reema and Ziad Al-Turki
for their efforts in making the event happen and the opportunity to
play in such an incredible tournament."
Along with the title, El Sherbini's victory sees her leapfrog El
Welily in the PSA World Series Standings - all but guaranteeing her
a place at the PSA World Series Finals in June.
World No.1 Nour El Sherbini and World Champion Raneem El Welily will go
head-to-head in a repeat of last month’s Women’s AJ Bell PSA World
Championship final after the duo prevailed on semi-finals day to reach
the title-decider of the inaugural Saudi PSA Women’s Squash Masters,
World Series tournament held in Riyadh.
The pair are set to face off in a third PSA World Tour final in a row
after they achieved respective wins over compatriots Nouran Gohar and
Nour El Tayeb in what was the first time ever that four Egyptian women
had reached the semi-finals of a World Series event.
El Sherbini, who beat El Welily to win November’s Hong Kong Open before
losing out to her fellow Egyptian in last month’s World Championship
final, recovered from a game down to claim a seventh successive victory
over World No.5 Gohar, taking it 14-16, 11-8, 11-8, 11-5 in 55 minutes
to reach a fourth consecutive PSA World Tour final.
"It was a very tough match, the court was hot and bouncy, which suited
Nouran’s game more than mine, I thought," said El Sherbini.
"The first three games could have gone either way, but I’m glad I came
back after losing the first game, where I just didn’t manage to follow
my game plan.
"I am very proud that there were four Egyptians in the semis and to put
my name besides those of Raneem, Nouran and Nour. I hope that people
back home are proud of us."
The 22-year-old will look to improve on an 8-6 deficit on her
head-to-head record against El Welily after the World No.2 overcame El
Tayeb in a comfortable 3-0 victory.
El Tayeb had battled back from two games down against World No.3 Camille
Serme to progress from the second round, before ending a nine-match
losing streak to eight-time World Champion Nicol David in the last
But El Welily prevailed, taking a scrappy opener before holding her
nerve in a crucial second-game tie-break en route to completing an 11-7,
15-13, 11-5 triumph, which sees her make it three finals from three
World Series tournaments this season.
"I’m very happy I managed to win in three as the last two times we
played it went to five," El Welily said.
"I am proud to be part of this groundbreaking event here in Saudi and
also extremely proud of the achievement of the Egyptian women in this
"Tomorrow I’m playing Nour again. We have been playing a lot this
season, every time it’s been close and exciting, so hopefully tomorrow
will be the same. We are sharing a room as well here, so tomorrow is
going to be a long day for us."
The Saudi PSA Women’s Masters is the first professional women’s squash
tournament ever to take place in Saudi Arabia and both El Sherbini and
El Welily will do battle tomorrow at 19:30 local time (GMT+3) as they
bid to become the inaugural champion of the event.
In addition to the $25,000 winner’s prize, the pair will also be aiming
to win maximum points for the PSA Women’s World Series Standings. El
Welily is the current leader, but a win for El Sherbini will see her
leapfrog her compatriot to all but guarantee herself a top eight place,
which brings with it qualification for June’s PSA World Series Finals.
World No.7 Nour El Tayeb claimed her first ever victory over eight-time
World Champion Nicol David to become one of four Egyptian semi-finalists
at the 2018 Saudi PSA Women’s Squash Masters - making it the first time
ever that all four semi-final spots of a women’s PSA World Series
tournament will be taken up by Egyptians.
El Tayeb, who came back from two games down to beat World No.3 Camille
Serme in the previous round, had lost out to David on all nine of their
previous encounters - a run that stretched back to 2010 - and had taken
more than a game off the legendary Malaysian on just one occasion prior
to their meeting in Saudi Arabia.
But the 24-year-old from Cairo tore up the form book with a performance
reminiscent of the ones she showed during October’s U.S. Open title win
as she powered to an 11-7, 14-12, 11-9 victory in 35 minutes.
"I am out of words, there are no words to describe Nicol," El Tayeb
"She is the reason why today’s game is what it is, I’m so proud.
"It’s so incredible to have four Egyptian women in the semis of a world
series and I’m so proud I managed to get to the semis of three major
tournaments in a few weeks. That is new for me and I hope it’s a new
chapter in my career. I have always been a contender, a ‘tough draw’ but
I never managed to consistently beat the top girls."
El Tayeb will meet compatriot and World Champion Raneem El Welily for a
place in the final of the first professional women’s squash tournament
to take place in Saudi Arabia after El Welily weathered a storm against
World No.8 Sarah-Jane Perry.
World No.2 El Welily narrowly had the better of the opening stages to go
two games ahead, only to find herself up against a resurgent Perry in
the next two games as the woman from England levelled the scores.
However, El Welily refocused in the decider and closed it out for the
loss of four points to book her place in tomorrow’s semi-finals.
"It’s always so tough to play SJ, she has got a game plan and it’s so
hard to break," said El Welily.
"I was 2-0 up but I still lost the next two, although I was up 8-5 in
the two games. Nour (El Sherbini) told me the right words, just hit it
and run. So I did and eventually I got to those drop shots and boasts
and it worked."
World No.1 Nour El Sherbini moved to within one win of a fourth
successive PSA World Tour final after dispatching World No.20 Dipika
Pallikal 3-0, winning 11-5, 11-8, 11-4 in just 20 minutes.
"It wasn’t as easy as it looked," said El Sherbini.
"We have been playing since the juniors and Dipika is not easy to play."
World No.5 Nouran Gohar will meet El Sherbini for the third tournament
in a row after she defeated New Zealand’s Joelle King in straight games
to complete an Egyptian clean sweep.
The hard-hitting 20-year-old will look to end a six-match losing streak
against El Sherbini, with her only win over the two-time World Champion
coming back in 2014.
"I’m really pleased to be in the semis," Gohar said.
"Joelle and I are probably the hardest hitters on the Tour and we had to
clean the court a few times because we really worked very hard. She kept
coming back and it was such a hard match."
The semi-finals of the Saudi PSA Women’s Masters will be held tomorrow,
January 11, with play beginning at 19:00 local time (GMT+3).
Egyptian World No.7 Nour El Tayeb mounted a superb fightback from two
games down in Riyadh to send second seed Camille Serme out of the
inaugural Saudi PSA Women’s Squash Masters, PSA World Series tournament
at the second round stage.
The pair had met nine times previously on the PSA World Tour, with both
players taking it in turn to claim victories after Serme won their first
clash back at the 2007 Santiago Open.
Serme was 5-4 ahead on the duo’s head-to-head record coming into their
meeting in Saudi Arabia, having won their last meeting in March’s
British Open, and looked destined to break the cycle after winning the
first two games on the tie-break. But an increase in pace saw El Tayeb
charge back to complete a scintillating comeback, taking it 13-15,
11-13, 11-5, 11-6, 11-4 to reach the quarter-finals.
"Since we’ve been playing, it’s been my turn [to win], then her turn,
then my turn," said El Tayeb.
"Today was supposed to be my turn and when I found myself 2-0 down, I
thought that I was going to jinx it. I can’t believe I won this match,
I’m not the kind of player that normally comes back from 2-0 down, so
achieving that result today gives me a lot of confidence for tomorrow.
"I had two World Champions advising me, Nour [El Sherbini] and Raneem
[El Welily] and a future World Champ, Hania [El Hammamy] and I never
would have won without their support"
Malaysia’s eight-time World Champion Nicol David stands between El Tayeb
and a place in the semi-finals after the World No.6 recovered from a
game down to defeat Indian No.1 Joshna Chinappa.
Meanwhile, World No.1 Nour El Sherbini continued her tournament with a
comfortable victory over World Junior Championship runner-up Hania El
Hammamy and her quarter-final opponent will be World No.20 Dipika
Pallikal Karthik - the only unseeded player left in the tournament - who
upset England’s World No.10 Alison Waters by a 3-0 margin.
"It was my first time playing Hania and she is one of the young players
coming up, she is so tough to play," El Sherbini said.
"I didn’t know what to expect, that’s why in the first game I was still
trying to figure her out.
"She obviously had a plan today and it’s great that at such a young age
she can implement it on court. I was trying to play my game, but when
she gets a bit more experience, she is going to be so good."
World Champion Raneem El Welily booked her quarter-final berth after
easing past United States No.1 Olivia Blatchford, with World No.7
Sarah-Jane Perry lying in wait after dispatching Welsh World No.12 Tesni
"You know that Olivia will finish anything loose and her counter
dropping is amazing, so I had to be very careful with the way I selected
my shots today," said El Welily.
"After the first game, she changed her game plan and I was glad I was
able to adapt to it."
Egyptian World No.4 Nouran Gohar and New Zealand’s World No.9 Joelle
King will line up in the other quarter-final after they secured passage
through to the last eight with respective victories against Victoria
Lust and Annie Au.
Quarter-final action from the Saudi PSA Women’s Masters will be held
tomorrow (January 10) as a number of the world’s top female players
battle to earn a coveted berth in the semi-finals of the first
professional women’s squash tournament to take place in Saudi Arabia -
play starts at 17:30 local time (GMT+3).
Tournament wildcard Nada Abo Alnaja became the first Saudi woman ever to
compete on the PSA World Tour after the Riyadh-born 32-year-old featured
on day two of the 2018 Saudi PSA Women’s Squash Masters, World Series
Alnaja, who now resides in Jeddah, taught herself how to play the sport
initially, before enlisting the help of coach Fabien Polly while
spending time in Grenoble, France and she was making her Tour debut
after being granted the wildcard spot for the tournament.
She came up against World No.3 Camille Serme - who reached the
semi-finals of last month’s PSA Women’s World Championship - in round
one and the Frenchwoman was in ruthless form to claim an 11-1, 11-3,
11-2 victory to move into round two of the first ever women’s
professional squash tournament to be held in Saudi Arabia.
"It’s such an honour to play against the first ever [female] Saudi
player and to live through that historical moment," said Serme.
"I hope she is going to keep on playing and make more and more
Alnaja said: "Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined I would
one day stand here, in front of a Saudi crowd, playing Camille, in front
of Nour [World No.1 El Sherbini] and all the top players.
"When I was hitting the ball for hours in my club in Jeddah, looking
like a crazy woman, I would never have imagined where it would take me.
So the lesson is, ladies, whatever it is, if you love something,
whatever activity, make up, clothes, if you love it enough, just do it,
just put all of your energy in it because you never know where it may
Serme will face Egypt’s World No.7 Nour El Tayeb for a place in the
quarter-finals after El Tayeb claimed a comfortable 3-0 victory over
Hong Kong’s Liu Tsz-Ling.
"Camille is one of my favourite players, she is very fair and fun to
play with," El Tayeb said.
"I have learned a lot from her, I’m quite excited to play against her
Also through to the second round is World Champion Raneem El Welily
after she eased past Belgium’s Nele Gilis in straight games - winning
11-3 in all three games - and she will line up against United States
No.1 Olivia Blatchford, who dispatched Mariam Metwally 3-0.
"Nele is a strong player, physically she is very powerful and she hits
the ball very hard," said El Welily.
"I was trying to not give her anything to hit today. The court is
different from any court we normally play on so I was trying to get used
to it. I was trying all my shots and trying to move on court to get the
feel of it."
Elsewhere, Malaysia’s eight-time World Champion Nicol David earned her
place in the last 16 courtesy of a win in three games against Mayar Hany
and she will take on Indian No.1 Joshna Chinappa next, with the World
No.14 coming through a tough five-game battle with Canada’s Samantha
The other fixtures on day two saw Welsh World No.12 Tesni Evans and
England’s World No.8 Sarah-Jane Perry prevail over Millie Tomlinson and
Joey Chan, respectively, and the pair will go head-to-head for a place
in the quarter-finals.
Round two of the Saudi PSA Women’s Masters will take place tomorrow
(January 9), with matches starting from 15:30 local time (GMT+3).
World No.1 Nour El Sherbini moved into round two of the inaugural Saudi
PSA Women’s Squash Masters after the Egyptian saw off France’s Coline
Aumard on day one of the historic World Series tournament taking place
at The Green Halls in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi PSA Women’s Masters is the first professional women’s squash
tournament ever to take place in Saudi Arabia and offers up $165,000 in
prize money in addition to vital points for the PSA Women’s World Series
Standings, where players battle for a top eight place which will
guarantee them a coveted spot in June’s PSA World Series Finals.
And El Sherbini - making her first PSA World Tour appearance since
losing to compatriot Raneem El Welily in last month’s PSA Women’s World
Championship final - made a winning start to the tournament after
dispatching World No.30 Aumard by an 11-2, 11-7, 11-7 scoreline to seal
her second round berth.
"It’s such an amazing opportunity for us to be in Saudi," said El
"It’s only my second visit here, the last time I came I was five or six.
"I just hope we can keep coming back, especially as we have a lot of
Egyptian supporters in the crowd, which makes it special for us."
El Sherbini will take on fellow Egyptian Hania El Hammamy for a place in
the quarter-finals after the World No.24 caused the biggest upset of the
day courtesy of a 3-0 win over World No.16 Donna Urquhart.
"I cannot believe I’m through, this is my first time ever in the second
round of a World Series tournament," El Hammamy said.
"Lately, I’ve changed my game, I felt I had to. I used to be a bit
passive in my squash, so I have been working on hitting at a faster
pace, hitting harder and taking more opportunities one the volley, while
attacking more than I used to."
World No.5 Nouran Gohar was also a victor on the opening day of action
after a 3-0 victory over 2007 World Champion Rachael Grinham, claiming
an 11-5, 11-9, 11-8 triumph.
Up next for Gohar is a meeting with England’s Victoria Lust, who
launched a superb comeback from two games behind against Egyptian World
No.34 Nadine Shahin.
"She is so fit, she gets everything back and it’s so hard to beat her,"
"When I was younger, I used to watch her on TV during the Heliopolis
Open and I fell in love with her game then.
"Beating Rachael, who is such an experienced player, is very difficult.
She is such a tricky player. The only way I could beat her was to impose
my game, play fast and hit hard, but I had to make sure I was playing
extremely accurately otherwise she would have just played one of her
lobs and made me look completely ridiculous."
The first match of the day saw Hong Kong’s Annie Au recover from a game
down to defeat England’s former World No.2 Jenny Duncalf and her second
round opponent will be New Zealand’s Joelle King, who defeated World
No.21 Fiona Moverley in straight games.
There were also wins for England’s Alison Waters and India’s Dipika
Pallikal Karthik after they saw off Heba El Torky and Salma Hany,
First round action from the Saudi PSA Women’s Masters continues tomorrow
(January 8), when the likes of World Champion Raneem El Welily, World
No.3 Camille Serme and eight-time World Champion Nicol David begin their
squash number one Olivia Blatchford, World No.13, has heaped praise
on the organisers of last week's Saudi PSA Women’s Squash Masters,
the PSA World Tour squash event which made history by becoming the
first ever professional women’s sports event to be held in Saudi
In a week that also saw women granted the right to attend Saudi
League football matches for the first time in history following a
recent initiative backed by the General Authority of Sports in Saudi
Arabia to increase sporting participation and awareness across the
country, the ground-breaking squash tournament further helped break
down barriers as the world’s leading female squash players descended
on Riyadh to compete for a share of the $165,000 prize purse.
And Blatchford – who reached the last 16 of the tournament –
believes the timing of the event and the appearance of the world’s
top squash player in Saudi Arabia could play a significant role in
helping to promote positive change for women in the kingdom.
“Going to Saudi and competing at the event was, for me, about
resisting succumbing to misconceptions and giving myself over to
hope and fighting for change,” said the 24-year-old.
“It was about being a proud independent woman giving herself over to
an experience so much larger than herself. To be part of a growing
movement that promises growth and development.
“In the build up to the tournament there was a lot of speculation
regarding women’s rights and whether or not we were doing the right
thing by being there. ‘No-one could watch, where’s my streaming,
what about women’s rights?’ were comments that were being posted on
various media - and I can understand that.
“But this tournament was unlike anything that has been done before
and that is entirely the point - it’s different.
“Change takes time, nothing happens overnight, but I met so many
people who care about change and with their strength and
determination, change will happen.
“I don’t see how anyone could call it anything but a step in the
Amongst the top female players in the world taking part in the
ground-breaking World Series event – which saw Egypt’s World No.1
Nour El Sherbini crowned the winner - was tournament wildcard Nada
Abo Alnaja, who became the first Saudi woman ever to compete on the
PSA World Tour when she faced France’s World No.3 Camille Serme in
Abo Alnaja – who resides in Jeddah – taught herself how to play
squash initially, before enlisting the help of coach Fabien Polly
while spending time Grenoble, France and Blatchford described how
inspirational it was for everyone involved at the event to listen to
Abo Alnaja’s incredible story.
“I met Nada on my first afternoon in Saudi,” said Blatchford.
“She came into the ladies’ gym at the hotel, unravelled her head
scarf and promptly proceeded to hike up the incline on the other
treadmill. When I was done with my own session, she made her way
over and introduced herself in the most eloquent of English.
“We had dinner with her that night and it was amazing to listen to
her speak of change in Saudi, her own views and opinions and of
course her love of squash. We spoke about everything, from her own
life to how things were for most women in the country.
"It was inspirational to hear her talk of her dreams of one day
opening a squash academy and even her nervousness towards her
pending encounter with Camille. She spoke of frustrations and
limitations, strengths and growth.
“For us to be in Saudi meant the world to her, it gave her hope and
joy and it really was then that I knew being here was important. Not
just in a large newsworthy way but in a real way that this
tournament was monumental.
“In her post-match interview Nada urged spectating women to chase
after their dreams, that they didn’t know where they might find
themselves if they did. Her words got heard. Not going to Saudi
world have been to keep that locked away, like a diamond under
“To me, Nada was why we were there. Making history, or her-story. We
are there to inspire new squash players, to give hope, to show
people that you can pursue what you love - and that is power.”