In the Hong Kong Open
18-year-old Ramy Ashour is starting
to fulfil his precocious talent beyond
the expectation of most obververs with wins over - John White, Thierry
Lincou and David Palmer.
In the summer of 2006 he
made squash history by becoming the first male player to win the World
Junior Championship twice. In an article for The Squash Player reproduced
here Ben Garner spoke to him on the eve of his historic achievement of his
life in Egypt and his future.
Text: Cairo is the
current capital of men’s squash, being home to world champion Amr Shabana
and the world’s leading junior, Ramy Ashour. Ramy is only 18, but the 2004
and 2006 world junior champion and 2006 British Junior Open champion has
already had an astonishing impact on the senior game, rising to number 20 in
the PSA rankings after just one full season on the Tour. Ramy’s fearless,
attacking style combined with a charismatic personality make him an
exceptionally exciting prospect.
When I asked him – on
the eve of his victory in the World Junior Championship in New Zealand – to
explain the amazing success of Egyptian squash, which also boasts the
women’s world junior champion, Ramy confirmed that being born and raised in
Cairo had massively contributed to his development.
“Most important is the
genetic factor. It does seem that as an Egyptian you have a good chance of
being blessed with talent,” explained Ramy. “Squash is also now the second
most popular sport in Egypt (behind football), and many juniors are inspired
to play having seen the success of people like Barada and now Shabana.”
Ramy began playing at
the age of six, having been jealous of watching his elder brother Hisham
(current world no.35) play. Originally coached by his father, Ramy showed a
natural aptitude for the game. Encouraged by early coaches who said he could
go far, from the age of ten Ramy began to take his training seriously. How
right those coaches were. In a remarkable junior career, Ramy dominated the
British Junior Open at every age group, but his proudest moment came in
2004, when as a 16-year-old he won the World Junior Championship in
Ever since he won the
first professional event he played in, the Athens Open in
November 2004, Ramy has had an impact on the senior game wherever he has
played. His shot-making, remarkable speed and obvious enjoyment of the game
have made him one of those rare individuals that even the other players on
the Tour take time out to watch. Big name scalps have been quick to come, an
exceptional haul being his successive defeats of Olli Tuominen, Shahir Razik
and Ong Beng Hee on his way to the final of this year’s Dayton Open.
certainly seems to have been helped by his being based in Cairo, where he
receives top-class support and exposure to the best players in the world.
“There’s a fantastic
set-up here, with federation training at Cairo Stadium, where I get to work
with national coach Amir Wagih and a fitness coach, and train every day with
people like Shabana, Darwish and Abbas,” explained Ramy. “The President,
Hosni Mubarak, also takes good care of the players, which means a lot.”
However much training he
does with such elite players, there is one player Ramy will always struggle
to beat: elder brother Hisham, who like Ramy lives at his parents’ house.
“I can go on court
against anyone in the world and play well if not beat him. But not against
my brother. He reads my game so well, and there’s too much going on in my
head. He’s the only person I can’t play to my potential against,” said Ramy.
Off court Ramy is a very
relaxed and happy character, and along with Hisham he commands one of the
biggest smiles and loudest laughs on the tour. Ramy also appears calm on
court, playing his natural game at all stages of a match.
“Before a match I remain
calm by singing and listening to music. However, I was more nervous for the
World Junior Championship this month than any event before, because of the
pressure, expectation and media interest,” said Ramy. “During a match, at
crucial points everyone gets nervous, but I try to make sure I’m less
nervous than my opponent; when I look into his eyes I want to be calmer.”
Ramy appears to have a
healthy balance of modesty and respect for other players on the one hand and
the self-confidence required to reach the pinnacle of the game on the other.
This was illustrated when I asked him who his hero was.
“I like Shabana and
Power, who we miss already on the Tour. However, I want to be myself, play
in my own style and be much better than anyone in particular,” he replied.
In the shorter term,
Ramy is looking forward to the World Open, which will be held in his home
town this September, and aims to be in the world’s top ten by the middle of
“In order to do that, I
need to work on my fitness and get more serious about that. I also need to
improve my footwork,” he admitted.
To reach the very
pinnacle of the game, the 18-year-old realises he will have to make many
sacrifices, and is willing to do just that.
“I don’t have a
girlfriend at the moment, as I am concentrating purely on my squash and it
can be a real distraction. The girls in Egypt are not as open minded as
foreign girls and don’t understand that you have to train and spend a lot of
time away from home; they get bored and think it’s because you don’t like
them any more,” he explained.
As a Muslim Ramy prays
five times a day, and must fast during the month of Ramadan. However, even
this is compromised if it interferes with his squash.
“Fasting during Ramadan
is the toughest thing in life. Nowadays I will not fast during a tournament
as I would have no energy and couldn’t play,” he said.
determination to dominate the world of squash, Ramy has a variety of ways of
taking his mind off the game when needed. Having turned 18, he is now able
to drive around Cairo, a city he describes as never sleeping, where people
are always on the streets. At weekends Ramy will often drive with friends to
a place near the Suez canal where he jet-skis or rents a boat and generally
chills out. Ramy clearly loves Cairo, where he was born and raised.
“I’m very proud of my
city,” explained Ramy, “I’m happy there and don’t want to go anywhere else.
I want any benefits from my success to go to my home town. I want to do it
As many Egyptian players
do when they first turn professional, Ramy still takes his education
seriously. He is studying Linguistics at the Arab Academy and is halfway
through a four-year course. Having had a serious knee injury, which required
him to wear a leg brace, in 2002, Ramy is well aware of the precarious
nature of a squash career – hence his decision to remain in education.
However, studying does not interfere too much with his training.
appreciate my squash needs and aren’t aggressive about deadlines for my
studies. I have flexible hours and the professors often work with me outside
of usual lecture times, which enables me to train morning and evening.”
With his extraordinary
talent, nurtured in the current hot-bed of world squash, and his mature and
balanced outlook, Ramy Ashour is certain to have a huge impact on the game