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Third Time Lucky For Omneya In Hurghada

Hurghada International
Cairo & Hurghada, Egypt $20,800

Third Time Lucky For Omneya In Hurghada

It was third time lucky for Egypt's Omneya Abdel Kawy in the final of the Women's Hurghada Squash International when the 20-year-old runner-up for the past two years finally beat Australia's two-times champion Rachael Grinham to lift the prestigious WISPA World Tour title for the first time.


But it was a double blow for Grinham, the former world No1 from Queensland, who earlier in the day discovered that she had been overtaken in the world rankings for the first time by her kid sister Natalie Grinham!


There was a packed crowd surrounding the all-glass court erected on the main promenade of the Red Sea resort of Hurghada in Egypt – all hoping to witness local heroine Omneya Abdel Kawy finally get the better of the higher-ranked Australian who had won their six successive Tour meetings over the past three years – two of which had been on the same court under the same balmy evening conditions by the Red Sea.


Kawy leapt to a 7-0 lead in the first game before Grinham responded.  The Australian pulled back four points, but two errors gave Abdel Kawy game ball – and at the third time of asking the Egyptian tempted Grinham into the wrong half of the court and a drive to the other meant she was one up.


The crowd erupted - the cacophony continuing throughout the break and completely drowning out the officials' call to the players to return to the court!  Kawy forged ahead again as she had done in the first – and after only eight minutes reached game ball with another flicked backhand across the court.  When the Australian floated the ball out of court to end the next rally, pandemonium followed again in the stands.


Rebecca Botwright who had a short stopover before returning to Cairo Airport to reach Hurghada was unable to advise Siddall to success

Fernandes (right) and Schumann at the venue just before meeting again on court

In the final twelve months earlier, Grinham had come back from two games down to win 10-8 in the fifth.  Could history be about to be repeated?  Grinham took a 7-2 lead, at which point errors began to flow from the Egyptian's racket.  When the Australian took the third game, after a stroke against Kawy, the fans were quietened - until the interval music brought the crowd onto their feet and back in festival mode!

The fourth game mirrored the early stages of the third. The usual blend of Grinham lobs, holds, gut-wrenching boasts and a few other speciality moves took her all the way to 9-0 in a mere seven minutes.


Each point Kawy won in the decider sent the crowd chanting 'Omneya, Omneya …'.  The chants became more overpowering as Kawy extended a 4-2 lead to 8-2, and match-ball – by which time few in the audience were sitting.  Grinham hit a return out over the front wall and all order disappeared in an outpouring of sheer joy.  Their Egyptian darling had done it at last – in a stunning 9-6, 9-2, 7-9, 0-9, 9-2 victory in 75 minutes.


Acknowledging her family and the whole crowd, Abdel Kawy had a smile as wide as the Nile as she received the trophy from Hassan Sakr, President of Egypt's National Council of Sport. 


As the happy crowd slowly ebbed away, Abdel Kawy admitted that it had not been easy:  "I put a lot of pressure on myself when I was 2/0 up and I played badly at the start of the third.  I got better but it is too late to improve when Rachael is already winning.  Then in the fourth I wasn't there, but thank God in the fifth I played good," she said.


"I guess I am a famous person in Egypt now!” she said, only half joking. “The crowd were so happy to have an Egyptian winner and I think that Rachael was a little shocked by them and I took advantage at the start.  Then they helped me to come back in the fifth."


Grinham, based in Cairo, will return to the capital - doubtless reflecting on what went wrong as she crosses the desert on the five-hour run by car.  “I felt good after last night and played okay generally but I wasn't quite good enough.


“The crowd were behind her but it didn't affect me.  It was strange because the game was very up and down and it was difficult to really get a rhythm."

Grinham & Kawy Celebrate Hurghada Final Hat-Trick

Australia's Rachael Grinham and Egypt's Omneya Abdel Kawy will face each other in the final of the Women's Hurghada Squash International for the third successive year after surviving lengthy and testing semi-finals on the all-glass court on the main promenade of the Red Sea resort of Hurghada in Egypt.


Top seed Grinham, the defending champion looking for her third title in a row, suffered a slow start in her match against rising Egypt star Engy Kheirallah, the 24-year-old from Alexandria who burst into the world's top twenty in December last year. Indeed Kheirallah, who beat the former world number one in an invitation tournament at Gezira in Cairo only a month ago, raced to a 6-0 lead in the opening game.


After reaching game ball at 8-5, Kheirallah seemed to lose a little of her purpose and allowed the elfin-like Australian to clamber back to eight-all and then take the game with a rasping forehand drive that the Egyptian could only wave on its way.


From then on, the momentum was with Grinham, and despite her opponent's well known stubbornness the remainder of the match was straightforward – and, after 56 minutes, Grinham clinched her 10-8, 9-2, 9-3 victory.


Kheirallah has shown sustained improvement this year, something she puts down to playing more with men. “I used to have a very soft game but I have been trying to harden it and be more attacking,” said the Egyptian No2.

Afterwards the winner acknowledged the importance of the first game: “It made a huge difference winning it,” said Grinham, the 29-year-old from Queensland celebrating her 34th appearance in a WISPA World Tour final. "I was aware that if she took it her confidence would grow. I knew that she has been playing well, probably top ten standard, so I needed to get ahead of her mentally. She started so sharply that I was hanging on. I wasn't doing anything wrong in the first, but snatching it gave me the initiative."

When told that Grinham had suggested that she is already playing to world top ten standard, Kheirallah pinpointed the position as her target for the end of the year – as well as to be part of an Egyptian team that could do better than their best ever fourth spot in the Women's World Teams.

It turned out to be a disappointing evening for Alexandrians when eighth seed Raneem El Weleily, the 17-year-old world junior champion who hails from the same Mediterranean city as Kheirallah, went down 8-10, 9-6, 9-0, 9-10, 9-1 to second seed Omneya Abdel Kawy.

Kawy settled first and reached 6-1 in the opening game – but El Weleily fought back to take a one-game lead. The second was close until the latter stages when El Weleily faltered by losing her shape – and in the third, the teenager peppered the tin to lose it 9-0 in a mere five minutes.

She continued in this vein until she was 7-0 down in the fourth - thus two points away from defeat. At which point El Weleily began to play constructive squash again – which led to taking the game and drawing level.

But it was the more experienced Kawy – albeit only three years older at 20 - who had the upper hand in the decider to clinch victory after 65 minutes.

El Weleily gathered up her bag and rushed from the court, distressed by the defeat. Meanwhile, the winner was basking in the adulation of the crowd that were chanting her name.

Some of this was clearly relief, as Kawy – now in her 12th WISPA final - explained: "I was so scared because Raneem is very good, so fit and so young."

Engy Ends Salma's Run In Hurghada

In the only match of the night without a clear 'home' favourite for the packed crowd to support, Egypt's Engy Kheirallah ended the impressive run of compatriot Salma Shabana to earn a place in the semi-finals of the Women's Hurghada Squash International at the Red Sea resort of Hurghada for the first time.

Kheirallah, 24, from Alexandria, has made steady progress on the WISPA World Tour over the past year – winning three titles since August and earning a career-high world No17 ranking this month. Shabana, however, is pursuing a new career as a mother following an earlier WISPA career which took the 29-year-old to a career-high world No20 ranking more than five years ago.

Watched by newly-arrived fiancé Karim Darwish, the world No10, Kheirallah had little trouble in beating the sister of Darwish's Egyptian team-mate Amr Shabana, the world No1, who had clearly come a match too far after her stirring performances earlier in the event.

"I had very little to give today," said Salma after her 9-2, 9-6, 9-3 defeat in 30 minutes. "She played really well but I didn't get into it until the third."

When asked if her comeback was a one-off or would she be back playing regularly, Shabana replied: "I may play more events if I can bribe my mum to baby-sit!”

Kheirallah admitted that she had been nervous before the match. “Salma has had some good wins and seemed to be playing better than before. I am so happy to make the semi-finals and will be doing my best to make it an all-Egyptian final."

Kheirallah's next hurdle will be favourite Rachael Grinham, the former world No1 from Australia who made Cairo her home some five years ago.

Grinham, winner of the last two Hurghada events, was too strong for England's Rebecca Botwright, beating the sixth seed 9-4, 9-3, 9-1 in just 23 minutes.

Botwright, playing her first match in the tournament after a surprise walkover in the opening round, was insightful about her opponent: "You don't think she generates much pace, but the ball is always dying in one corner or another, just out of reach. She puts so much hold on the ball that I found myself defending the whole time."

The other semi-final will be an all-Egyptian affair between Omneya Abdel Kawy, the second seed from Cairo, and eighth seed Raneem El Weleily, the 17-year-old world junior champion from Alexandria.

El Weleily leapt out of the blocks against qualifier Nicolette Fernandes and after 35 minutes claimed her 9-6, 9-2, 9-3 win.

The 22-year-old from Guyana was generally happy with her efforts: “I played a silly point in the middle of the first that seemed to give her momentum. In the end she won it rather than me losing it even though I was ahead. I just didn't put her under enough pressure.”

El Weleily, a mature adult squash player in a teenage body, added: “I didn't expect to play as well as I did. She was tough but mentally I was good and physically in shape. There was pressure on me as she had beaten the third seed."

Loudly supported by the crowd, chanting 'Omneya, Omneya…' and clapping and swaying in rhythm to provide a backdrop unmatched elsewhere on the Tour, Kawy beat her fifth-seeded Welsh opponent Tegwen Malik 9-4, 9-5, 9-7 in 38 minutes.

Malik, now 30, told reporters afterwards: “I have spent a month trying a few new things with Chris [Chris Robertson, Welsh National Coach] that I want to add to my game. But it was difficult to use them on a fast court like this. I will get back to it when I get home."

When asked about her next opponent in the event, Kawy surprisingly revealed: "I have never played Raneem before on the WISPA Tour. In fact I think I have only played her maybe two years ago in a local event."

Fernandes Enjoys 'Best Win Ever' In Hurghada Upset

Guyana qualifier Nicolette Fernandes clinched "my best win ever" when she upset third seed Pamela Nimmo on the second day of first round action in the Women's Hurghada Squash International at the Red Sea resort of Hurghada in Egypt.

Since moving from her Caribbean home to the UK to gain access to the intensive coaching she needed, 22-year-old Fernandes has become a fully-rounded player who can pose problems to those ranked above her current ranking of 45.

Fernandes powerfully demonstrated this against Nimmo, the world No20 from Scotland, whom she beat 9-7, 9-1, 4-9, 9-6 in 46 minutes.

As the dejected Scot left the all-glass court, spectacularly staged in the in the middle of the Hurghada promenade and surrounded by holiday hotels and a variety of tourist outlets, Fernandes was ecstatic: "That was my best win ever - especially as it came here. I have never played in front of a big audience in a spectacular place. Just walking on court was really special.”

Fernandes will next meet eighth seed Raneem El Weleily, one of three Egyptians through to the last eight. The 17-year-old world junior champion from Alexandria beat New Zealand's Louise Crome 9-1, 6-9, 9-4, 9-2 in 38 minutes.

"This is the hottest place I have ever been to,” said Crome, who moved to Amsterdam three weeks ago after giving up full time work as an airline financial analyst to pursue squash full-time.

There was also disappointment for another Kiwi when unseeded Jaclyn Hawkes was unable to build on two leads against Tegwen Malik – eventually going down 3-9, 9-6, 6-9, 9-7, 9-1 in 59 minutes to the fifth seed from Wales.

"I've got fitness on my side and maybe a bit of experience too," conceded Malik, from Swansea, afterwards. "Jaclyn played well and really put me to the test but at least I have got through after a long day even though I lost a little focus here and there."

Malik will face Egypt's Omneya Abdel Kawy for a place in the semi-finals. Seeded two, Kawy is expected to reach the final for the third successive year – but is looking for her first win. The 20-year-old from Cairo beat Italian qualifier Manuela Manetta 9-1, 9-0, 9-3 in 25 minutes.

Kawy was full of praise for her opponent: “She played well in the first and third but in the second she was not there. She may have been scared by the crowd a little and could play better still."

Salma Continues To Shine In Hurghada

Salma Shabana, the surprise package of the qualifying event in Cairo, continued to shine on the opening day of the main event at its now established home at the Red Sea resort of Hurghada when she crushed seventh seed Samantha Teran in the first round of the Women's Hurghada Squash International.

Teran, a two-times Pan American champion from Mexico, had no answers to the 29-year-old qualifier from Cairo who last played seriously on the WISPA World Tour three years ago.

Shabana took the closely-contested first game on the all-glass court sited in the middle of the Hurghada promenade that is surrounded by holiday hotels and a variety of tourist emporiums.

But the second game unveiled a totally different match: "To use the jargon, Salma was well and truly in the zone," said tournament organiser Andrew Shelley. "Teran could not respond to the quality squash being thrust upon her and she lost the second two games for just one point," explained Shelley after the 9-4 9-1 9-0 rout in 30 minutes.

The 25-year-old Mexican was mystified by her performance: "I felt I couldn't power the ball to the back but she was volleying more and not giving me a chance. I lost confidence. I'm used to the heat but I felt tired. I really don't know what happened."

Shabana could merely add: "It all clicked. I really don't know how I played as I was so into it."

More illuminating, perhaps, were the comments of husband Omar Elborolossy, the former Egyptian international. "She had been playing that well in practice for the last month. Better than she has ever played before in her life so I am not surprised."

After a rest day, Shabana will next face compatriot Engy Kheirallah, herself in prime form having broken into the WISPA top twenty for the first time.

The 24-year-old fourth seed from Alexandria showed why she had beaten Omneya Abdel Kawy and Natalie Grainger to reach the final of the Texas Open recently. And although she let points slip against tenacious WISPA 36 ranked Sarah Kippax she never looked likely to relinquish a game to her English opponent.

"I was a bit nervous at the start because last year I was seeded in the top eight and didn't get through to the quarters, and now I am seeded four," said Kheirallah after her 9-6, 9-2, 9-4 win in 38 minutes. "This time there is even more pressure."

Australia's top seed Rachael Grinham confidently began the defence of her title with a 9-1, 9-4, 9-0 defeat of Malaysia's Tricia Chuah in just 22 minutes. The former world No1, who has been based in Cairo for the past five years, will next meet England's Rebecca Botwright, who was given a walkover into the last eight after opponent Georgina Stoker was forced to pull out of her all British clash as the result of a virus.

Salma Scores Hurghada Win

Some three years after last playing competitively on the WISPA World Tour, Egypt's Salma Shabana recorded a notable triumph in the first qualifying round of the Women's Hurghada Squash International in Cairo, Egypt.

Now mother of four-year-old son Marwen and eleven-month daughter Amina, Shabana runs a squash academy with husband Omar Elborolossy, also a former Egyptian international – and the presence of the former world No20 certainly inspired her several pupils competing in the established WISPA event.

“I really just wanted to get fit to coach well but Omar said I was playing well so why not target Hurghada”, said the 29-year-old said after beating current Egyptian international Eman El Amir 9-3, 9-6, 9-1 in 34 minutes.

Shabana will meet England's Lauren Siddall in the qualifying finals.

Hurghada International 2006
26 May - 01 June, Cairo & Hurghada, Egypt
Round One
May 28/29
May 30
May 31
Jun 01
[1] Rachael Grinham (Aus)
9-1, 9-4, 9-0 (22m)
Tricia Chuah (Mas)
Rachael Grinham
9-4, 9-3, 9-1 (23m)
Rebecca Botwright
Rachael Grinham
10-8, 9-2, 9-3 (56m)
Engy Kheirallah
Rachael Grinham
9-6, 9-2, 7-9, 0-9, 9-2 (75m)
Omneya Abdel Kawy
[6] Rebecca Botwright (Eng)
Georgina Stoker (ENG)
[4] Engy Kheirallah (Egy)
9-6, 9-2, 9-4 (38m)
Sarah Kippax (Eng)
Engy Kheirallah
9-2, 9-6, 9-3 (30m)
Salma Shabana
[7] Samantha Teran (Mex)
9-4, 9-1, 9-0 (30m)
[Q] Salma Shabana (EGY
Louise Crome (Nzl)
9-1, 6-9, 9-4, 9-2 (38m)
[8] Raneem El Weleily (Egy)
Raneem El Weleily
9-6, 9-2, 9-3 (35m)
Nicolette Fernandes
Raneem El Weleily
8-10, 9-6, 9-0, 9-10, 9-1 (65m)
Omneya Abdel Kawy
[Q] Nicolette Fernandes (GUY
9-7, 9-1, 4-9, 9-6 (46m)
[3] Pamela Nimmo (Sco)
Jaclyn Hawkes (Nzl)
3-9, 9-6, 6-9, 9-7, 9-1 (59m)
[5] Tegwen Malik (Wal)
Tegwen Malik
9-4, 9-5, 9-7 (38m)
Omneya Abdel Kawy
[Q] Manuela Manetta (ITA) 9-1, 9-0, 9-3 (25m)
[2] Omneya Abdel Kawy (Egy)

2nd Qualifying Round

Manuela Manetta (Ita) (1) beat Amnah El Trabolsy (Egy) (6) 9/4 9/5 9/5 (32m)
Salma Shabana (Egy) beat Lauren Siddall (Eng) (7) 9/7 9/2 5/9 9/1 (38m)
Georgina Stoker (Eng) (4) beat Hend Osama (Egy) (8) 4/9 10/9 9/5 9/7 (42m)
Nicolette Fernandes (Guy) (2) beat Daniela Schumann (Ger) (5) 10/8 9/6 9/2 (34m)

1st Qualifying round:

Amnah El Trabolsy (EGY) bt Dagmar Vermeulen (NED) 9-0, 9-4, 9-4 (22m)

Salma Shabana (EGY) bt Eman El Amir (EGY) 9-3, 9-6, 9-1 (34m)

Lauren Siddall (ENG) bt Farida El Dahab (EGY) 9-2, 9-0, 9-1 (18m)

Hend Osama (EGY) bt Lucie Fialova (CZE) 10-8, 9-7, 9-7 (39m)

Georgina Stoker (ENG) bt Lina El Tannir (EGY) 9-1, 9-7, 9-5 (25m)

Daniela Schumann (GER) bt Toyin Emmanuel (NGR) 9-5, 9-0, 9-6 (34m)

Nicolette Fernandes (GUY) bt Heba Alaa El Torky (EGY) 9-5, 9-4, 9-4 (27m)



The pressure to qualify is hard enough. Prize money and ranking points await those that succeed. But for the Hurghada International a third factor was included that were heated things up…..much like the 38c outside the Cairo Stadium courts where the action took place.

As it would only be the winners that boarded the evening flight down to the sparkling Red Sea resort of Hurghada to play the main draw, nobody wanted to wave the others off and then leave Cairo for home.

Four matches, eight players but only four could be winners. And all watched by a live TV audience. As ever, where else would qualification matches receive such coverage?

Italian number one Manuela Manetta was top seed and so closer than the rest to an automatic main draw slot. For her it would have been even worse to stumble now. Her opponent, 21 year old Amnah El Trabolsy is better than her ranking, being a sporadic competitor as she studies industrial engineering in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.

El Trabolsy made too many mistakes overall, but made life difficult for the Italian who combined a light touch with some tins of her own. But in each game she took control in the middle section and stayed ahead to book her plane seat.

“I tried not to put any pressure on myself and I was happy with the way I played. Save me a sunbed!” said the joyful winner.

Salma Shabana had seemingly done the more difficult job by eliminating third seed Eman El Amir yesterday, but seventh rated Lauren Siddall was as keen as anybody to take the flight. However, the right handed sister of the leftie men's World Champion didn't let her nervousness about her lack of match play stand in her way. Siddall spent too much time changing direction as the Egyptian displayed many of the skills that had made her the Egyptian number one before she started a family.

“I'm pretty inexperienced on the Tour so hadn't actually seen her play until yesterday” said Siddall, who had rushed to the airport straight from a Sports Medical Science exam back in England to reach Cairo.

Shabana, meanwhile was elated. “I knew that if I played the squash I wanted to play I would be okay”, she commented. She did and she was.

“From now on I will be pretty relaxed as everything is a bonus” she added.

Fast improving Georgina Stoker, who had played on the Stadium courts as a member of the England junior team at the worlds there in 2003 had more local opposition to contend with, and managed to deny Hend Osama an eve of 21st birthday present when she picked up her game, the pace that Osama was generating and took control to win 3/1. Osama, a biomedical engineering student solved the conundrum of what on earth that was when asked, explaining that it involves the design and maintenance of medical devices. No wonder the talented play hasn't too much time to train!

Stoker reported, "I played well in France last week so I felt really good and was quite confident". In the Open de la Cite she had beaten Rebecca Botwright, and by the law of interesting rematches was later drawn against her a week later here!

Finally, second seed Nicolette Fernandes was the last name into the hat for the main draw when she saw off the German challenge of Daniela Schumann after saving a game ball in the first. From that point the challenge petered out and the Guyana player was able to book her place.

For all the winners there would be time for a shower, a meal and then the evening flight to the coast. The glass court at the resort awaits.