Tournament 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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
"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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.