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Hurghada International 2006
26 May - 01 Jun, Hurghada, Egypt, $21k

The presentation, made by Mr Hassan Sakr, President of the National Council of Sport ...

01-Jun: Final:                                   Draw & Results

[2] Omneya Abdel Kawy (Egy) bt [1] Rachael Grinham (Aus)  
       9/6, 9/2, 7/9, 0/9, 9/2 (75m)
Third time lucky
for Omneya

WISPA reports from the Red Sea

First the weather report. After another boringly predictable baking day with unbroken blue skies the sun clocked off, and as darkness arrived so did the finalists.

There is a buzz around almost every squash match in Egypt but finals tend to make the atmosphere more febrile than ever. Flags waving, flashes popping, people swaying and clapping, talking animatedly to their neighbours and into the ubiquitous mobiles (the last time anybody here turned off a mobile when instructed by the referee was around the mid nineties….and even that isolated incident is entirely unconfirmed!)

The players were focused. Behind their eyes thoughts were far away before they were announced into the arena straddling the Promenade in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada.

For the third time in a row Omneya Abdel Kawy would try to take the title, having twice been thwarted by the less than formidable frame of Rachael Grinham. They know each other well as Grinham has been based in Cairo for five years, of course.

After morning practice the Australian was asked what had attracted her to the sprawling North African capital in the first place? “Of course it is cheap to live here and the weather is nice, but the standard of squash is so high that there are always practice partners. Before Cairo I was in Netherlands and for such a large squash playing country it was sometimes hard to find them. Here it is no problem, I am turning them away!"

Grinham, now 29, is clearly comfortable in Egypt, and having gone into business with a coffee shop the inevitable next question was whether she would stay here when she retires from the circuit? “When I came it was a decision just like that, and I have no idea now what will happen next,” was the inconclusive reply.

Abdel Kawy, nine years younger, is Cairo born and bred so is doubtless not moving anywhere.



This Hurghada event was the brainchild of Ibrahim Hegazy, the Chief Editor of Al Ahram Sports Magazine, who remains the driving force behind showpiece squash in Egypt.

He started with the Al Ahram at the Pyramids in Cairo ten years ago, setting the standard for iconic presentation. “Egypt has a great history of players and we wanted to use outdoors to show our sport”, he said.

 “Television programmes, people attending have all spread information and learning. We have great champions now and so many fans,” he added. It was apparently the success of double world champion Amr Shabana and the juniors that enabled him to persuade the government to support bringing the Pyramids back as a venue in August with the exciting prospect of the Men's World Open being staged there.

He played himself, encouraged and supported his two daughters May and Rasha as they competed and now awaits the chance of getting a racket into the hand of his grandchild. He squashed with the President Mr Mubarak, but when asked if he won he wagged a finger and shook his head with a wide grin.

A couple of years after the Al Ahram started Hurghada came on stream and provided another great photo opportunity. The legacy locally is coming from the elevated local interest that has encouraged the local authority to start to build courts.

As for the event itself the charismatic leader who has never stopped prowling to make sure everything is as he wants it added, “Hurghada has helped the Egyptian girls to improve. First we brought them to watch and we told them that in future they will be champions”.

With Abdel Kawy winning he has realised the dream!
 
 
"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."

"It wasn't 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.

"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.

"I guess I am a famous person in Egypt now!"



The arena was full…..and then some. Every seat, aisle, vantage point and peephole was taken. Not another person could be squeezed in anywhere, with dozens standing outside and listening to the marker. Early applause told them that their girl was picking up points. Grinham had not found a length and giving Abdel Kawy the front more than she should, flopping into the tin more than was healthy for her cause; and found herself 7/0 down before she started to compete.

As the sound of babies crying provided the wind section to the ringtone orchestra Grinham began to fire. Becoming more exuberant and increasing the pressure the Australian climbed back to 4/7 but two errors gave Abdel Kawy game ball. 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.

Needless to say the crowd erupted ... the cacophony continuing throughout the break and completely drowning out the call of time. The players sensed the moment, returned to the court and the second began with Abdel Kawy, as ever in all-black, forging ahead as she had done in the first.

In the semis Grinham took a tight first against Kheirallah and the initiative with it, but this time it was the reverse with her languishing having fallen behind. After only eight minutes Abdel Kawy reached game ball with another flicked backhand across the court, and when the Australian floated the ball out to end the next rally pandemonium followed again in the stands.



Would it be shades of 2005 when Grinham came back from two games down to win 10/8 in the fifth? Maybe Abdel Kawy was remembering as more errors crept in as the third unfolded. Grinham was going in short after constructing a rally but now her opponent was finding the top of the tin with her short ripostes.

Abdel Kawy would win a hand only to lose it immediately. But when Grinham was up 7/2 the errors started to flow more from her racket and she was being caught. Another point won and Grinham reached 8/7 but squandered the game ball ... and the second ... then the third. When Abdel Kawy downed a backhand drop volley she was given a fourth shot and this time the Egyptian scraped a ball back at herself and concluded the third act after 58 minutes.

Now the crowd 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, but this time without the comeback. 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.

Scores levelled. Déjà vu? Certainly. An exact re-run of the 2005 final. Would the Egyptian be able to change the pattern this time?

The decider started with Abdel Kawy being pulled from front to back but managing to induce mistakes as she went. Each point she won sent the crowd into their "Omneya, Omneya" song.

4/2, then 5/2. More chanting and Grinham looking slightly bemused by her predicament.

The referee had long given up asking for quiet. Another Grinham error, 6/2, cue chant. 7/2 with a long drop. Few people were sitting now. Match ball and pretty much nobody was.

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.

Acknowledging her family and the whole crowd Abdel Kawy had a smile as wide as the Nile as she took the trophy. Her chapter in the book of Egyptian stars has a new section.

She celebrates for a day then must return to Cairo for her finals on Monday. There is the small matter of major accounting and some advertising papers to attend to.
  
31-May:
Semi-Finals:                          Draw & Results


[1] Rachael Grinham [4] Engy Kheirallah (Egy)
  
      10/8, 9/2, 9/3 (56m)
[2] Omneya Abdel Kawy (Egy) bt [8] Raneem El Weleily (Egy)
         8/10, 9/6, 9/0, 9/10, 9/1 (65m)
   
Time for Tests in Hurghada
WISPA reports from the Red Sea

Hurghada semi finals night.

The time when the recent level of improvement of Engy Kheirallah would be fully judged. Could she make it an all-Egyptian final by beating Rachael Grinham? Certainly a number of enthusiasts from Alexandria thought she could as they had driven south to support her.

And in the bottom half, could Omneya Abdel Kawy reach another final, or would Raneem El Weleily, her successor as World Junior Champion, come of age in front of a packed crowd on The Promenade ...
[1] Rachael Grinham [4] Engy Kheirallah
  
      10/8, 9/2, 9/3 (56m)

Rachael Promoted
to another Final


The June WISPA rankings issued earlier in the day showed that the Alex Girl, Engy Kheirallah, had moved up a further place to sixteen in the world; while Rachael Grinham had dropped to four, just dipping under sister Natalie by a wafer.

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” she commented during the event.

Only a month ago at an invitation tournament at Gezira in Cairo Kheirallah had beaten Grinham so confidence was not an issue.

The evening was very warm, but a little more breezy. While scientists could have a field day explaining the forces which cause a ball to swirl a little in the back corner, all that mattered to the players was that it did. Sometimes they would hold up a little, others would deviate, but only slightly so not problematic.

The stands were packed with local enthusiasts together with a sprinkling of tourists who had spent the day prostrate on sunbeds, bemoaning the lack of a giant spatula service to turn them over every hour.

Grinham featured Boomerang Café, Sharouk City on the back of her shirt, thus using the power of national TV to advertise her joint venture in the coffee shop business with coach Maha Zein.

The name of her opponent was promoted in a different way. The regional chief minister, the Governor of the Red Sea (whose area apparently includes some adjoining land e.g. Hurghada as well as the sea!) had distributed cards to the spectators with Kheirallah’s name, which were waved with abandon until the end of the first game.

Kheirallah had started well, indeed raced to a 6/0 lead.

She was playing with pace and purpose. She got closer to the magic nine but having reached 8/5 seemed to lose a little of her purpose and allowed the elfin Australian to clamber back to setting 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 fairly procedural. That said, with the three games lasting 56 minutes – of which the first took 24 – it was strong on rallying.

Grinham had moved to one match way from a hat-trick of Hurghada wins.
  


 
"It made a huge difference winning  the first game.

"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."

Rachael Grinham

"I lost concentration and got a little depressed as she is so fit. Rachael was really focussed tonight but sometimes I get too anxious.

"My target for the year is to reach the top ten and to be part of an Egyptian team that could do better than their best ever fourth spot in the Women's World Teams."

Engy Kheirallah
[2] Omneya Abdel Kawy (Egy) bt
[8] Raneem El Weleily (Egy)
         8/10, 9/6, 9/0, 9/10, 9/1 (65m)

World Champions Clash ...

The second encounter would see just how far along the road to a finished article the 17 year old world junior champion already is.

The visitors from Alexandria had stayed as Raneem El Weleily, like Kheirallah, comes from the Mediterranean city.

Her opponent Omneya Abdel Kawy may only be three years older, but has been playing at a high level for so long that she is almost a veteran in terms of experience. So how would the younger player fare in the pressure of the situation? Since they had not met in a match of any sort for two or three years it is not as if they are even familiar with each other's game in the close quarters of inside the court.

Abdel Kawy settled first and reached 6/1 in the first before El Weleily mounted a comeback which was the first of many switchbacks on the path to the finish. The next time Abdel Kawy served was at 6/8 down,….. knocked back by a welter of winners. She got back to eight all with a couple of strokes induced by tight drops which could only be scraped back at the younger Egyptian. However El Weleily profited from a tinned drive and finally a rash half court backhand volley drop that arrowed into the bottom of the tin and El Weleily was ahead.

The second was close until the latter stages when El Weleily faltered by losing her shape. She was clearly not back on an even keel in the third as she 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 and so two points away from defeat. At that point a switch in her head was tripped and she started to play constructive squash again.

Helped by Abdel Kawy rushing rallies to flop over the finishing line she crept up the scoreboard. El Weleily managed to save four mach balls after setting was reached employing an audacious long straight drop twice and profiting from Abdel Kawy snatches. Indeed Abdel Kawy was so keen to close out that twice she was moving across to shake hands when the award of a stroke to her rather than a let was not likely to be entertained by the referee.

Having not managed to enlist the help of the referee she then lost the game to another straight drop.

Both players were prepared for the decider by their brothers who were in the corners, but Omneya’s brother Mohamed won this battle as his sister kept up the pace and overran the tired younger player to take the match in 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.
  


 
"I was so scared because Raneem is very good, so fit and so young.

"I know her shots and when they go well I would worry, I would always rush when I was winning.

"It was typical of me! But I stopped making mistakes at the end."

Omneya Abdel Kawy
 
"I could have had the second but she had a couple of lucky balls then I lost track of the pace in the third and most of the fourth.

"I came back pretty well but I got tired at the end. My feet were burning!"

"I am sort of upset about losing, but I am also satisfied, but if I had lost the fourth I would have been very unhappy with myself."

Raneem El Weleily
THREE IN A ROW FINAL ...
   

So it will be the same pairing for the third time in a row.

Last year Abdel Kawy failed to convert a match ball while losing 10/8 in the fifth in a pulsating final.

Half as good a match this time would be enough to set the pulses racing ...


2005 & 2004 Events

30-May:
Quarter-Finals:                          Draw & Results


[1] Rachael Grinham (Aus) bt [6] Becky Botwright (Eng)            9/4, 9/3, 9/1 (23m)
[4] Engy Kheirallah (Egy) bt [Q] Salma Shabana (Egy)              9/2, 9/6, 9/3 (30m)
[8] Raneem El Weleily (Egy) bt [Q] Nicolette Fernandes (Guy)   9/6, 9/2, 9/3 (35m)
[2] Omneya Abdel Kawy (Egy) bt [5] Tegwen Malik (Wal)          9/4, 9/5, 9/7 (38m)  
Egyptians spoilt for
choice in Hurghada

WISPA reports from the Red Sea

The animated mass of Egyptian spectators were faced with a dilemma when Salma Shabana and Engy Kheirallah played their Hurghada International quarter final.

Who to support?

It was easy in the first two matches as there was only one home player to carry to victory if they could, and tt was hardly difficult in the final one as Rachael Grinham is all but Egyptian in local eyes having been Cairo based for over five years.

So it was all down to watching, conversing, and generally acting as quiet extras for the domestic battle between the two.
  
[8] Raneem El Weleily (Egy) bt
[Q] Nicolette Fernandes (Guy)    9/6, 9/2, 9/3 (35m)

Raneem ends Fernandes' run

As darkness arrived abruptly ... no lingering dusks allowed in these parts, the first quarter final match began.

It featured 17 year old Raneem El Weleily and 22 years of age Nicolette Fernandes, both of whom are upwardly mobile talents on the WISPA Tour.

The Egyptian is certainly shooting forward even with the intrusion of schoolwork; she has another year to go before deciding on her next educational / playing career step.

Apart from her fleetness around the court and delightfully assured racketwork there is a serenity about her on court that is unusual in one so young.

Opponent Fernandes is no slouch either. A good athlete, assiduous trainer, and in a different way assured too. Her relaxed approach to the trial of match play is redolent of her region. How many players do you see smile wryly and applaud a genuinely great get by her opponent. She does.

El Weleily leapt out of the blocks and didn't let up. Some sublime shots, quality rallying, forcing errors, often strokes, characterised the progress of the match.

Yet Fernandes was holding her own in the first. It was towards the end that the Egyptian began to hold a winning hand, one that held good for the remainder of the match.
   

"I was fairly happy with my performance. 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 didn't feel that she was controlling me, it was just that I wasn't sharp enough and didn't put her under enough pressure."

"This was my first event back after getting injured in the Commonwealth Games, and it was 100%. I can't wait to get to the next WISPA event now."

 
"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."

[2] Omneya Abdel Kawy (Egy) bt
[5] Tegwen Malik (Wal)              9/4, 9/5, 9/7 (38m)  

Omneya on track on TV

Next up to try to halt the home juggernaut was experienced campaigner Tegwen Malik. This time she sported a shirt with Cymru also translated as Wales to give the national live TV audience a clue to where she hails from. However they will have only had eyes for their darling Omneya.

Abdel Kawy did not let them down, racing to a comfortable 2/0 lead. Both players were floating the ball, and generally playing all manner of crowd pleasing shots, but Abdel Kawy was the dominant force. Malik was lively and chasing, but found it difficult to accumulate points while generally keeping her opponent away from the front as much as possible.

The twice former Hurghada runner up from Cairo never stopped taking the ball early, volleying superbly and employing her trademark backhand cross court flick. Malik tried all of these too and did pick her way out of a potential whitewash in the second with a little flurry of points, but she was two behind after 26 minutes.

By now the crowd were chanting ever more loudly. "Omneya, Omneya", they sang, clapping and swaying in rhythm to provide a backdrop unmatched elsewhere on the Tour.

But the third game took a completely new turn as Malik raced to a 7/0 lead in one hand after doing nothing else than going in short. Abdel Kawy looked completely nonplussed. It was only after a missed drop that she regrouped, found her own length and steadied the ship to win in 38 minutes.
   

"I have spent a month trying a few new things to my game 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."

 
Omneya now plays the next on the Egyptian conveyor belt, Raneem….the girl who followed her to the world junior title.

"I have never played her before on the WISPA Tour. In fact I think I have only played her maybe two years ago in a local event."

[4] Engy Kheirallah (Egy) bt
[Q] Salma Shabana (Egy)              9/2, 9/6, 9/3 (30m)

One too far for Salma

Now, the Kheirallah / Shabana clash was up.

However, what looked to be a really fascinating prospect turned into a straightforward and comfortable win by Kheirallah, the world number seventeen.

Watched by newly arrived fiancé Karim Darwish she had little trouble in beating the mother of two who had clearly come a match too far after her stirring performances in the event.

"I was nervous before the match. She 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."


 
"I had very little to give today. She played really well but I didn't get into it until the third.

"I may play more events if I can bribe my mum to baby-sit!"


Engy in demand

The Refereeing brigade
[1] Rachael Grinham (Aus) bt
[6] Becky Botwright (Eng)            9/4, 9/3, 9/1 (23m)

Honorary Egyptian in semis

The last match of the evening was also a shortish affair. Botwright the Younger playing Grinham the Elder.

Rachael Grinham, top seed, former world number one and winner of the last two Hurghada events had been out of the spotlight which had been focused on the Egyptian contingent, but her unique style was working as well as ever. From the start Becky Botwright was digging in and digging deep.

Though she is deceptively swift too often she was chasing shadows. Clearly the bonus of a first round walkover had worked against her as she had no match on the glass court before running into Grinham.
    

"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."

 
Super Semis ...

The semis throw Abdel Kawy and El Weleily together to ensure a home finalist, while Kheirallah will certainly be in with a shout to make it a closed final if she can take out Grinham.

What is sure is that the there will be a great atmosphere when the action is played out ...
29-May:
Round One, Bottom Half:             Draw & Results


[2] Omneya Abdel Kawy (Egy) bt [Q] Manuela Manetta (Ita)   9/1, 9/0, 9/3 (25m)
[8] Raneem El Weleily (Egy) bt Louise Crome (Nzl)                9/1, 6/9, 9/4, 9/2 (38m)
[Q] Nicolette Fernandes (Guy) bt [3] Pamela Nimmo (Sco)    9/7, 9/1, 4/9, 9/6 (46m)
[5] Tegwen Malik (Wal) bt Jaclyn Hawkes (Nzl)                       3/9, 9/6, 6/9, 9/7, 9/1 (59m) 
  
Heating up in Hurghada
WISPA reports from the Red Sea

The previous evening had ended with the top half of the draw being concluded and the players strolling back into the hotel past the ever-interesting sound of Russian singers placing their own unusual interpretation on the pronunciation of English song lyrics.

The new day started with good news that stricken Georgina Stoker was feeling better, was recovering from her virus and had emerged from her bed after being forced to concede her match the night before.

She had been able to get up without feeling dizzy and spent the day feeling increasingly back to normal.
  
[8] Raneem El Weleily (Egy) bt Louise Crome (Nzl)      9/1, 6/9, 9/4, 9/2 (38m)

El Weleily too hot for Crome

As ever, the sun was on duty. For New Zealander Louise Crome, “This is the hottest place I have ever been” she avowed. Her match against Raneem El Weleily would be the first time that she had played on an outside court, so a second challenge.

The latest princess of Egyptian squash – there is no female equivalent to pharaoh, though phaoette should be considered – may only be seventeen years of age but has already done this and so much more in her teenage years - becoming World Junior Champion for one thing. She is young enough to try and retain it next year, something that her predecessor Omneya Abdel Kawy managed but fellow competitor Rachael Grinham could not.

Crome has recently given up full time work as an airline financial analyst for full time squash and three weeks ago fetched up in Amsterdam taking the well trodden route towards a centre of squash elite population in order to fulfil her potential. Her fellow Kiwi Jaclyn Hawkes, who was also on the first round bill for the evening, has similarly moved into Europe and is currently ensconced in Telford in the English Midlands.



As the match began, Crome found the combination of playing outside, a breeze and the fervent home support an unsettling combination to deal with. She was soon back at her bench taking advice from Hawkes and the black clad player certainly fared better in the second. She sped to 8/2 up before El Weleily cut loose with a spectacular welter of audacious winners before making a mistake at 6/8 and allowing Crome to close out.

But there were to be no starts offered in the next two games as the Egyptian sped around the court, holding so well and was soon into the last eight.

 
"In the first game I knew the ball was in there, but I couldn't find it!

"After that I managed to get a better length and keep her behind me more as you get punished if you don't."



 

"In the second game I slept, but for the rest I managed to keep up the pace."

[2] Omneya Abdel Kawy (Egy) bt
[Q] Manuela Manetta (Ita)      9/1, 9/0, 9/3 (25m)

Omneya Impressed & Impressive

Omneya Abdel Kawy was watching her younger countrywoman and was asked about her attributes. “She has very fast hands and is so deceptive too”. She could so easily have been talking about herself!

The same febrile audience were behind Omneya Abdel Kawy as last years’ runner up went on against Manuela Manetta. If the sun is as bad for you as is said, then the Italian is a very sick girl indeed! While the sun had been eschewed in preparation for her match, earlier days in Cairo and yesterday had certainly sent her several shades darker.

But Manetta is not about anything other than improving. She is actively pursuing an intention to move from her home base of Parma to consolidate her improving game. There is something of a pattern here since not only the Kiwis and Manetta, but also later match player Nicolette Fernandes has done the same. But more of her later.

The Italian started effectively enough but having built rallies she was unable to take the chance to win them. To often half court floating lobs left her exposed. The one thing you do not do is allow Abdel Kawy the front of the court.

With the first lost Manetta began to fail to even put the building blocks of rallies in place and the Egyptian cruised home. In victory she found time to praise her opponent saying, “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.”

   




 
"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."

[5] Tegwen Malik (Wal) bt
Jaclyn Hawkes (Nzl)       3/9, 9/6, 6/9, 9/7, 9/1 (59m)

Malik makes the Quarters

Crome was back to return the coaching compliment for Jaclyn Hawkes, but after a bright start where the tall New Zealander pressured her way to the first, Tegwen Malik began to reel her in with her neat footwork, tidy play and general tightness around the court. Or so it seemed.

Having levelled she forged ahead in the third feeding on the same blend of float and drive, but then a few lax rallies later she was 2/1 down instead.

The Cymru player (which was featured on Malik’s shirt but the meaning - Wales - may have eluded many local watchers!) was coupling her own attacking boasts with some better length to go ahead again, and although she still leaked points this time was able to stay in front as the game Kiwi began to get slightly ragged with fatigue.

Hawkes was still contesting in the decider but the initiative had been wrested away and the match was lost.

The fifth seed had justified the placing and would face Abdel Kawy in the quarters.  Tomorrow she will have the crowd as well as a testing opponent to deal with.
  

 


"I've got fitness on my side and maybe a bit of experience too.

"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."

[Q] Nicolette Fernandes (Guy) bt
[3] Pamela Nimmo (Sco)    9/7, 9/1, 4/9, 9/6 (46m)

Fernandes finds her best win

Nicolette Fernandes, now aged 22, had become too big for the tiny squash pool of Guyana where she reckoned there may be no more than a hundred regular players, outgrown the Caribbean field too, and so moved to England to gain access to the intensive coaching she needed.

Progress has been steady and she has now become a fully rounded player who can pose problems to those ranked above her current ranking of 45.

She certainly did so for third seed Pamela Nimmo as she fought her way into a two game lead in their match. She settled early despite her inexperience and solid volleying and athletic mobility did the rest.

She perhaps shouldn't have squandered the first having reached 7/6 only to find herself stretching a little too far and tinning. But Nimmo is a fighter, and verbally geed herself up while reducing her error ratio to bring herself back in by taking the third. Indeed, she climbed to 6/2 up in the fourth before a combination of pressure from the nimble Caribbean player coupled with more tinned errors brought her back to match ball in a single hand. The first was saved when the ball drifted out on the side, but the second wasn't and with both arms aloft she celebrated.

As the dejected Scot left the arena Fernandes was ecstatic, and will now play El Weleily, but perhaps the most eagerly awaited encounter for Egyptians and internationally too will be to see whether the Cairo Comeback Mum can take continue.

Salma Shabana against Engy Kheirallah; a match-up to savour ...
  

 
"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

"I lost to Pam in the British Open six months ago, but that match was still fresh in my mind.

"This time I had a game plan and though they don't always work I stuck to it."

"I knew I needed to establish rallies. Even when I lost the third and was down in the fourth I thought that if I could keep pressuring she may make errors."

28-May, Round One, Top Half:
 
Round One, Top Half:
Draw & Results

[1] Rachael Grinham (Aus) bt
Triciah Chuah (Mas)              9/1, 9/4, 9/0 (22m) 

[6] Becky Botwright (Eng) bt
[Q] Georgina Stoker (Eng)     walkover

[4] Engy Kheirallah (Egy) bt
Sarah Kippax (Eng)              9/6, 9/2, 9/4 (38m) 

[Q] Salma Shabana (Egy) bt
[7] Samantha Teran (Mex)   9/4, 9/1, 9/0 (30m)
 

TWO AND A HALF EGYPTIAN WINNERS
IN HURGHADA...
WISPA reports from Cairo

Salma Shabana, Engy Kheirallah, honorary Egyptian Rachael Grinham, and Becky Botwright were the winners on day one in Hurghada ...

A glass court set in the middle of the promenade that punches its way through the Red Sea resort of Hurghada; bounded by holiday hotels and all manner of emporiums; where the main draw of the Hurghada International is again being played out.

The players left the cool interior of their hotel, the very comfortable Sindbad Aqua Park Hotel, on their way to daytime practice.

 With the temperature hovering a degree or two shy of 40c, the floor of he court could have been better employed for frying eggs than squash, but professionalism dictated that a feel for it was necessary.

As the evening approached and darkness arrived, the cooling breeze began to get the upper hand….only just, and conditions became more conducive to competitive play.
 


   

      Stoker suffers...

         

There was no final match in the top half as Georgina
Stoker was forced to pull out of her all British clash with sixth seed Rebecca Botwright as the virus that had begun to tug at her during her successful qualification began to get a grip.

After morning practice she reverted to the horizontal in her room, got the benefit of medical confirmation and eventually conceded later in the day that she would not be able to give it a shot.

Botwright was now in the semis to face Grinham.

Salma in demand

After the whole complement of players were brought out in front of the gallery and into range of the cameras of national TV the action began with successful qualifier Salma Shabana playing seventh seed Samantha Teran.

As soon as the draw for main draw places had been held in Cairo the preceding late afternoon and she found herself placed in the top half and so playing on the first day she and husband Omar swept up their two children, filled their car with the full baby paraphernalia and made it across the desert to the resort in five hours.

Not surprisingly, roars of approval spilled down from the packed banks of seating as Shabana took a rally, but the 25 year old from Mexico City initially managed to stop it being too regular by trying to build rallies and manoeuvre her opponent, much as the home player was doing too.

Shabana took the closely contested first game, and then a completely new match began. The Egyptian became irresistible. To use the jargon, she was well and truly in the zone. Teran could not respond to the quality squash being thrust upon her and she lost the second match two games to love in a mere 10 minutes.

 
"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."
Samantha Teran

"It all clicked. I really don't know how I played as I was so into it."

Salma Shabana

 
 

"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."

Omar Elborolossy
Engy in Control

Salma has a rest day now before what should be a mouth-watering encounter with Engy Kheirallah, herself in prime form having broken into the WISPA top twenty for the first time.

She 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.

“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. This time there is even more pressure,” commented Kheirallah.
  
 

 
Three matches, two and a half Egyptian winners, with Raneem El Weleily and Omneya Abdel Kawy hoping to add to the domestic interest in the bottom half in evening two....
Grinham weaves her webs ...

Top seed Rachael Grinham was doubtless relieved that the Malaysian she had been drawn against was not Nicol David. Tricia Chuah, who like David has relocated to Amsterdam to nestle under the wing of Australian Liz Irving, had lost to Grinham in straight games in the Qatar Classic late in 2005 and couldn't find a better formula to discomfort the player whom the Egyptians call "one of us" after five years of living in Cairo.

Chuah found the webs that Grinham weaved difficult to deal with, and although she wasn't averse to employing a lob or flick or two herself, too often the Malaysian found herself chasing shadows.
   
Hurghada International 2006
26 May - 01 Jun, Hurghada, Egypt, $21k
Round One
May 28/29
Quarters
May 30
Semis
May 31
Final
Jun 01

[1] Rachael Grinham (Aus)
9/1, 9/4, 9/0 (22m)
Triciah Chuah (Mas)

Rachael Grinham

4th match

Becky Botwright
20.00 copied from SquashSite

20.00

copied from SquashSite

[6] Becky Botwright (Eng)
walkover
[Q] Georgina Stoker (Eng)

[4] Engy Kheirallah (Egy)
9/6, 9/2, 9/4 (38m)
Sarah Kippax (Eng)

Engy Kheirallah

3rd match

 
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

19.45

 
Nicolette Fernandes
20.45

[Q] Nicolette Fernandes (Guy)
9/7, 9/1, 4/9, 9/6 (46m)
[3] Pamela Nimmo (Sc0

Jaclyn Hawkes (Nzl)
3/9, 9/6, 6/9, 9/7, 9/1 (59m)
[5] Tegwen Malik (Wal)

Tegwen Malik

2nd match

Omneya Abdel Kawy

[Q] Manuela Manetta (Ita)
9/1, 9/0, 9/3 (25m)
[2] Omneya Abdel Kawy (Egy)


26-May, Qualifying round one:  

Manuela Manetta (Ita)  bye
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 (Nig)         9/5 9/0 9/6 (34m
Nicolette Fernandes (Guy) bt Heba Alaa El Torky (Egy)   9/5 9/4 9/4 (27m)

 
27-May, Qualifying Finals
Shabana carries Egyptian flag to Hurghada ...
WISPA reports from Cairo

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.

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.


                  Three Egyptians, one qualifier

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.
 

 
Qualifying Finals:

Manuela Manetta (Ita) bt
Amnah El Trabolsy (Egy)
9/4, 9/5, 9/5 (32m)
plays Abdel Kawy

Salma Shabana (Egy) bt
Lauren Siddall (Eng)
9/7, 9/2, 5/9, 9/1 (38m)
plays Teran

Georgina Stoker (Eng) bt
Hend Osama (Egy)
4/9, 10/9, 9/5, 9/7 (42m)
plays Botwright

Nicolette Fernandes (Guy) bt
Daniela Schumann (Ger)
10/8, 9/6, 9/2 (34m)
plays Nimmo

Round One Results
 
"I tried not to put any pressure on myself and I was happy with the way I played.

"Save me a sunbed!"

Manuela Manetta



Siddall advised by
Becky Botwright

"I knew that if I played the squash I wanted to play I would be okay.

"From now on I will be pretty relaxed as everything is a bonus."

Salma Shabana



Schumann & Fernandes

26-May, Qualifying Round One:
Omar puts Salma
back on Court in Cairo ...

WISPA reports from Cairo

A large crowd assembled at the Cairo Stadium to see whether mother of two Salma Shabana, who last regularly competed nearly five years ago could really make a competitive comeback. She had competed for fun in the same event two years ago between the birth of son Marwen, now four, and daughter Amina, eleven months old.

The 29 year old, who runs a squash academy with  husband Omar Elborollosy, beat current Egyptian international Eman El Amir to produce the only seeding upset of the first round of qualification.  and certainly inspired the several pupils of hers who were there. Both players were a little nervous in the first, but when Shabana came back from 6/1 down in the second to go two up El Amir imploded.
 

"I really just wanted to get fit to coach well, but Omar said I was playing well so why not target Hurghada ..."

Salma Shabana

Like the other winners, she is now one win away from the main draw, and with it a flight down to the Red Sea resort of Hurghada where it will be played.
 

 
Qualifying Finals:

Manuela Manetta (Ita) bt
Amnah El Trabolsy (Egy)
9/4 9/5 9/5 (32m)

Salma Shabana (Egy) bt
Lauren Siddall (Eng)
9/7 9/2 5/9 9/1 (38m)

Georgina Stoker (Eng) bt
Hend Osama (Egy)
4/9 10/9 9/5 9/7 (42m)

Nicolette Fernandes (Guy) bt
Daniela Schumann (Ger)
10/8 9/6 9/2 (34m)

Round One Results
 
Just made it !!!

Nigerian Toyin Emmanuel had her incoming flight from Lagos put back by 24 hours so only arrived on the morning of her match but made German Daniela Schumann work hard for a three nil win.
 

Another Epic in Hurghada ???

Defending champion Rachael Grinham and local favourite Omneya Abdel Kawy are seeded to do battle in the final of the Hurghada International, as they did twelve months ago when Grinham, the Australian former world number one who is resident in Cairo, came from two games down to defeat Kawy 10/8 in the fifth.
 


2005 Event

 

 

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