Tecnifibre British Junior Open 02-06 January, Sheffield    

Sherbini steps up

It's no surprise that World Junior Champion Nour El Sherbini should be top seed for the Girls event U19 in the forthcoming British Junior Open - what will surprise many is that she is actually still eligible for the U15 event she won last year!

Steve Cubbins looks at the rise and rise of Miss Sherbini ...

BJO 2007   2008   2009       ATCO Cairo      Worlds Chennai 
WWO Amsterdam      Sharm       BJO2010      60 Seconds

BJO 2007

I still remember the first day of the 2007 BJO when two proud Egyptians got me to take a photo of them with the youngster they were looking after.

"This is Nour El Sherbini," they said, "she is 11 years old. Remember her name, she will win eight British Junior Open titles," they added.

Yes sirs, of course she will, I thought.

Well, she did win that year, although I never got to see her play - the matches were all over in a flash, even the final, which was on an outside court while others were on the glass court, passed me by.

Another quick final ...BJO 2008

By 2008 Nour had grown considerably, although she still had the traits, the shyness, of a little girl. The squash was much the same though - a series of quick matches, and a 20m final which I at least got to see a little of ...

More photos with her coaches and team-mates, and Nour also gave me a lovely paperweight that I still use in my office.
BJO 2009

This was her biggest test so far. Nour had continued to grow, but so had top seed Kanzy El Dafrawy, another Egyptian of whom much is expected, and their final was sure to be very close. It wasn't close at the start, as Nour won the first two games and led 7/3 in the third (we were using PAR to 11 now).

Kanzy fought back, and at the end of the fourth Nour was virtually in tears in the corner. It looked for all the world as if she'd lost it, but the words of her father Atef did the trick and she came out calm and composed to take the fifth game and her third BJO title.

ATCO Miro Open 2009

Next time I saw Nour was in Cairo at the ATCO Junior Open. Except that she wasn't playing in the junior event, rather she had entered the WISPA tournament running alongside it.

By now she had grown even taller, and her squash had moved up a whole new level.

Straight-game wins over Heba El Torky, Linda Hruzikova and Kanzy took her into the final - WISPA's youngest ever finalist - against Engy Kheirallah.

However much she had improved, surely this was a test too far, Engy was after all a world top twenty player.

In the end it was, but my oh my did Nour make Engy work for it. 70 minutes, five games, a very relieved Mrs Darwish at the end of it, and this was not junior squash any more, this was a meeting of equals.

Chennai 2009

As soon as the draw for the world juniors was released there was one standout match - Sherbini v Heba El Torky, the second seed, in the quarter-finals. Heba had been the Egyptian junior #1 for a while, but lost out badly to Sherbini in the ATCO, so all bets were off.

Heba had shrugged off that defeat, and prior to Chennai had beaten all her rivals 3-0 so went into the match confident. She was perhaps too confident as she indulged in a bit of celebratory fist-pumping as she moved to 2-1 and 9-4 ahead.

Nour is nothing if not a fighter, and she brought it back to 9-all, saved two match balls before going on to take it in the fifth, breaking Heba's heart in the process.

The semi-final was a comfortable straight-games win, but that fighting spirit was needed again in the final, coming from a game and 6-2 down to beat Nour El Tayeb in four games to become the youngest ever world champion, at just 13 years old.

Now she believes it ..."You told me she was going to win lots of BJO titles," I reminded her ecstatic father, "but you never told me she would do this."

"I could never have dreamed of this," he replied.

There was always likely to be a reaction, and it came three days later in the team semi-finals when Nour lost three-nil to Amanda Sobhy. Egypt still made the final but the talk was of whether Nour would be selected for the match. She was, she won, Egypt did the double, panic over.

Amsterdam 2009

Alan Miller falls in five ...The Egyptian juniors entered en masse for the Women's World Open, but naturally most interest was centred on Sherbini.

"Is she really only 13?". Yes, I've seen her grow up. "How good is she?" Very.

And she proved it, beating the much-improved Fiona Moverley and winning a marvelous match against Alana Miller before falling 11/8 in the fifth to Joshna Chinappa in the qualifying finals.
Kylie Lindsay beaten in qualifyingSharm 2009

Since then Nour has played in two WISPA events in Sharm El Sheikh, qualified for both but came up against Jenny Duncalf then Rachael Grinham in the first rounds.

She may be good but she's not that good, not yet, although those results have taken her to a ranking of #47 in the world.
Sheffield 2010

So it's back to the juniors. Now 14 (as of 1st November) Nour has the possibility of matching or exceeding the six BJO titles of Raneem El Weleily, or the seven of Omneya Abdel Kawy.

Omneya, having won one U14 and two U15 titles, bypassed the U17 completely and won four consecutive U19 crowns from 2001-2004. Sherbini has opted to make that jump a year earlier, skipping the defence of her U15 title which gives her a shot at five U19 wins.

It could be a risky strategy though, as she's not exactly dominant over her elders, and the U19 event this year looks to be a very even and open competition, especially in the top half of the draw.

Sherbini faces Sarah Cardwell in the first round, which is an unlucky draw for the Australian, daughter of former world champion Vicky, and a stiff opener for the top seed. Then it's likely to be Tsz Wing Tong of Hong Kong, who proved very hard to beat in Chennai. The third round promises a meeting with Laura Gemmell, who disappointed in Chennai and will be keen to make an impression in her last junior event.

Get past that trio and Heba will probably be waiting in the semi-finals, revenge on her mind as she too makes a last appearance in the juniors.

And after all that, the final would probably be against Dipika Pallikal, also 18, who looks to have an easier time of it in the bottom half, and has improved considerably since her disappointments in Chennai.

So it's a tough ask for Sherbini, but she is so different from that shy little girl I first met just three years ago that you won't find me betting against her ...
60 Seconds with ... Nour El Sherbini
What's on your iPod? My best song is chocolate puma
Your best shots ? Dropshot and volley
coke or pepsi ? I like pepsi
Best moment in squash ? When I won the world champion and won the world champion in teams
player you most like to play ? No I don't have any one I like to play, I like to play with any one
Main aim for next five year ? Win another world champion and the wispa
Best player of all time ? Amr Shabana
If not a squash player No
Half full or half empty ? half full

Omneya, Raneem, Nour - Egypt's World Junior Champions


[HOME] [Today] [Draws] [Info] [Blog] [Social] [Gallery] [History]

blog counter