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
Steve Cubbins looks at the rise and
rise of Miss Sherbini ...
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
"This is Nour El Sherbini," they said, "she
is 11 years old. Remember her name, she will
win eight British Junior Open titles," they
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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 ...
with ... Nour El Sherbini
What's on your iPod?
My best song is
Your best shots ?
coke or pepsi ?
I like pepsi
Best moment in squash ?
When I won the
world champion and won the world champion in
player you most like to play ?
No I don't have
any one I like to play, I like to play with
Main aim for next five year ?
world champion and the wispa
Best player of all time ?
If not a squash player
Half full or half empty ?
Omneya, Raneem, Nour - Egypt's World Junior