PETALING JAYA: A quick glance at the ongoing World Championships in Cairo will give a clear picture of how successful Egypt are in squash.
And Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia (SRAM) head coach Ajaz Azmat has compared the sport in the African nation akin to Malaysian badminton.
The world meet paraded a total of 38 Egyptians in the men and women’s draws which had a total of 128 players. However, the list becomes impressive as Egypt made up 12 out of 16 in the last 16, six out of eight were in the quarter-finals.
Egypt confirmed both titles even before the final.
In the men’s semi-finals, Marwan El Shorbagy edged out world No. 1 Paul Coll of New Zealand 11-4, 8-11, 10-12, 11-8, 11-7 while Ali Farag outplayed compatriot Mostafa Asal 8-11, 11-8, 11-8, 6-11, 11- 9.
World No. 1 Nouran Gohar outclassed the only non-Egyptian in the women’s semi-finals, American Amanda Sobhy, 5-11, 11-3, 11-6, 15-13 while defending champion Nour El Sherbini defeated teammate Nour El Tayeb 11-6, 11-8, 9-11, 11-3.
Squash is the second most popular sport next to football in Egypt and has had a long history of top players for more than six decades but the emergence of their women dominating the scene had started after Malaysian Nicol David’s last of her eight world crown was won in 2014, coincidentally in Cairo.
The last seven titles were won by Egyptians women while their men have won the last five.
“The pool of players are bigger compared to any country and it is almost like badminton in Malaysia. There are probably about 4,000 active squash players in Cairo alone and that should give a hint of their talent pool overall, ”said Ajaz.
“Squash is a leading sport in Egypt and their clubs are very active just like in badminton where we have state and national centers.
“The club scene and tournaments are thriving because of the sponsorship they get from Egypt Air, banks, as well as government-linked companies.
“And most importantly, parents play an active role and they don’t depend too much on the Egypt Squash Federation for assistance.”
Sivasangari played two Egyptians Nadia Shahine and El Teyeb, who she lost in the last 16.
“Egyptians are very skilful and attack-oriented players and go for their strokes without fear but they used to struggle against England, Australian and our own Nicol when it came to mental and physical strength. But now it’s different as the current batch has all round abilities, ”added Ajaz.
“Mental strength and handling the pressure are what Sivasangari and other Malaysian players can learn from the Egyptians. The more they play the Egyptians, the better they can be. “
The Malaysians will get their chance when the El Gouna International in Hurghda starts on Friday.