In front of one of the most iconic sporting backdrops of all time – the Pyramids of Giza – it was local man Karim Abdel Gawad, the World No.6, and Women’s World No.5 Raneem El Welily who took the spoils in the 2016 Al-Ahram Squash Open NewGiza to write their names into Egypt’s sporting history books.
In the shadow of the iconic structures Gawad, who came past World Championship runner-up Omar Mosaad to reach the title-decider, overcame Ali Farag – the Cairo-born World No.10 – in straight games to become the first Egyptian to taste success here since the legendary Ahmed Barada in 1998, while El Welily overcame the challenge of compatriot and World No.1 Nour El Sherbini to become the first Egyptian woman ever to win the iconic title.
Receiving almost $17,000 each – the first time a major squash tournament in Egypt has offered parity in prize money – the duo delighted the capacity crowd to claim arguably the most important wins in their careers so far.
“It’s a great pleasure for anyone to play at this amazing venue – which is one of the most amazing locations of all time,” said Gawad.
“At the beginning of the tournament my only aim was to win my first round and to get to play one match at the Al-Ahram Glass Court. So I am so happy to hold and raise the trophy now. It was only at Championship Ball that it hit me, that I was about to win this tournament.
“Ali and I played a good match and wee both played the best Egyptians in the world all week. Today, I tried and be very strong mentally, and in particular during the first game. I wanted to show him that I was strong, and determined, and very focused and it paid off for me.”
Speaking after her thrilling five game win over current world number one and world champion El Sherbini, which saw her take a two game lead before a Sherbini fightback set up a tense decider, El Welily said:
“Like before every match of this event, I went on there with no expectations, with nothing in mind really and today, I didn’t feel any pressure on me. Even after the 3rd and 4th, I thought I would start to feel pressure, or get nervous, but I surprised myself by coming back in the 5th extremely positive.
“Nour is the best player out there at the moment in women squash – she played a great match today and really fought hard until the end and I think we both have it everything we had – which is fitting for this final.
“What made the difference today I think is that I truly didn’t mind losing. Of course the support I got made a big difference, Tarek and the whole family, and my friends who came and supported me every day this week. No doubt the support made the difference.”
Al-Ahram Squash Open NEWGIZA 2016 – FINALS Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) 3-0  Ali Farag (EGY) 11-4, 11-7, 11-5 (40m)  Raneem El Welily (EGY) 3-2  Nour El Sherbini (EGY) 11-5, 11-9, 9-11, 9-11, 11-7 (61m)
Full coverage: www.alahramsquashopen.com