For Egypt’s Hania El Hammamy, the World Junior Squash Championships have been a vital part of her progress to becoming one of the game’s top players.
Still aged just 21, El Hammamy has received plaudits for her excellent movement and the grace with which she plays the game. Having risen to World No.3 this year and with victories over the world’s top two players, fellow Egyptians Nouran Gohar and Nour El Sherbini at the El Gouna International earlier this month, the Cairo-native is being tipped to mount a serious challenge for the game’s summit next season.
In an interview with WSF media, the defending World Junior Champion reveals the role she felt the World Junior Championships played in her rise, describing it as a major step in her development as a player.
El Hammamy first competed at the World Junior Championships as a 14-year-old in 2015 in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, where as 5/8 seed she lost out to top seed Habiba Mohamed in the quarter-final, who in turn would lose to future World No.1 Gohar in the final.
More heartbreak followed for the highly-rated El Hammamy, with the Egyptian suffering a semi-final defeat as No.2 seed in the 2016 championships, followed by back-to-back final defeats as the top seed in Tauranga 2017 and as No.2 seed in Chennai 2018.
In Kuala Lumpur 2019, though, El Hammamy finally got the monkey off her back when, as top seed once again, she beat compatriot and No.2 seed Jana Shiha in straight games in the final.
Reflecting on her experiences at those previous Championships, El Hammamy explains that she values each one, even the pain of final defeats, both for the learning experience and the enjoyment she felt competing on the world stage.
She says: “Competing at the World Junior Championships was something that was incredibly special to me. I have amazing memories from all of the tournaments I entered and I think each one taught me something new about what it would take to make it as a pro. After the disappointment of being a losing finalist in Chennai, coming back to win the title in Kuala Lumpur is a treasured memory and a title that I’m very proud of, as well as a huge step for me.”
It’s easy to understand why El Hammamy places such value in the squash skills she honed at the World Junior Championships. A cursory glance at the list of previous winners reveals an irresistible link between success on the junior circuit and a future place in the upper echelons of the game, with past junior champions such as Gohar and El Sherbini joining the likes of the legendary Nicol David and Raneem El Welily in going on to become World No.1 on the professional tour.
Acknowledging this fact, El Hammamy recognises such players as role models she hopes to emulate. “When I think of the players who won the title before me, players I have looked up to, like Nicol, Raneem, Nour and Nouran and what they achieved afterwards, that gives me motivation to keep pushing and always play my best squash.”
With the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic decimating the global sporting calendar over the last three years, El Hammamy remains the defending champion, with the 2019 edition the last time the annual tournament was played.
This year, the tournament marks a triumphant return with the French Squash Federation [FFSquash] stepping in to host the Championships after the original host, St. Petersburg, was unable to host the tournament in the wake of the Russian military invasion of Ukraine.
Expressing her appreciation for FFSquash’s quick response in hosting the Championships, El Hammamy said: “I think it’s great that the Championships have returned. I’m grateful for the French Squash Federation for stepping in to host the tournament and I’m sure they will do an amazing job!”
The 2022 WSF World Junior Squash Championships will be hosted in the French city of Nancy between 11-21 August 2022 and will feature a junior men’s and women’s individual event and a men’s team event.
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