INTERVIEW by ALAN THATCHER
1: Ali, itís a real pleasure to welcome
you to the Canary Wharf Classic. We look forward to seeing you
in action on Tuesday night against wild card Nathan Lake.
What are your thoughts on coming to London to play in the
tournament for the first time?
I am very excited to be playing at Canary Wharf for the first
time. I have heard nothing but great things about the
tournament, whether it be how amazing the venue is, how invested
the crowd of all three levels get into the matches, or how well
Tim Garner and his team take extremely good care of the players.
Itís the only big tournament on the PSA World Tour Calendar that
I am yet to play and I am really looking forward to it.
2: You are the sole Egyptian in the
bottom half of the draw, with three in the top half (Mohamed
ElShorbagy, Marwan ElShorbagy and Tarek Momen).
With six players from your country in the top ten of the menís
PSA world rankings, it must be a very proud time to be an
Egyptian squash player. What do you see as the main reasons for
Egyptís current domination?
Yeah I couldnít be prouder of Egypt Squash at the moment. I
guess it all started with the Al Ahram Open, where we all went
to watch Ahmed Barada play on a massive stage in front of the
Pyramids. It gave us something to aspire to and dream about for
years and years.
From that point on, we had great players breaking through such
as Shabana, Darwish, Ramy and Shorbagy. The fact that these
people have achieved it before us gave us the belief that we can
do it ourselves.
Because we are all mostly situated in Cairo and Alexandria, we
grow up watching them play from a very young age and they have
always been very humble and generous to give us advice and get
on court with us, passing along their experience. Also, living
all in Cairo or Alexandria allows us to play together every day,
lifting each othersí games up day in and day out.
3: History has shown that nations like
England, Australia and Pakistan have dominated for long periods
and then have something of a lean spell.
Do you think this process is cyclical, or, with so many
top-quality juniors coming through, can you see Egypt dominating
for a long period of time?
Well I definitely hope so. We should learn from history, though,
and work even harder to keep improving on our juniors. I hope
that our generation can do the same to the upcoming players as
the older generations did to us.
4: Egyptís women players are also hugely
successful and dominating the top end of the game.
Please tell us what it felt like for you
and your wife Nour El Tayeb to win the 2017 US Open titles on
the same day?
That was hands down the highlight of my (our) career(s) so far.
It feels amazing to win any tournament.
Imagine this being your first World Series Title... Imagine this
being the prestigious US Open... Imagine you win it alongside
your beautiful wife... Imagine this means you created history
together... Imagine it gets all the media attention in the
There were so many good things about this moment that I wouldnít
be fair to describe it in just a couple of sentences.
5: Will Nour be accompanying you to
I wish... Unfortunately not as she has to go back home to keep
training for the remainder of the season.
6: Instead of turning professional as a teenager, you
studied at Harvard University before committing full-time to the
PSA World Tour.
What adjustments did you have to make to your life after leaving
Harvard, and how were you able to step up your training
If it werenít for Nour, Mike Way (Harvard Head Coach), my
brother Wael (also my coach and my role model ever since I was
born), I would not be playing professionally now.
I never had it on my radar. I always thought I would get a
normal desk job after college, but the three of them kept
convincing me to pursue my passion and give it a go at least for
I did in 2015, and I couldnít have asked for a better year
really; not only in terms of results, but also in terms of how
much I was enjoying it.
Obviously in college, I was playing five times a week with an
hour of squash and 45-60 minutes of gym/fitness work. Ever since
I turned full time, I started having three sessions a day for
five and a half days a week.
Usually, fitness/gym at 10am, a little snack, then hit with a
coach or solo at noon, go back home for lunch, an hour nap, then
back again for match play at 7pm. Thatís Saturday through
Thursday, then Thursday evening and Friday off.
7: Where is home for you and Nour? And
at which club do you train?
We are based in Cairo. I play for Wadi Degla Clubs, in which
former World No. 1 Karim Darwish is the Sports Director.
8: Do they have a laundry at the club,
or do you wash your own squash gear every day?
No, we do it at home. I would like to take credit for washing my
own squash gear, but unloading my dirty clothes from the squash
bag and putting it in the washing machine is as far as I go.
Nour is beyond a great wife. She takes care of every single
detail in the house.
9: I saw an interview where you praised
Nourís healthy, nutritious cooking.
What are your favourite meals, for pleasure as well as fuel? And
do you help out in the kitchen as well?
I love Nourís scrambled eggs with goatís cheese and avocado. I
love her salmon steaks as well for recovery after a tough day of
And as I said, I barely visit the kitchen. Nour makes me do/need
nothing. I wouldnít be able to do her justice if I try to
describe how much she takes care of me.
10: Back to the squash: You and Mohamed
ElShorbagy have played in some truly epic battles in the past
year or so.
Despite the intense pressure and physical demands of playing at
the very highest level, often in semi-finals or finals, you both
seem to be enjoying these matches more than in the past. Is that
a fair analysis?
I think Mohamed and I gave ourselves and the squash world a
bunch of high quality squash matches played in a great spirit
during the past year or so.
We might have slightly lost it in the heat of the moment once or
twice in the past, but this takes nothing away from the amount
of respect we have for each other.
11: Nick Matthew has won Canary Wharf
six times. This is his farewell year on the PSA World Tour. What
have you learned from watching guys like Nick down the years?
Nick is arguably the one I have learned the most from over the
years. His professional attitude towards everything he does and
his mental strength are second to none really.
Heís also forever evolving, never settles, and always thrives
for more. And thatís why heís still a contender for every title
even at the age of 37.
I am not happy that heís retiring, no one is happy, but I have
no doubt he will still give a ton to the squash world with
whatever career he decides to pursue after this season.
Ali, thank you and good luck next month at Canary Wharf.
11 Points with Ali Farag on the BLOG