On the occasion of her participation in the Windy City Open 2016, which concluded its events a few days ago in Chicago, the 15-year-old squash champion Hania El-Hammamy met with Daily News Egypt for an exclusive interview.
At just 14-years-old, El-Hammamy became the second youngest to attend the Professional Squash Association (PSA) World Tour, after her compatriot Habiba Mohamed. She ranks 56th internationally, and is the under-17 division world squash champion.
When did you start playing squash?
In the beginning of my sports career, I was a gymnast. My brother Karim El-Hammamy was an international under-19 squash champion. When I watched him playing and participating in championships, I felt such excitement. His trainers encouraged me, so I started playing squash when I was seven years old.
Is squash your priority or your studies?
Of course, squash is my priority; I was fully dedicated. I pay attention to my studies but the sport is really my first priority.
How did you join Egypt’s national junior women’s squash team?
When I was playing in the under-13, -15, and -17 divisions, I was ranked the top squash player nationally, this is why I was always a part of Egypt’s national team.
As for the under-19 division, I play with squash players who are older than me, so my rank dropped and now varies between third and fifth nationally. As the top five nationally ranked women always join the national team, I remained in Egypt’s team.
What was the first international championship you participated in?
It was the British Junior Open Squash Championship. It is the most important international squash championship worldwide.
How many times did you compete in it and what were your results?
I have competed five times. The first time I was too young. It was in 2012 and I lost in the under-13 division to Japanese player Satomi Watanabe.
I won the under-13 division in 2013, the under-15 division in 2015, and the under-17 division in 2016. In 2014, I came second in the under-15 division, losing the final match to Malaysian player Siv Subramaniam.
Why did you decide to compete in the 2016 Windy City Open, a tournament which includes senior players?
Playing with senior players will definitely improve my performance as I can learn from more professional players. I also hope to improve my ranking.
What about your international ranking?
In the general international ranking, which includes juniors and seniors, I rank 56th. I am satisfied with this result since I have only participated in about seven international tournaments, including the 2014 Wadi Degla Women’s World Squash Championships, where I reached the third round.
I also participated in the Alexandria Open Women’s 2015, where I lost to Egyptian Hana Basem Ramadan.
An unforgettable victory was when I was 14-years-old, when I won the Women’s Geneva Open 2015, without dropping a game, I kept my title as the second youngest female winner. The tournament was held in the Geneva Squash Club in Switzerland, as the WSA Challenger five squash event, from 19 to 22 of March. I won against English player Fiona Moverley in the final match, with scores of 11-8, 11-9, and 12-10.
Now I am the world female squash champion for under-17 division.
What do you personally do to maintain and improve your level?
I just practice a lot; I practice for about five hours a day.
To whom to your owe your success?
My success is all thanks to my father, mother, and my trainers. My mother always encourages me to move forward and she takes good care of me.
From your point of view, which is the most advanced country in squash?
I think Egypt, since we win most of the championships.
Are you satisfied with how the Egyptian media covers squash news nowadays?
Lately, media has become very good when it comes to covering squash events and interacting with squash players as it keeps the audience updated with the latest and most important news about the sport.
Who are your squash idols?
For female players, my idols are Raneem El-Weleily and Omneya Abdel Kawy.
Abdel Kawy is so confident on the squash court and while playing, you can see her strong character; her performance is so high and so aggressive and strong. Same goes for El-Weleily. On the squash court, both are very well educated and have high morals.
Any junior player, including me, will learn a lot just watching them play.
As for male players, my idols are Ramey Ashour and Amr Shabana.
Ashour, despite suffering many injuries, which caused him to be out of play for a long time, he manages to compete in international championships and win, including the 2015 El-Gouna International Squash Tournament, where he beat Mohamed El-Shorbagy, who is ranked first internationally.