After losing out to Laura Massaro in the World Championships final in Penang 18 months earlier, Nour El Sherbini got her revenge over the Englishwoman in 2015, as she secured the title for a first time.
In doing so, El Sherbini became both the youngest woman to ever lift the crown, and the first Egyptian woman to ever become World Champion.
“It is amazing, being able to say that you are the World Champion and the World No.1.. Wow! That is really big,” she said of winning the tournament.
“People now say it to me and I think it is always something that I wanted to achieve. I always want to keep it, so everyone can see me as the World Champion and as the No.1.
“It is big, it is really big. Putting your name alongside legends of the game and people I have grown up watching. I grew up watching all these players playing and competing so it is an honour to put my name beside them.”
The young Egyptian had won the British Open a month prior to the World Championships, and says that she expected to have a good week in Malaysia.
El Sherbini had won the British Open just a month earlier
She overcame Donna Lobban in the first round, but she was surprised at how well she played in her opening match.
“From the first match, I was playing really well and that wasn’t normal, I never start the first match playing well. I had Donna in the first match, and I thought it was a hard first match,” she explained.
The ‘Warrior Princess’ came through her opening match in three games, before taking less than 40 minutes to defeat Hong Kong’s Annie Au in the second round.
That set up a quarter final with eight-time World Champion Nicol David. She was on home soil, and Sherbini knew it was going to be a tough match.
“It was big, playing her in the quarters, in Malaysia, in her country, on her court. It is hard, it is really hard. I think it was the seventh time I played Nicol that season,” El Sherbini said.
El Sherbini had to beat eight-time World Champion Nicol David on home soil to advance past the last eight
“With Nicol, I have had some tough matches and some not so tough, but this one was one of the hardest matches I had. It was really hard, but I was playing good squash.”
Despite beating one of the most decorated squash players in history in the quarters, Sherbini still thought that she would be knocked out in the last four.
“I thought that I was going to lose the semi-final [against Nouran Gohar], but I played really good, and I was surprised by myself,” she admitted.
“I did not expect that. I played really good, and won in three, and everything went perfectly.”
Having played in the final against Massaro in 2013, 2015 would be her redemption as she faced the Englishwoman for the prize once again.
Still just 20-years-old at the time, she admits that she felt the pressure of a nation on her shoulders, as no Egyptian woman had ever won the World Championships before.
El Sherbini had lost to Laura Massaro in the 2013 World Championships final
“I remember that I was super excited. I remember that I started warming up an hour before the match, whereas usually I only warm up 15 or 20 minutes before the start,” Sherbini admitted.
“I felt that everyone was nervous. [Amr] Shabana [her coach and mentor] was nervous, [it was] the first time I could ever feel that he was nervous. I was excited, and that is why I think I didn’t really play in the first two games.”
The final did not start well for the Egyptian, though. The first game went to Massaro by an 11-6 scoreline, with the second soon following for the loss of four points, leaving the player from England on the precipice of a second World Championship triumph after just 25 minutes.
“After the first game, I remember thinking ‘Okay, it is just the first game gone, it is fine’, but then I lost the second game as well, so I started thinking that it wasn’t going to happen,” she said.
“She [Massaro] was playing well, but at the same time, I wasn’t doing anything, I didn’t put any effort or any pressure on her, but I remember every word Shabana told me after the second game.
Massaro and El Sherbini met for the second time in the final of the Worlds
“He said, ‘It isn’t over, you are 2-0 down now, you have just one more game. Just play every point as if it is the last point in the match’.
“I remember that he kept telling me some stuff to try and get me out of the mood, I kept laughing and smiling, it took the stress off of me, and I started getting over that I was 2-0 down.”
And ‘The Maestro’s’ words had the desired effect as El Sherbini came storming back to level. She took a lead in the final game, but Massaro finally rediscovered her length and pushed the Egyptian all the way.
El Sherbini was not taking no for an answer, though, and she took the fifth game to 10-8, before slotting a backhand volley into the nick to etch her name onto the coveted trophy.
“I hoped that this scenario was going to happen and that I would get a good serve away. She will just play it across and I am going to drop it. I just wished it would happen,” Sherbini explained.
“I played the serve that way and that is exactly what happened. I was really surprised but I think it was the best ending for me.
El Sherbini became the first Egyptian woman to win the PSA World Championships
“After it had finished, I didn’t really believe it was over but it was. It was over and everyone was jumping around and I remember that my coaches, people from the federation, my parents, Raneem [El Welily] and everyone was there.
“The first person I went to was my dad, and we kept jumping. My mum was crying and it was very emotional for us. Someone said that if I had lost, they were going to kill me.
“It was really emotional, it was really big and something that I had dreamt would happen. It happened, and still I try to believe it, because it was surreal.”
No matter how big it felt like her win was at the time, she had no idea how big it was back in her home country of Egypt.
“When I got back to Egypt, I felt like I was a celebrity. Everyone was waiting for me, people were calling me and texting me. Everyone wanted to talk with me, so it was really huge, and thats what makes it so special for me.
“I wasn’t just the first Egyptian women to win the tournament, but it was my first time, and I was the youngest, and I became the World No.1. A lot of achievements happened from just one tournament. It is very special, and I feel very honoured to have won, I am proud of it.”