Tesni Evans believes that the COVID-19 enforced suspension of the PSA World Tour could hand Nour El Sherbini a crucial advantage in the battle for supremacy in the aftermath of the retirement of long reigning World No.1 Raneem El Welily.
The Egyptian played only in four tournaments last season in a campaign that was blighted by an ongoing injury issue with her right knee but still managed to emerge triumphant in winning a fourth World Championship before Christmas. She then also lifted the Windy City Open title before the tour was suspended.
With the 24-year-old now enjoying a significant advantage over the rest of the top ten in terms of the game’s biggest titles, and also having had over four months to rehab her knee, Evans, who has also had to rehab an injury in the shape of ankle ligament damage, reckons that will give the “Warrior Princess” the edge when squash finally resumes.
Yet the Welsh No.1 reckons that things are so close between the top ten ranked ladies that it is unlikely any one player will emerge as a new dominant force and be able to replicate El Welily’s 19-month stint at the summit of the World Rankings.
“I think for Nour [El Sherbini], the benefits of the suspension will have been the most positive. Obviously, like myself, she has been nursing an injury with her knee and the four months plus that the tour has been suspended has got to have been a big benefit in that respect for her,” said Evans.
“From my own perspective the silver lining of having all this time to let my ankle heal and then get to work on stuff that will help strengthen it has been a massive plus and I’d imagine it will have been the same for Nour.
“Then if you look at the stats that Nour has then that really tells a story. Obviously, she is the reigning World Champion, successfully defended the title to win it and has now won four World Championships while she also has two British Open titles to her credit.
“So, she has massive big title experience and now with Raneem having retired that is an advantage she has over the rest of the girls and the thing is, she is still just 24 years-old!
“Nour has fantastic shots and the thing is she can play them from pretty much anywhere on court, she also has good disguise and just has so many options. The other thing about her, and this is something she isn’t maybe given as much credit for as her great shot making, is that she is very quick and physically strong, I really think Nour is underrated in that respect.
“But if you put all of that together you have all the trouble you can handle and I have to be honest and say I have been on the end of some absolute batterings from Nour.
El Sherbini at the Windy City Open, a tournament she went on to win.
“By contrast when you look at Hania [El Hammamy] who came through with that great run at the Black Ball to win the title and beat four players ranked above her, then you could say that she may have been frustrated with the suspension because it has robbed her of momentum. But I’m sure that won’t stop her when squash returns.
“But the player she edged in that final was Nour, so despite her injury issues she was still right in there. Really I think if there is one person who will benefit from the suspension it could well be Nour.”
When it comes to the players who will be trying to reach top of the rankings, Evans admits the women’s game has never had it so good in terms of the level and depth of competition.
The 27-year-old said: “Obviously with Raneem [El Welily] retiring and everyone in the top ten moving up a place in the rankings, it is going to make things interesting when we return to the tour. No-one has experienced a period of inactivity, apart from injuries, like this before and it will have affected some more than others.
“So, I think the resumption of the tour will be even more important and more interesting than the start of any new season normally would be. But the great thing about the women’s game is that there are so many girls of who you could say that when they are on their game, they can beat anyone else.
“Nouran [Gohar] has gone top and is the current British Open champion, then you have Nour with all that experience, Camille Serme won the Tournament of Champions and Hania has come through with that great run at the Black Ball.
“SJ [Perry] also played really well in Cairo, Nour El Tayeb is always there or thereabouts, Amanda Sobhy has come back very strongly and for both me and of course Joelle King will be a huge danger once again.
“Really you can make a case for anyone in the top ten but I think that is why I don’t know if we will have one dominant force emerge, but what we will have is an awful lot of very exciting squash and great match-ups to enjoy in the women’s game when the tour gets back up and I can’t wait.”
Evans has also revealed that she has placed extra emphasis on the physical aspects of her training over the suspension period as bids to provide herself with the perfect platform to let her squash flourish.
Evans (fore) down after injuring her ankle at the Tournament of Champions
“After we got the ankle rehabbed, I really focused in on doing a lot of physical work during the suspension. My Dad, Andrew, who has always been in my corner, has been a great help in all of this and I’ve done a lot of ghosting outside in the fields and worked really hard on getting my movement where it needs to be.
“Just before the tour was suspended I was scheduled to play at the Grasshopper Cup but I knew that was going to be tight in terms of the ankle and having all this time to really rehab it properly and not be under pressure in the respect of needing to get back on the tour has been priceless.
“I know that if physically I’m in a good place then my squash benefits and that has been my main focus, just making sure I have the strength, mobility and the engine to give me the platform to produce my best squash when we resume. I would say I am 100% happy with where I’m at and if the tour resumes at the end of September then I will be more than good to go.”
“I really would love the British Open to be rescheduled. Talking as a Brit and home-based player, I think I can speak for all the other UK players and say it is the tournament we all look forward to the most.
“If it goes ahead it would just give the whole tour a huge boost and have such a positive impact and I guess if there is one thing I’d wish for it would be that we have a British Open in 2020.”