In the world of professional squash many observers harken back to an age when one country, and one player from that country, dominated the sport. In the 1980â€™s that country was Pakistan, and that player was the great Jahangir Khan. To this point no one has been able to replicate that sort of dominance. But there is now a hint that a new country is asserting its dominance in squash, and that country is Egypt. In the current Dunlop Professional Squash Association (PSA) world rankings there are five Egyptians in the top 15, and 3 Egyptians in the top five alone. And atop those rankings in the number one spot is 23-year-old Egyptian wunderkind Ramy Ashour.
The Cairo-born Ashour first attained the number one position in December of 2009. And at the age of 22 at the time that made him the youngest world number one player since Jahangir Khan and his brother Jansher, Ashourâ€™s favorite player, almost three decades ago. Five years earlier a 16-year-old Ashour became the youngest ever to win the Menâ€™s World Junior Squash Championship, and he went on to become the only repeat titlist in history in 2006. That year he brought the team trophy home to Egypt as well. Prior to that point no country had ever claimed the top three spots as well as the team event in the same year.
Most recently Ashour has struggled with a nagging foot injury that most recently directly contributed to a loss in the El Gouna Championships to fellow Egyptian Karim Darwish. Earlier in his career Ashour was frequently injured and much of this was attributed to a lack of a structured training regimen. But he subsequently took on world-renowned fitness trainer Mohamed Al-Sayed as his personal trainer, and Ashourâ€™s body has now been measuring up, most of the time, to the level of his considerable natural skills. And these skills are really starting to get attention from squash observers and historians. Squash legend and writer Malcolm Willstrop has stated, â€œRamy Ashour is something else â€“ his movement is better than anyone in the game, and allied to his unique racket skills and vision, he lights up the sport. Not only that but his modesty, and engaging smile make him a rare commodity.â€
Ramy Ashour will face many challenges in the high-pressure world of professional squash, including those from his many talented countrymen. But Ashour, at such a young age, appears to be more than up for the challenge. And he just might live up to the legacy of his favorite players from yesteryear Pakistan.