"Saurav Ghosal will be in top 10 very soon": Interview with squash champ Marwan El Shorbagy

Marwan El Shorbagy
Egyptian squash champion Marwan El Shorbagy

From a prolific career in the juniors where he captured the World Junior title twice, 12th ranked Marwan El Shorbagy is now on the cusp of the PSA top 10 rankings for the first time in his career. The 22-year-old who came to the $35k Kolkata International after a brilliant show at the China Open, is one half of the famous Shorbagy brothers dominating the squash world. His older brother Mohamed is the current World No. 1. For the younger sibling, inspiration comes from the family and he obviously wants to follow in the footsteps of his brother.

Sportskeeda caught up with the top seed of the Kolkata International during the tournament where he spoke his heart out on different topics ranging from the success of Egyptian squash, the rise of Indian squash, his career and, of course, about someone very close to him – his brother.

Excerpts –

How has the journey been from a prolific career in juniors to the top level in the professional circuit?

Of course, I had a very good career in juniors. I am very happy about winning two World Junior titles and doing really well in the British Juniors as well. Getting two titles at the British Junior Open was a great thing. It was just a great motivation for me for the PSA, for being a full-time professional player.

Also, you know it is a different game. The rallies are longer and you really have to think harder to beat the top players. Thankfully, I have had a good and fast progress in the professional circuit. It took me only three years just to be inside the top 20 which was like a dream for me. And now being so close to the top 10 was a motivation for me to keep training hard and hopefully try and get inside the top 10. I have a chance here. Maybe if I win this tournament, I will get into the top 10.

You have had a superb tournament at the China Open, reaching the final and then followed it up with quarter-finals at Macau. Are you satisfied with the way your game is shaping up? How confident are you about winning the Kolkata International?

It was a good start for me to the season, reaching the final at Shanghai. It was such a great start, I could not have asked for any better. It was a big tournament and I beat a couple of players inside the top 10 – Omar Mosaad and Tarek Momen and also Max Lee. In Macau, my quarter-final was against Max and he played really well and he won the tournament. It was a tricky match with him but all credit to him. Yeah, I was a little bit disappointed to lose. But it was a good day for him, it just wasn’t my day.

Of course, here is a different story, just going to take it match by match. It’s a tough tournament and I have a lot of tough competitors. Everyone is hungry to win. I am just going to take it step by step and hopefully, I will win the tournament.

What is it like to have a brother as the World No. 1? How much of an inspiration has he been to your career?

We are so proud of him in the family. I have seen since 10 years old how hard he’s trained – everyday waking up at 6 in the morning, going to training for 7-8 hours a day. He is a great fighter and he definitely deserves to be in this place.

For me, to have him around is such a great advantage. He just makes things easier for me. He teaches me a lot. He gives me a lot of tips from his experience. I’ll always be grateful to him. We are always there for each other. You know if I lose in the first round of a tournament, I try and stay till the last day of the tournament just to be with him. Hopefully, he can make many more records. He is still only 24 and he has probably got 10 years more of success.

What, according to you, are the reasons for such immense success of Egyptian squash? Raneem El Welily replacing Nicol David from the top position after 9 years must be another proud moment for Egyptian squash?

We always have a player to follow from Egypt. For myself, when I started playing squash, I always had someone like Amr Shabana whom I could look up to. I always wanted to be like him, just to go on court with him.

The families are always there for us, always pushing us. My mum has always been with me everywhere since I moved to England. She came with me. She was always with me and my brother. She is pushing us and makes sure that we train hard. She is sacrificing a lot for us.

Raneem has had a great year and probably won everything. Of course, Nicole is great. For me, she is the greatest female player that ever played. She has been World No. 1 for nine years and is eight times World Champion. She is a great fighter and everyone is looking up to her, even in Egypt. Raneem was on tv the other day and she said: “When I started playing squash, I had a picture of Nicole in my room.”

The time is different now. Raneem is reaching her peak. She is having a great time on court and she will challenge for the World Championships. I am sure that is her next big target to keep her No. 1 spot. It is a great thing for us to have a World No. 1 from Egypt in men’s and women’s. Raneem is a great person as well off court just like Nicole.

During El Gouna International Open final, I saw many tweets showing people eagerly following the match in cafes and clubs. So there must be a lot of squash followers in Egypt which is probably another reason why the country is doing so well in the sport?

Of course, it is getting bigger in Egypt I would say. But, if a player like my brother or Shabana or Raneem walks in the street, still nobody recognizes them. Egypt is still asking for more from the media. We are asking for more sponsors and more tournaments in Egypt. I still think we deserve more from the Egyptian Federation. We only have one big tournament in Egypt. We have four players inside the top 10 and seven players inside the top 20. We need more attention.

What is your opinion about how India is doing in squash?

Saurav is the best Indian squash player that ever came from the history of India. He is World No. 15 and he has got the potential to reach the top 10. I think he will be in the top 10 very soon. The last time my brother played him, my brother just beat him 3-2. He is always there with the top players.

I think the juniors in India are getting better. I have seen a lot of results in the British Junior Open, it’s not bad. India is a big country and the population is very high. Hopefully they can attract a lot of juniors to come up and play the sport.

There are a lot of players in India. You guys have Kush, Mahesh. I have played Mahesh in the World Juniors. He was really close. He is a good player. He just needs time to develop his game. He has got the potential to be the same kind of player as Saurav.

Kush Kumar is coming up and he has been doing really well. Of course, there’s Dipika, Joshna, Harry (Harinder Pal Sandhu) and Ramit as well. Ramit is a great player. He studies in America and hopefully if he can give himself some time in the professional tour, he can be a full-time player like for a year or two and see how it goes.

Whether squash still has a chance to be included in 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be known in a few days time. How excited are you about it?

We shall find out within a week (announcement to be made on 28th September). I will be 27 then, so that will just be my peak. So yeah, we have to wait and see.

Of course, I think squash definitely deserves to be in the Olympics. It is a great sport and it has got everything. It is a dream for all the players to just go on court in the Olympics and represent one’s country. Hopefully, we will get in.

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Edited by Staff Editor
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