Female squash professionals including KSA player “making history” at Saudi tournament

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In addition to the lucrative $165,000 prize fund up for grabs in the Saudi Women's Squash Masters, the players will also be battling it out for points on the PSA World Series Standings — which are currently headed up by Egypt’s El-Welily, pictured. (AP)
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Nicol David, Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud, President of the Saudi Federation for Community Sports and PSA Chairman and Saudi Squash Federation President, Ziad Al-Turki. (Twitter)
Updated 07 January 2018
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Female squash professionals including KSA player “making history” at Saudi tournament

LONDON: The Saudi Arabia Squash Federation President says the world’s top female players “are making history” by competing in the first professional women’s squash tournament to ever take place in the Kingdom.
The world’s leading female players are in Riyadh for the first World Series event of 2018 — the Saudi PSA Women’s Squash Masters — which got underway today and runs until Friday.
The tournament, held at Princess Nora bint Abdul Rahman University in Riyadh, features 32 international players, including Nada Abo Al-Naja, Saudi’s wildcard player. She plays world No. 3 and No. 2 seed Camille Serme tomorrow.
Following recent initiatives from the General Authority of Sports in Saudi Arabia to increase sporting participation and awareness across the country, the $165,000 tournament will play a crucial role in inspiring a new generation of Saudis to become active within sport.
“Things are changing in Saudi, and they are changing fast,” said Ziad Al-Turk, who is also the Chairman of the PSA, at the official tournament dinner. “Win or lose, you [the players] are making history.”
Eight-time world champion Nicol David tweeted: “Truly honored to be part of this historical moment in Saudi Arabia.”
The tournament was scheduled to take place in November but was postponed due to “logistical challenges.”
“Bringing professional squash back to Saudi Arabia for the first time since 2010 has been an ambition of mine and I am grateful for the support of the Women’s Department of the Saudi General Authority for Sport to see this come to fruition,” said Al-Turk. “Not only is squash one of the healthiest sports it is the perfect sport for the Saudi climate. I’m hoping that this tournament will increase local participation in Saudi Arabia, and I look forward to working with all parties involved throughout the next six months, ensuring continued success for years to come.”
The staging of the tournament comes hot on the heels of the Saudi General Sports Authority approving three football stadiums to allow women to attend Saudi Professional League matches for the first time
“We look forward to growing the female participation of the sport of squash,” said Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan, President of the Saudi Federation for Community Sports. “It is a dynamic game that involves fast thinking and fast reaction times, skills that are well reflected in the women of Saudi Arabia.”
With no qualifying rounds featured at the tournament, 32 of the world’s top players — comprised of 12 nationalities — go straight into the main draw, with stars such as world champion Raneem El-Welily, world No. 3 Camille Serme, world No. 5 Nouran Gohar and Nicol David joining the battle for the prize purse.
Egypt’s World No.1 and tournament top seed Nour El-Sherbini will get her tournament under way against France’s world No. 30 Coline Aumard and is seeded to meet compatriot and world No. 5 Nouran Gohar — who starts her tournament against Australia’s former world champion Rachael Grinham — in the last four.
The Egyptian two-time world champion is also predicted to face off against world No. 3 Camille Serme in the final should they both play to their seeding. Serme is scheduled to meet eight-time world champion Nicol David in the quarter-finals.
The pair have met 17 times on the PSA World Tour — with the Frenchwoman only winning one of those encounters against the Malaysian icon in the quarter-finals of the recent Hong Kong Open this season. David will start her tournament in Riyadh against Egypt’s World No.31 Mayar Hany.
Meanwhile, newly crowned world champion El Welily — who triumphed over El Sherbini in December to win squash’s biggest tournament — will start her tournament against Belgium’s world No. 27 and Open International de Squash de Nantes runner-up Nele Gilis as she seeks to keep her strong run of form going in her first tournament since lifting the PSA World Championship crown in Manchester.
Other big names in the draw include US Open winner Nour El-Tayeb, who comes up against Hong Kong’s world No. 36 Liu Tsz-Ling in round one of the World Series tournament, and English pair Alison Waters and Sarah-Jane Perry, who take on Egypt’s Heba El-Torky and Hong Kong’s Joey Chan, respectively, in the opening round of the historic event.
In addition to the lucrative $165,000 prize fund up for grabs, the players will also be battling it out for points on the PSA World Series Standings — which are currently headed up by Egypt’s El-Welily — as players aim for a top eight finish, which will guarantee their participation at June’s PSA World Series Finals.


Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir ‘100 percent ready’ to face England, says coach

Updated 23 May 2018
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Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir ‘100 percent ready’ to face England, says coach

  • Left-armer is fit after a knee injury
  • “He’s fine, he’s ready to go,” says team coach Mickey Arthur

LONDON: Pakistan spearhead Mohammad Amir is “100 percent ready” for the first Test against England at Lord’s starting on Thursday despite a knee injury, according to team coach Mickey Arthur.
The left-arm fast bowler was seen stretching out his right knee as Pakistan beat Test debutants Ireland by five wickets during a one-off match in Malahide, Dublin concluded last week.
Pakistan bowling coach Azhar Mahmood suggested Amir had suffered a recurrence of a “chronic” problem.
But head coach Arthur, speaking to reporters at Lord’s on Tuesday, had no qualms about the fitness of Amir.
“He’s perfect, 100 percent,” Arthur insisted. “He’s fine, he’s ready to go.”
As for Amir, missing Pakistan’s final warm-up match ahead of the two-Test England series, last weekend’s drawn match against Leicestershire, Arthur added: “It was his rotation. (Mohammad) Abbas sat out the first (tour) game, Hasan (Ali) sat out the second, so he sat out the third.”
Amir was the hottest property in world cricket after bursting on the scene as a teenager in 2009 and at 18 he was the youngest bowler to have taken 50 Test wickets.
But his world was turned upside down in 2010 when he became involved in a spot-fixing scandal after deliberately bowling no-balls during the Lord’s Test against England — an incident that would eventually see him sent to prison by an English court and given a five-year ban by the International Cricket Council.
Amir’s first 14 Tests saw him take 51 wickets at just a fraction over 23 apiece, figures that had him on course to be an all-time great.
But the 17 Tests since his comeback two years ago have seen him take 49 wickets at a more expensive average of 34.91
Amir, and Pakistan for that matter, have not been helped by the fact that those 17 Tests since 2016 have also seen 16 catches dropped off his bowling.
The stigma of his spot-fixing exile has started to fade, with Amir playing for Pakistan during their 2-2 draw in a four-Test series in England two years ago.
He also starred for Essex as they won English domestic cricket’s first-class County Championship title last season.
Now the 26-year-old Amir is set to be the leader of an inexperienced Pakistan attack.
England, who didn’t manage a single win during their recent seven combined Tests in Australia and New Zealand, collapsed to 58 all out in Auckland in March as Kiwi left-arm quick Trent Boult took six wickets.
And Arthur backed Amir to do similar damage
“I think Mohammad Amir is the finest exponent of pace and swing when he gets it 100 percent right,” Arthur said.
“We’ve used that spell that Trent Boult bowled in Auckland. We’ve had a look at his lengths.
“We believe he (Amir) bowls incredibly well at left-handers and there will be three left-handers (Alastair Cook, Mark Stoneman and Dawid Malan) in the (England) top four.
“He’s ready, I just hope it goes really well for him because he’s been unlucky at times with the amount of dropped catches.
“He’s ready, he’s determined, he’s fit, he’s strong, he’s excited, he’s in a very good place at the moment.”
Arthur is unusual in having served as the head coach of three leading nations — his native South Africa, Australia and Pakistan.
But he was adamant he had no desire to replace Trevor Bayliss when the Australian steps down as England coach next year.
“No, I’m very happy,” Arthur said. “I’d like to keep going with Pakistan for as long as they will have me because it’s unfinished business for us at the moment. This is a very young cricket team and I worry if we move on what happens to these guys. Their fitness regime is outstanding, they are training hard and they are enjoying their cricket. I’m very, very happy with where I am at the moment,” he insisted.