Mayar Sherif says becoming highest-ranked Egyptian in tennis history is ‘no coincidence’

Mayar Sherif. (BBVA Open Internacional de Valencia)
Mayar Sherif. (BBVA Open Internacional de Valencia)
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Updated 20 June 2023
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Mayar Sherif says becoming highest-ranked Egyptian in tennis history is ‘no coincidence’

Mayar Sherif. (BBVA Open Internacional de Valencia)
  • New world No.31 is proud of passing compatriot Ismail El-Shafei’s career-high mark

In a recent conversation with her psychologist, Egyptian tennis star Mayar Sherif was asked what was driving her the most.

“She was asking me, ‘What is your motivation right now? Because motivation can move mountains’,” recalled Sherif in an interview with Arab News on Monday.

“I told her, ‘I’m dying to pass Ismail’s career-high mark of 34,’ so that was definitely a goal I had in my mind.”

Sherif was referring to Ismail El-Shafei, who, until Sunday, was the highest-ranked Egyptian in Open era history, having peaked at No.34 in the world back in 1975.

On Monday, Sherif officially surpassed him as she hit a new career-high ranking of 31 to become the highest-ranked Egyptian tennis player among both men and women in the professional era.

“It didn’t come just like that, by coincidence. It feels good to break another barrier; it gives me a lot of confidence mentally and it’s important to go into the grass season feeling this confident,” said the 27-year-old Cairene.

Sherif’s latest historic achievement has come on the heels of capturing two WTA 125k titles in as many weeks, in Makarska, Croatia, and Valencia, Spain, and she now enters the grass season with a 10-match winning streak.

The Spain-based player is an impressive 6-0 in WTA 125k finals, and has won 41 of 47 matches at that level.

While many other players have already begun their grass-court campaigns, Sherif was keen to get some more match play on clay — her preferred surface — and the decision has paid off as she now stands on the brink of the top 30.

“We tried to extend the clay season as much as possible, because the clay season on the WTA tour is very short,” Sherif said.  

“It’s obvious I play better on clay than on any other surface. Sadly the tournaments that were available were only 125s, and I’m planning to play the 250s after Wimbledon on clay. It was an objective to make the clay season as long as possible because there aren’t enough tournaments.”

Her week in Croatia felt like “vacation vibes” as she enjoyed playing at a tennis club that was right on the beach. Sherif and her team were the first to arrive at the tournament, and the last to leave — trophy in tow — and she said that gave her a mental boost entering the second week in Valencia, where she demolished the field, clinching the title without dropping a set, and losing a total of just 17 games through five matches.

Sherif will now shift her focus to the grass and she has a week to prepare for the WTA 250 event in Bad Homburg, Germany, before heading to Wimbledon, where she will make her main draw debut and will likely be seeded at a Grand Slam for the first time, thanks to her new ranking.

She admits her initial target was to be seeded by the time the US Open came around end of August and she is thrilled to be ahead of schedule.

Sherif’s entire professional experience on grass is limited to just two Wimbledon qualifying matches, played at Roehampton two years ago. She had to miss the Championships last year due to a foot injury and is excited to be heading to the All England Club for the first time as a pro.

While she is aware of the challenges she will face competing on a surface she is not well-acquainted with, she hopes to approach the grass swing with a fresh winning mentality.

“The last time I played on grass was two years ago and I enjoyed it. I didn’t expect to enjoy it, and I went with the mentality of, ‘Let’s see how I’m going to feel.’ But I feel like had I gone to Wimbledon qualifying two years ago with a winning mentality of, ‘I can do this’, I probably would have qualified,” she said.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t. So this time I’m going to go with this winning mentality because I actually enjoyed it the last time.”

Sherif has been plotting with her coach Justo Gonzalez a plan of attack for the grass, and noted several adjustments need to be made in order to be physically and tactically ready to compete at Wimbledon. She is also on the verge of making a bold move by changing the model of Wilson racket she has been using.

“The physical transitioning is not easy. On grass you have to stay low, the agility is super difficult; the first few days it’s tough on the legs and on the back,” said the Pepperdine University alum.  

“I’m working with my fitness coach to make this transition physically smooth and I plan on playing the 250 event in Bad Homburg so I can prepare well for Wimbledon.”

She added: “We might change the racket. You’re the first to know this actually. We’ve been planning on this for a while, let’s see how it goes. It can go disastrously, or it can go very well, but we’ll take the risk and we’ll see.

“We’re changing the racket and also in my game play, we’re going to work on the serve; we’re going to add more slices, the volleys are important. Of course, on grass, if you have good touch, it’s important, so that’s what we’re going to work on this week.

“We think that I have a good touch, but I don’t use it enough, so maybe on the grass is a good time to use it.”

The last time Sherif set foot in the All England Club was back in 2012. She was 16, competing in the juniors draw, and won her first round in girls’ singles before losing in the second round.

“I’m very excited for Wimbledon, of course. I’ve been dying to set foot in that club. I’ve only been there as a junior, and I don’t remember much, and I’ve never been there as a pro, so I’m very excited for it. I’m looking forward to enjoying the experience more than anything,” she said.


Djokovic shrugs off troubles in winning start at French Open

Djokovic shrugs off troubles in winning start at French Open
Updated 29 May 2024
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Djokovic shrugs off troubles in winning start at French Open

Djokovic shrugs off troubles in winning start at French Open
  • Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka, a semifinalist in 2023, overpowered Russian teenager Erika Andreeva 6-1, 6-2 in just 68 minutes
  • Two-time runner-up Casper Ruud cruised to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Brazilian qualifier Felipe Meligeni Alves

PARIS: Defending champion Novak Djokovic shrugged off his recent troubles to sweep to his 93rd career win at the French Open on Tuesday, extending his run of first round Roland Garros victories to a perfect 20.

Djokovic, chasing a fourth title in Paris and record 25th Grand Slam triumph, came through against 142nd-ranked French wildcard Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-4, 7-6 (7/3), 6-4.

The 37-year-old, who saw career-long rival and 14-time champion Rafael Nadal exit the tournament on Monday, had arrived under a cloud.

For the first time since 2018, he is without a title and has yet to reach a final this season.

He has also endured recent misfortunes being accidentally hit on the head by a metal water bottle in Rome and then suffering stomach problems in Geneva.

“It was a solid performance,” said Djokovic. “I could have done better, especially on the return, but bravo to him for serving well.

“It’s a victory in three sets, that’s what matters at this moment. I felt better compared to the last few weeks. I was focused. I encouraged myself, I am satisfied with my state of mind.”

Djokovic, who has advanced to the French Open quarterfinals or better every year since 2010, will face Spain’s 63rd-ranked Roberto Carballes Baena for a place in the last 32.

Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka, a semifinalist in 2023, overpowered Russian teenager Erika Andreeva 6-1, 6-2 in just 68 minutes under the roof of Court Philippe Chatrier as heavy rain caused a five-hour delay to action around the grounds.

World No. 2 Sabalenka fired 27 winners past the 100th-ranked Andreeva and broke serve five times in a dominant display.

“I’m trying to do well on clay, it is tough conditions here but I enjoy playing here and I’m just trying to bring my best tennis every time — whatever the surface,” said Sabalenka.

The Belarusian has made at least the last-four at her past six Grand Slams and is expected to be Iga Swiatek’s toughest rival in the Pole’s bid for a fourth French Open title.

There was better luck for Andreeva’s younger sister Mirra, who went to the fourth round as a 16-year-old in 2023.

She swept past Emina Bektas of the US in straights sets.

Two-time runner-up Casper Ruud, who won clay-court titles in Barcelona and Geneva in the build-up to Roland Garros, cruised to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Brazilian qualifier Felipe Meligeni Alves.

“It’s great to be back here at Roland Garros,” he said. “Hopefully I can make it another good year here.”

Ruud was beaten in straight sets by Djokovic in last year’s final following a one-sided loss to Nadal in the 2022 showpiece.

Frenchwoman Alize Cornet’s career ended with a straight-sets defeat by Zheng Qinwen in her record-extending 69th consecutive Grand Slam appearance.

Cornet was no match for China’s Australian Open runner-up Zheng, losing 6-2, 6-1.

She made her debut at Roland Garros as a 15-year-old in 2005 and had not missed a Grand Slam tournament since the 2006 US Open.

Cornet reached a career-high ranking of 11th in 2009 and enjoyed a surprise run to the 2022 Australian Open quarter-finals.

“I already cried yesterday watching Rafa,” said a tearful Cornet after seeing Nadal lose what was likely his last match at the French Open.

Over on Court Suzanne Lenglen, former Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina powered into the second round with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Belgian Greet Minnen.

Kazakh world No. 4 Rybakina is the only player to defeat Swiatek on clay this season, in the Stuttgart semifinals in April.

There was no celebration for Argentine qualifier Roman Andres Burruchaga who has sporting success in the blood.

His father Jorge famously scored the winning goal for Diego Maradona’s Argentina in the 1986 World Cup final against West Germany.

Ranked at 144, the 22-year-old came up short in a three-set loss to experienced Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany.


Djokovic eyes season turnaround as rain brings havoc to French Open

Djokovic eyes season turnaround as rain brings havoc to French Open
Updated 28 May 2024
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Djokovic eyes season turnaround as rain brings havoc to French Open

Djokovic eyes season turnaround as rain brings havoc to French Open
  • World number one Djokovic, seeking a fourth Roland Garros title and record-extending 25th major, is enduring his worst run since 2018
  • He also suffered the indignity of being accidentally hit on the head by a metal water bottle in Rome which caused nausea and dizziness

PARIS: Novak Djokovic begins the defense of his French Open title at Roland Garros on Tuesday, confident his Grand Slam pedigree will help turn around his lacklustre season as tournament chiefs battled a frustrating five-hour rain delay.
By late afternoon on the third day, only four of the scheduled 40 first-round ties had been completed.
Two-time runner-up Casper Ruud and former Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina were safely back in the locker room having benefitted from playing under the roofs of the Philippe Chatrier and Suzanne Lenglen courts.
World number one Djokovic, seeking a fourth Roland Garros title and record-extending 25th major, is enduring his worst run since 2018.
Djokovic, 37, has not won a title in 2024 and has yet to make a final with semifinal spots at the Australian Open and Monte Carlo Masters his best performances.
He also suffered the indignity of being accidentally hit on the head by a metal water bottle in Rome which caused nausea and dizziness.
In Geneva last week, where he was knocked out by Tomas Machac of the Czech Republic, Djokovic said he had been suffering from a stomach problem.
“They are rather bumps on the road,” said Djokovic, who watched his long-time rival and 14-time champion Rafael Nadal bow out of the tournament against Alexander Zverev on Monday.
When asked to elaborate further on his difficulties so far this season, Djokovic opted for discretion.
“Various things have been happening in the last couple of months, but I don’t want to get into it. I don’t want to open Pandora’s Box.”
On Tuesday, Djokovic will take on French wildcard Pierre-Hugues Herbert, the world number 142 who hasn’t won a match on the main tour this year.
Ruud, who won clay-court titles in Barcelona and Geneva in the build-up to Roland Garros, cruised to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Brazilian qualifier Felipe Meligeni Alves.
“It’s great to be back here at Roland Garros,” he said. “Hopefully I can make it another good year here.”
Ruud was beaten in straight sets by Novak Djokovic in last year’s final following a one-sided loss to Rafael Nadal in the 2022 showpiece.
He also lost the 2022 US Open final to Carlos Alcaraz.
Frenchwoman Alize Cornet’s career ended with a straight-sets defeat by Zheng Qinwen in her record-extending 69th consecutive Grand Slam appearance.
Cornet was no match for China’s Australian Open runner-up Zheng, losing 6-2, 6-1.
She made her debut at Roland Garros as a 15-year-old in 2005 and has not missed a Grand Slam tournament since the 2006 US Open.
Cornet reached a career-high ranking of 11th in 2009 and enjoyed a surprise run to the 2022 Australian Open quarter-finals.
“I already cried yesterday watching Rafa,” said a tearful Cornet after seeing Nadal lose what was likely his last match at the French Open on Monday.
Over on Court Suzanne Lenglen, Rybakina powered into the second round with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Belgian Greet Minnen and could face three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber for a place in the last 32.
Kazakh world number four Rybakina is the only player to defeat tournament favorite Iga Swiatek on clay this season, in the Stuttgart semifinals in April.
Elsewhere on Tuesday, two-time Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka gets her bid to reach a first Roland Garros final underway.
The world number two has reached at least the semifinals in each of the past six Grand Slam events.
Sabalenka is also the only woman to beat world number one and three-time French Open winner Swiatek in a final on clay — in Madrid last year — since the Pole lost her first WTA title decider as a teenager in 2019 at a low-key event in Switzerland.
The 26-year-old Sabalenka had never even reached the second week at Roland Garros until last year, when she was knocked out by Karolina Muchova in the semifinals.
She starts her Paris campaign against Russia’s Erika Andreeva.
Also on court in the men’s singles is Argentine qualifier Roman Andres Burruchaga who has sporting success in the blood.
His father Jorge famously scored the winning goal for Diego Maradona’s Argentina in the 1986 World Cup final against West Germany.
Ranked at 144, the 22-year-old is making his Grand Slam debut and takes on Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff.


Nadal says ‘not 100 percent certain’ it is his final French Open

Nadal says ‘not 100 percent certain’ it is his final French Open
Updated 25 May 2024
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Nadal says ‘not 100 percent certain’ it is his final French Open

Nadal says ‘not 100 percent certain’ it is his final French Open
  • “There is a good chance that it will be my last French Open,” said the Spaniard
  • Nadal has 22 Grand Slam titles

PARIS: Rafael Nadal said Saturday that it is likely he is appearing at the French Open for the final time but cautioned it was “not 100 percent certain.”
“There is a good chance that it will be my last French Open, but I cannot say that I am 100 percent certain that it will be the last,” said the Spaniard.
Nadal, who has won the French Open 14 times and will celebrate his 38th birthday on June 3, faces world number four Alexander Zverev in the first round in Paris on Monday.
The Spanish legend has racked up 112 wins in 115 matches at the tournament since his title-winning 2005 debut when he was just 19.
He has 22 Grand Slam titles — second only to Novak Djokovic’s 24 on the all-time men’s list — but his career has been plagued by injuries.
Nadal has played just four tournaments since January last year after suffering a hip injury and then a muscle tear.
As a result, his ranking has slumped to 276 in the world and comes into the French Open unseeded.


‘Happy I’m not playing Nadal,’ says Medvedev

‘Happy I’m not playing Nadal,’ says Medvedev
Updated 24 May 2024
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‘Happy I’m not playing Nadal,’ says Medvedev

‘Happy I’m not playing Nadal,’ says Medvedev

PARIS: Daniil Medvedev said he was “happy” not to have been drawn to face 14-time champion Rafael Nadal in the French Open first round as the great Spaniard prepares to bid an emotional farewell to the tournament.
Nadal, who has only lost three times in 115 matches at Roland Garros since his title-winning debut in 2005, is playing the French Open for the last time.
In a blockbuster first match, unseeded Nadal will face fourth-ranked Alexander Zverev and world number five Medvedev could not be more delighted.
“I’m not shy to say I’m happy it’s not me playing against him first round,” admitted Medvedev on Friday, a day after practicing with Nadal.
Former world number one and 22-time Grand Slam title winner Nadal, whose ranking has slumped to 276 after featuring in just four tournaments since January last year, will turn 38 on June 3.
However, Medvedev warned Zverev that Nadal is far from a fading force.
“There’s a lot of hard work, a lot of mental effort. Sometimes people forget he has a lot of talent in his hands also,” said the Russian.
“We were warming up serves and then he did three in a row, volley, dropshots, banana ones, with backspin, and it was funny.
“We were saying, ‘Yeah, no talent, just hard work!’“
Nadal holds a 7-3 winning head-to-head record against Zverev with five of those victories coming on clay.
The last time they met was in the 2022 semifinals in Paris when the German was forced to retire after suffering a serious ankle injury.
“It’s tough to play Rafa,” added Medvedev.
“He has the capability to spin the ball not like other players, get these high balls especially on clay, is not easy.
“Then we go to where he fights for every point, he brings intensity to every point. You know you’re going to be tired, you know it’s going to be tough. It’s not easy.”


French Open: Nadal faces Zverev in first round

French Open: Nadal faces Zverev in first round
Updated 23 May 2024
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French Open: Nadal faces Zverev in first round

French Open: Nadal faces Zverev in first round
  • Nadal had been coy about whether he would compete Roland Garros after two seasons of off-and-on action because of injuries

PARIS: Rafael Nadal is in the French Open field, after all, and the 14-time champion was set up for a challenging first-round matchup against Alexander Zverev from Thursday’s draw.
Nadal had been coy about whether he would compete Roland Garros after two seasons of off-and-on action because of injuries, including a surgically repaired hip that forced him to miss his favorite tournament a year ago.
After a loss at the Italian Open this month, Nadal said he needed to think about whether to play in Paris. But he has been practicing on the red clay at Roland Garros this week and his name was officially in the bracket.
Unseeded.
His matchup against the No. 4-ranked Zverev is a rematch of their 2022 semifinal that ended when Zverev tore ligaments in his right ankle.
The French Open begins on Sunday.