There are countless examples of inspiring personal stories from professionals competing on the PSA World Tour, however few compare to the captivating journey of current World No. 43 Nadine Shahin.
At just 18 years of age, Shahin’s career is still very much in its infancy. Despite this, she has firmly established herself in the world’s top 50 and has achieved a meteoric rise in the world rankings having been ranked 54 places lower this time two years ago, in addition to racking up a hugely impressive 7 PSA World Tour titles in that period.
As the Egyptian, who hails from Cairo, continues to rise to the upper echelons of the game, Shahin fondly remembers how her father first introduced her to the game at the tender age of five.
“My father played squash and would win in master tournaments in Egypt,” said Shahin.
“Every time he returned home with a trophy I would tell him, ‘I want to be a champion like you dad’. Finally, one day he took me with him and I immediately fell in love with squash.”
After inspiring Shahin to embrace the game, her father tragically passed away when she was just 11 years old, presenting an immense personal challenge for the talented youngster.
In spite of her devastating loss, Shahin benefitted from extraordinary support from those close to her, including her long-term coach and tutor, Hesham El Attar.
“One day, a very important person stepped into my life and changed it for good,” she said.
“He was, and still is, a father to me, Captain Hesham El Attar. He taught me everything I know about squash, he improved my game to a much higher level and he inspired me to compete on the Tour.”
Under the guidance of El Attar, Shahin progressed strongly within the fiercely competitive junior ranks in Egypt which is full of up-and-coming talents as the country currently acts as a conveyor belt of premier squash talent.
“Egyptian junior squash is more competitive on a domestic level than you'll ever know,” explained Shahin.
“From the beginning of the season, we'd all fight to secure the top four places in various tournaments, hoping to travel to the prestigious British Junior Open.”
Egyptian squash is going through something of a golden age at present with five of the world’s top ten players coming from that country in a list that includes the likes of three-time World Champion Ramy Ashour, World No.1 Mohamed Elshorbagy and World Championship runner-up Omar Mosaad, not to mention the likes of the ‘Maestro’ Amr Shabana who retired at the start of the 2015/16 campaign.
Shahin acknowledges that the relentless nature of Egyptian squash can lead to severe tension amongst competitors, but recognises how important this challenge was in her development.
“Without competition there wouldn’t be any motivation to reach the highest levels,” she admitted.
“I feel honoured to play in a country where we have the talent and determination to reach the top.”
The success of the Egyptian youth system is plain for all to see, with Shahin and several other rising youngsters, including J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions semi-finalist Nouran Gohar, soaring through the PSA World rankings.
Shahin describes how she maintains a positive relationship with her fellow compatriots and says that time away from the sport is important for their camaraderie.
“We're all actually really good friends on and off court,” Shahin said.
“We train together, play against each other and support each other at tournaments. We even go out together and have parties like any normal friends would do. It doesn't always have to be about the sport and competition.”
Known for her unrelenting physical stamina and never say die attitude, Shahin also ensures that she prepares meticulously for important clashes on the PSA World Tour.
“Before a match, I prepare mentally first,” the tenacious youngster said.
“I imagine the match in my head. If it’s someone I’ve played before, I would remember the advantages and disadvantages of that player. If I haven’t played the opponent previously, I would watch some videos beforehand.
“I then prepare physically by warming up really well, using a jumping rope, and performing sprints and footwork exercises. Then I go on court and fight for every point.”
Now a winner of seven PSA World Tour titles, including two successive victories on the Malaysian Tour in November 2015, Shahin has established herself as a dangerous force in the Women’s game.
Blessed with an unwavering determination and focus, Shahin is hugely ambitious about her future prospects.
“Every title for me is like the first, it feels amazing and these two victories in Malaysia have helped me to improve my ranking,” Shahin enthused.
“This season, my target is to climb into the top 20 and I’m going to do whatever it takes to reach it. In the longer term, I dream of becoming World No.1 and I’ll never stop until I reach that goal. I will do whatever it takes so there’s a lot of hard work to be done and all I have is time.”
With the quality across the PSA World Tour arguably the highest its ever been, Shahin’s journey to the top will no doubt be an arduous one. If her vigour, drive and enthusiasm are anything to go by though, her goal of joining the best player’s in the world is certainly an attainable one.
By Jonny Coverdale