Egyptian World No.9 Ali Farag has outlined his intention to challenge for top spot on the World Rankings after a superb season that saw the affable 24-year-old storm towards the upper echelons of the game.
Since graduating from Harvard University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering two years ago, Farag has established himself as one of the most popular players on the PSA World Tour as a result of his sportsmanship and personable manner.
His popularity extends to his fellow players, who two months ago chose him as the recipient of the 2016 Male Spirit of Squash award – to go with his Fans’ Player of the Season award – a superb way to cap off his first full season on the PSA World Tour.
The past 10 months have seen Farag transform from a rising star ranked just inside the world’s top 50, to a bonafide top 10 player with a PSA M70 title, won in January’s Motor City Open, under his belt.
“I’m obviously very happy with my season,” said Farag.
“It was my first ever full season on the tour and I wanted to test myself more than anything else. Test myself against top players, test myself when it comes to handling pressure, testing myself as being the hunted, not the hunter anymore, and I can safely say that my performances and results definitely exceeded my expectations.
“There were obviously a couple of bad losses here and there, but I don’t like to call them ‘disappointments’ to be honest. Losses are a part of any sport, and as much as they hurt, they are the ones that teach us the most.”
Ali Farag with the Motor City Open title
There were no such losses to be found in Detroit though as a series of sublime displays saw the young Egyptian power to the biggest tournament of his career to date.
Coming less than two weeks after he had suffered a shock defeat to then World No.255 Ramit Tandon to crash out of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions at the qualification stage, Farag played with poise and maturity to beat World Junior Champion Diego Elias in a potential banana-skin first round encounter.
Farag takes on Mohamed ElShorbagy in the 2016 Motor City Open
Next up for the man from Cairo was a meeting with compatriot Mohamed ElShorbagy, the World No.1 who dominated the PSA World Tour last season but, in one of the biggest scalps of the past year, it was the younger Egyptian who prevailed in a dramatic five-game clash to reach the last four where he defeated Mathieu Castagnet.
Three-time World Champion Nick Matthew was the next player to be put to the sword in the final by the in-form Farag, who hailed that week as the best of his career.
“Not only had I beaten those incredible players and captured the biggest title of my career, but I was able to bounce back stronger after an unexpected loss a week earlier at the ToC,” Farag enthused.
“Obviously, winning the Motor City Open back in January is the highlight of my season, and my career to date. But I’ve had other moments of pride this season, such as pushing [World Champion] Greg Gaultier to five in San Francisco [NetSuite Open] as it was the first time I realised I am really close to the top guys. Reaching the quarter-final of my first ever World Championship back in Seattle is also something that I will always be proud of.”
Farag v Simon Rösner in the 2015 PSA Men's World Championship third round
Farag has found further happiness during the off season after marrying long-term sweetheart and Women’s World No.16 Nour El Tayeb – who he credits for having a big impact on his career thus far.
“Words will never do her justice,” a glowing Farag said.
“But all I can say is that having such a supportive woman who’s got a great understanding of the game, and more importantly a great understanding of who I am, makes my squash career 10 times easier and more enjoyable.”