Being crowned PSA Young Player of the Season for the 2018-2019 season has rounded out an impressive campaign for Youssef Ibrahim, which included winning six titles, and a rise from World No.210 to just outside the top 50 in the rankings.
He is one of several young Egyptians who are starting to make their mark on the PSA World Tour, along with Mostafa Asal, Mazen Hesham, Youssef Soliman and many more.
Ibrahim admitted that being named YPOTS at the PSA Awards in Cairo, held ahead of the CIB PSA World Tour Finals, was “very special”.
“‘Oh my god!’ was the first thing that came to mind. It felt extra special and I couldn’t be any happier,” Ibrahim said.
“It is always good to see the hard work paying off, but it feels very special to see it being appreciated and respected by the PSA, fellow players and squash fans of course.”
The 20-year-old took his first win on the PSA World Tour in 2017, when he succeeded at the Open D’Italia, beating Frenchman Baptiste Masotti. He fell in love with the city, and the food, on his way to winning.
“It felt very special, I was going into that tournament not knowing what to expect and I was just trying to enjoy myself and my squash on court,” he admitted.
“I loved the city Riccione, so I guess it was something that drove me to play my best squash at that time to win to stay a few more days in the city and eat my favourite food, which is pizza!”
The last twelve months has seen Ibrahim take home another six titles, including a run of winning four consecutive events he entered. The Egyptian won the Sportwerk Open, CIB Wade Degla Squash Tournament, Swiss Open and Romanian Open in an eight week period in the second half of 2018.
He then won his final tournament of 2018, the CNS International Squash Championship in Karachi, Pakistan. Another victory came at the E.M. Noll Classic in February 2019.
That came a week ahead of the PSA World Championships, where Ibrahim made the last 32 for the first time in his career, and he believes he is playing better than ever before.
“I would say I was playing my best Squash so far, but I was surprised and really proud of myself to have had something that I’ve always lacked and missed throughout my entire life which is consistency, and that was the most important thing during the season,” Ibrahim explained.
After a fantastic year, the 20-year-old has risen from 210th in the world, to currently sitting at World No.62. He peaked at World No.56 in May, but he has much bigger ambitions, even though he will be studying for the next three years in the United States.
Ibrahim (right) in action in his first World Championships, back in 2016
“A major goal is to reach top 30 while being a student at Princeton University. It is not an easy task but I have never put a roof or limit on my dreams,” he explained.
“I’m trying to play as many tournaments as I can and balance it with academics and I will try to do my best in the next 3 years to achieve my goal, and if not better, before turning into full time pro after college.”
Going back to the start, and Ibrahim wanted to get into squash almost as soon as he can walk. He remembers how it was down to his older brother already playing that got him interested.
“My father was the one who got my older brother into squash, when he used to play squash for fun with his friends,” the Egyptian explained about his childhood.
“For me it was matter of going with my family to watch my brother practice when he was five years old and I was three at Al Ahly Club. The minimum age to get to practice was five years old.
“My father told me that when I was four years old I screamed so loudly that I wanted to play while watching my brother practice that the head coach of the club gave me a racquet to try and hit the ball and I was hitting the ball into the racquet as well as the kids who have been practicing for two years.”
Like a lot of kids growing up in that era of squash in Egypt, Ibrahim had an idol, and he would grow up to be left-handed like Amr Shabana.
“Shabana, of course, has been my squash idol since I was very young and [he] still is. However, I have been close to Karim Darwish [and he is] the man I learned from the most. He is my head coach at Wadi Degla Club and I always like to take his advice,” he admitted.
Squash was not his only sport as a youngster, as the World No.62 explained that he could have chosen to play football to a high level.
“I used to be good at football/soccer and I was asked to play for some big clubs locally, one of them was Al Ahly club, which is the biggest club in soccer in Egypt, but my father always believed that squash was the way to go,” Ibrahim explained.
To this day, Ibrahim still loves to play football, but he is happy that his chosen sport is taking him all over the world.
“I like to play football and draw while listening to music. I love traveling and exploring new places and I’m really happy that squash, the thing I love the most, gives me the opportunity to do that.”