On March 15, 2020, Hania El Hammamy announced herself to the squash world, as she became the latest winner of a major tournament, thanks to a stunning run to the title at the CIB Black Ball Squash Open in Cairo.
En route to winning the PSA Platinum title, she defeated four higher seeded players, including four-time World Champion Nour El Sherbini. She got the better of No.3 seed Camille Serme in an epic third round clash, before beating US No.1 Amanda Sobhy and English No.1 Sarah-Jane Perry.
The final was a modern classic, which swung back and forth, with El Hammamy taking a lead after the first and third games. El Sherbini fought back twice, but it was the then-19-year-old that took the spoils, becoming the latest major title winner in the sport.
"SHE'S DONE IT!"
HaniaaElHammamy</a> defies the odds to beat <a href="https://twitter.com/noursherbini?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">noursherbini and win her first Platinum title at the
BlackBallSquash</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BBSO20?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BBSO20</a> <a href="https://t.co/p1XvCzTGmw">pic.twitter.com/p1XvCzTGmw</a></p>— PSA World Tour (PSAWorldTour) March 14, 2020
That victory was then followed up with another major win in her second event back after the Tour returned following its six month suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
After topping her group at the CIB PSA World Tour Finals, also in Cairo, El Hammamy defeated Joelle King in a wonderful semi-final, which saw a 30-minute first game go the way of the Kiwi, before the young Egyptian fought back to win. She then downed Nour El Tayeb in the final, coming from two games down to beat her fellow Egyptian, winning the season-ending crown in the process.
Those two tournament have pushed her into the top five in the PSA World Rankings for the first time in her career, and is now seen as a contender in every tournament she enters.
How does she compare to the last three female World No.1’s though? Together with our colleagues at SquashLevels, we have looked at how El Hammamy compares with current World No.1 Nour El Sherbini, along with comparing her progress to that of Nouran Gohar and the now-retired Raneem El Welily.
SquashLevels uses an algorithm, with a ‘level’ being calculated for each player after every match. The changes to said level come from both their’s and their opponent’s level before the match, and the actual result compared to the expected result.
For instance, if a player was expected to win 3-0, with average game scores of 11-8, but they actually won 3-0 with average game scores of 11-2, the winner’s level would increase due to that difference.
There is then also weighting, depending on how important the match is, and damping, which is dialled in to try and make sure that the progress is correct. You can see all the information in more detail on the SquashLevels FAQs.
Hania El Hammamy v Nour El Sherbini
First off, let’s compare El Hammamy to the current World No.1 and reigning four-time World Champion, Nour El Sherbini, who at just 25 years of age, has been almost unstoppable over the last few years, with only injuries, and the abilities of Raneem El Welily, keeping her off the summit of the PSA World Rankings at times.
To compare the two as closely as possible, we have taken the data from when El Sherbini was also 20 years and 2 months. All of her stats come from January 2016, a couple of months after her 20th birthday.
Remarkably, like El Hammamy does now, the ‘Warrior Princess’ also occupied the World No.5 position on the PSA World Rankings, behind only Camille Serme, Nicol David, Raneem El Welily, and the then-World No.1, England’s Laura Massaro.
El Hammamy currently sits in the World No.5 spot behind El Sherbini, the current World No.1, former World No.1 Nouran Gohar, compatriot Nour El Tayeb and Frenchwoman Camille Serme, who maintains her position in the top four from almost five years previous.
When she was 20 though, El Sherbini’s level on the SquashLevels Power Ratings was lower than El Hammamy’s is now, and by some margin. The 10,788 that the ‘Warrior Princess’ could lay claim to would only put her in the #8 spot on the Power Ratings, compared to El Hammamy’s current position of #4.
When we put their Power Ratings charts alongside each other, you can see that El Sherbini in consistently ahead thanks to those few extra years she has over El Hammamy. However, when you compare it by level, you can see that it is ‘the Gazelle’ who holds the advantage.
The higher of the two dotted lines shows where El Hammamy is on the SquashLevels Power Ratings today, compared to when El Sherbini reached that level. The four-time World Champion first achieved a level of just over 12,500 in the summer of 2016, five months after our comparison point with the 20-year-old.
The second of the dotted lines shows when El Sherbini was at that same comparison point, in January 2016. Her level was 10,788, and you can see that El Hammamy first made it to that level in the latter stage of 2019, just over a year ago.
The final of the CIB Black Ball Open was the last time to two met on the PSA World Tour, with that being El Hammamy’s first victory over the current World No.1. Prior to that, the ‘Warrior Princess’ had a 3-0 advantage over her compatriot, dropping just a single game across the three clashes. Now though, things might well be different.
Hania El Hammamy v Nouran Gohar
El Sherbini’s most recent predecessor at the summit of the PSA World Rankings was ‘the Terminator’, Nouran Gohar, who inherited the World No.1 position following the retirement of Raneem El Welily earlier this year. How does Gohar compare to El Hammamy?
This comparison goes back to November 2017, with Gohar being just under three years older than ‘the Gazelle’. Quite unbelievably, Gohar, along with El Hammamy and El Sherbini, sat at World No.5 in the PSA World Rankings.
It was Laura Massaro, Camille Serme, Raneem El Welily and Nour El Sherbini that occupied the four spots above Gohar in the PSA World Rankings at the time, with the ‘Warrior Princess’ having already been at the summit for a year and a half.
Gohar’s level at the same age is higher than El Sherbini’s, but still comes in at a lower number than where El Hammamy currently lies on the SquashLevels Power Ratings. ‘The Terminator’s’ level of 11,540 would see her currently occupy the #6 spot, just a couple of places below El Hammamy.
As you can see on the graph comparison, the two are very close throughout their years on the PSA World Tour, with ‘the Gazelle’ almost mirroring the rise of Gohar in the sport over their teenage years.
The lower of the two dotted lines shows where Gohar was on the SquashLevels Power Ratings at 20 years and 2 months, and it equates to around the same level that El Hammamy was at following her victory at the CIB Black Ball Open in March.
Fast forward eight months for ‘the Gazelle’, and her level has risen to over 12,500. It was the mid-point of 2019 before Gohar reached that far, having struggled with injuries before then. Since, though, the 23-year-old has gone on to win the British Open, U.S. Open and become World No.1!
El Hammamy is yet to beat ‘the Terminator’ on the PSA World Tour, with Gohar having won all three of their matches, including in the semi-finals of the CIB Egyptian Open last month. She has dropped just two games against El Hammamy in those three clashes, but ‘the Gazelle’ continues to improve her game.
Hania El Hammamy v Raneem El Welily
Our final comparison for Hania El Hammamy is based on the great Raneem El Welily, who bowed out at the very top in the summer, retiring with the news that she was expected her first child with husband, and men’s World Champion, Tarek Momen.
El Welily retired as the World No.1, but when she was the same age as El Hammamy is now, the magical 20 years and 2 months we have been going off for these comparisons, El Welily was down at World No.19 in the PSA World Rankings.
Nicol David was in the midst of her incredible run at World No.1 in March 2009, with the likes of the Grinham sisters, both Natalie and Rachael, Jenny Duncalf, Laura Massaro, Vanessa Atkinson, and Annie Au all sitting above El Welily in the PSA World Rankings.
Unfortunately, the SquashLevels data does not go back that far, so we are having to take data from their earliest point of collection. That comes in January 2012, when El Welily had just turned 23.
Her level at that point had not even reached 10,000, and in the current SquashLevels Power Ratings, that would see her sit as the #17, just above the likes of Yathreb Adel, Donna Lobban and Coline Aumard.
El Hammamy has had a sharper rise up the Power Ratings over the last year or so, mainly down to those two major titles she claimed at the CIB Black Ball Open and the CIB PSA World Tour Finals, both held in Cairo.
That rise sees her level sit at just over 12,500, and it was April 2018 before El Welily reached that mark, doing so at the age of 29. But by then, she was already a World Champion and went on to become World No.1 for a second time that December.
The pair only did battle twice on the PSA World Tour before El Welily retired, with the 31-year-old winning both battles. We might not get to see El Hammamy in her prime against El Welily in her prime, but can youngster match what El Welily has done in the game if she continues this progress?
The three players we have compared Hania El Hammamy to have all gone on to become World No.1, and ‘the Gazelle’ still has a slight chance of matching El Sherbini, who got to the summit of the PSA World Rankings in May 2016, at the age of 20 years and 6 months.
For El Hammamy to match that of the current World No.1, she would have to get to the summit of the PSA World Rankings by March, and that could be a tricky task. Gohar became No.1 just prior to her 23rd birthday, while El Welily was 26 when she achieved the goal of becoming World No.1.
Will El Hammamy reach the top spot of the women’s PSA World Rankings sooner rather than later? She has every chance to, but getting the better of El Sherbini and Gohar on court is next!