Raneem El Welily became the first Egyptian winner of the Women's J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions title she defeated England's Alison Waters in the final of the WSA International 100 squash event at Grand Central Terminal in New York.
"Relaxed and happy and grateful," said the third seed from Cairo when asked how she felt after winning the title on only her second appearance in the prestigious WSA World Tour event.
Just under an hour earlier, El Welily was not quite so relaxed. The Egyptian and her fifth-seeded opponent were exchanging the lead almost every other point in the first game, until Waters took the lead after winning the opener at 11-9.
"I was thinking too much, putting too much pressure on my shoulders," said Welily of her state of mind in the opening game. In the second game, the world No.2 focused on getting better length on her shots and started pushing her opponent into the back of the court. As in the first, Waters went toe-to-toe with her opponent. Down 5-8, Waters tied the score at eight-all, then nine-all - then 10-all, at which point El Welily played two decisive points to win the second game 12-10.
The sharp-shooting Egyptian entered the third game determined to attack even more and be quicker getting to the ball. "Against a player like Alison, you have to keep the pressure on all the time," she said. After dropping behind 1-3, Welily found her rhythm, and at four-all reeled off the next seven points to win the game and take the lead.
In the fourth, the 30-year-old Londoner Waters was visibly tired and made several errors as Welily closed out the match by winning the game 11-4.
"Every tournament is meaningful in its own way," said El Welily after claiming the eighth - and biggest by far - WSA Tour title of her career.
Just under a month ago, the 25-year-old had been on the verge of winning her first World Championship, but lost all four match-balls that she held. "Winning the first tournament after losing that World Championship means a lot," Welily observed. "Back home, everyone is really happy!"
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photo Getty Images
photo Getty Images