Hania El Hammamy
Hania El Hammamy

El Hammamy Recalls Last Year’s British Open Triumph

Since the start of 2022, Egypt’s Hania El Hammamy has established herself as one of the world’s leading players and her incredible talent was plain for all to see when – aged just 21 – she beat World No.1 Nouran Gohar to lift the iconic British Open trophy for the first time last April.

Now, she comes into Birmingham looking to defend her title and keep up her charge for the World No.1 spot – we caught up with the reigning champ to get her thoughts ahead of this week’s action.

Q: Hania, last year you won the British Open for the first time – can you talk us through that tournament and final match?

Hania: “I have a lot of great memories of the British Open. Starting with the British Junior Open, I always had a great record, so coming into the senior one and winning that is huge for me.

“That was the first time that I had a proper win against Nouran [Gohar] in the final. I’d beaten her before but then I was 2-1 up in the games and she had to retire, so I wasn’t convinced that was an actual win against her. Beating her for the first time in the British Open final was amazing.

“It’s a very prestigious tournament, it’s the Wimbledon of Squash and it’s the second biggest tournament after the World Championships, so it meant a lot to me. Coming through the tournament was a little bit tough for me. I had an upset two weeks before the tournament when I was beaten by Nour El Tayeb in the Black Ball Open.

“I was disappointed with myself and I wasn’t happy with the way I performed at Black Ball. I had two good weeks of preparation for the British Open and I think I performed really well there. It’s a big title that will always feel special to have.”

Q: You won it by beating the World No.1 and a fierce rival, Nouran Gohar, in the final – what was going through your head before you played that final point?

Hania: “Nouran is a fighter, she’s the World No.1 and she’s been the most consistent player. I didn’t want to take it for granted and I didn’t want to see the finish line too early.

“I had to keep digging and focus on every point. Every time I played Nouran before, I used to have leads but then all of a sudden they go away really quickly. Even at match ball I focused on my game plan.”

Q: What did it mean to you to get your hands on the trophy?

Hania: “It’s indescribable. I had a goal last year to win the World Championships and the British Open.

“I wasn’t able to do it at the World Championships, but it felt really good and also a bit of a relief that I was able to get one of my goals for the season. The British Open is a prestigious title, one of the biggest, so it felt amazing.

“As a player I’m very emotional and I always have big celebrations. But at the British Open, it was something else.

“I was really down after Black Ball and then in the British Open final I’d just beaten the World No.1 for the very first time and we’d gone through it all. I used to lose to her even when I had my coaches and parents with me, but at this tournament I had no-one. I really had to study everything to see what was going wrong with my plan in previous matches with Nouran.

“It was a huge celebration because I felt like I finally found a way against her.”

Q: How did you celebrate afterwards?

Hania: “I had to wait until I was home in Egypt and then I celebrated with my family and friends. After the match I was exhausted and there wasn’t really anything to do in Hull.

“So I just went back, had a big pizza and slept!”

Q: What was the reaction back home like from friends and family?

Hania: “They were all proud of me. My family has seen me go through a lot of tough times during my career and they know I get so disappointed when a practice session goes wrong.

“They were really proud knowing how hard I worked and how I managed to find a way against Nouran. I tried so many times with her, the only matches I was losing last season were against Nouran or to Nour El Tayeb. My coaches, my parents and my friends were very proud of me for finding a way to get through it.”

Q: Youve gone from the hunter’ to the hunted’ – how are you feeling ahead of this years event?

Hania: “I’ve played so many tournaments where I’ve been defending champion and I don’t think I have won it consecutively. It’s a new challenge for me, but I’m still hunting those at the top of the rankings, so I don’t see myself as the hunted just yet

“I’m just focusing on reaching my goals and reaching the top of the rankings – that’s the challenge and it’s giving me more motivation.”