Local Star Kawy Upsets Second Seed Macree
11 Jul 2004
Egyptian squash star Omneya Abdel Kawy delighted local fans when she upset second seed Rebecca Macree in a dramatic 77-minute semi-final of the Women's Hurghada International to earn an unexpected place in the final of this established WISPA World Tour event in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada in Egypt. Kawy will meet top seed Rachael Grinham, the world No2 from Australia who despatched England's Alison Waters in straight games in the other semi-final.
After Kawy's gruelling five-game victory in the quarter-finals, the 18-year-old world junior champion from Cairo admitted to the special pressure of competing in front of her home supporters. She squeezed through the 80-minute clash against experienced Welsh champion Tegwen Malik, but a semi final against Macree, the world No9 from England, promised to provide an even more difficult hurdle.
The island was bathed in a warm blanket, with a swirling breeze that pulled up corners of carpeting around the court - but this had little effect on the two players enclosed within the glass box. The crowd was voluble in support of the third seed, but this was sensed rather than heard by Macree, who is deaf, and so only had an impact on the focus of the Egyptian teenager.
On form, Macree had the edge, having recorded a 3/0 win in March when they met at the Washington Summit, but Abdel Kawy, still a month short of her nineteenth birthday, has been maturing. Her maturity on court has always been beyond her years, and off court her assuredness has grown too. All in all, it was a tough package that the experienced Macree, aged 33, would be facing.
The result was a four act play, a drama - and at 77 minutes a full-length production!
As the first act unfolded, we began to learn more about the two main characters. Abdel Kawy being focussed, was going about her business without fuss. Macree, meanwhile, was more extravagant in play and reaction to decisions. The Egyptian occasionally looked fearful as Macree occasionally motored towards her. But Abdel Kawy had settled into a better length, teased more winning boasts, and as the sound of evening prayers wafted across the water she took the first game.
During the second act, Abdel Kawy lost a little composure as the gaps between her opponent getting hand in and serving became longer than she would have wished, but the English player was also getting more serves as the quality of her game improved. Meanwhile, the home player was giving away too many easy strokes in the middle of the court.
As Macree played game point, she caught her opponent on the side of the face. Enter the supporting actor, referee Hatim Hassan, who adjudged the swing excessive and awarded a conduct stroke against Macree. He continued to have to deal with traffic and other problems and received rave reviews from all informed observers. After a two-minute gap for attention, Abdel Kawy came back only to lose the game after 25 minutes to little audience reaction.
But when she played the next with a freedom and exuberance, going forward and driving and dropping, the spectators really began to loudly enjoy the show again. Macree, meanwhile, was indulging in the sort of exaggerated responses that characterise amateur dramatics, but she could find no effective responses. To a great cheer, and the sort of singing and dancing that is so definitely Egyptian, Abdel Kawy walked back to her bench two games to one ahead.
The pattern continued as she sailed to 8-2 and match-ball in the fourth, but that reckoned without a dramatic finish to the fourth act. As so often happens, an elbowed shot into the tin can signal a recovery, and Macree took her cue. Shouts of encouragement were beginning to get more desperate as Macree moved towards parity, and having saved two match balls at 2-8 and a further pair at 7-8, she levelled at eight-all when Abdel Kawy was refused a let for a Macree forehand drive that she couldn't reach.
Hands changed, the crowd was mesmerised, but after a further two match-balls the Egyptian brought the curtain down with a crunching volleyed forehand drive to win 9-5 6-9 9-0 10-8. What a drama!
Beaming broadly, the heroine told the crowd that she couldn't have done it without them. "I wanted to let nothing get into my head and just keep thinking about my squash. Now I am just so pleased to have won for everybody who supported me," said Kawy, who was now in her fourth WISPA final.
The second semi seemed much easier to call, pitting as it did the world number two with a player ranked twenty five places below her. To her credit, England's seventh seed Alison Waters was unfazed by the gulf, and though favourite Rachael Grinham was able to win comprehensively, she found herself up against a resourceful and dogged opponent.
Perhaps Waters was helped by the fact that this was not the first time she had faced such elevated opposition; indeed she had played the Australian in the first round of the World Open last December - though managed a haul of only six points. The twenty year old from North London had a height and reach advantage over the elfin-like Grinham and both have deceptive wrists - but Grinham's speed, general ball placement and simple experience was more than enough to bring the curtain down on the Waters campaign with a 9-4 9-2 9-4 win in 25 minutes.
"The final will be tough as Omneya is playing very well," said Grinham, now in her 23rd WISPA final. "And it will be especially hard with the crowd helping her too!"