3:43 am
15 Apr 2024

Darwish & David Are World Squash Awards' Players of the Year

1 Dec 2009

Karim Darwish and Nicol David were honoured as Players of the Year at the annual World Squash Awards dinner, which attracted more than 150 leading figures from the squash world at the RAC Club in London at the weekend.

It was the fifth year of the prestigious awards event which is hosted by Eventis Sports Marketing - the company run by former players Peter Nicol, MBE; Tim Garner and Angus Kirkland - and backed by the Professional Squash Association (PSA) and the Women's International Squash Players' Association (WISPA).

Karim Darwish, the Egyptian who has topped the PSA world rankings for most of this year, received the PSA Player of the Year award, for the first time, from the PSA Chairman Ziad Al-Turki.

"It is a great honour to win this prestigious award - particularly in a year when a number of my PSA colleagues, like Amr Shabana, Gregory Gaultier and Nick Matthew, could have done so," said the 28-year-old from Cairo who flew into London especially for the occasion.

Nicol David, the Malaysian who this month celebrated her 40th straight month at the top of the women's world rankings, collected the WISPA Player of the Year award for the fifth year in a row! Unable to attend the ceremony, David sent a recorded message from her home in Penang - which included thanks to her fellow WISPA members for voting for her, and assurances to the organisers that she would do her best to attend the dinner in person next year!

In an evening dominated by Egyptians, Mohamed El Shorbagy received the PSA Young Player of the Year award, from PSA Chief Operating Officer Lee Beachill. After winning his first World Junior Championship title over a year ago, the 18-year-old from Alexandria immediately burst onto the senior circuit - reaching the quarter-finals of the 2008 World Open as a qualifier, and last month celebrating a career-high No14 PSA world ranking.

Nour El Sherbini, also from Alexandria, won the WISPA Young Player of the Year award, receiving her plaque from WISPA Chairman Ingrid Lofdahl-Bentzer. The Egyptian teenager inscribed her name firmly in the sport's record books in August when, aged just 13 and seeded only to reach the last 16, she won the Women's World Junior (U19) Championship crown - becoming the youngest world squash champion of all-time.

The award for the WISPA Most Improved Player of the Year - presented by esteemed international squash journalist Richard Eaton - went to Camille Serme, the 20-year-old from France who won the 'Young Player of the Year' award two years ago. The latest player to burst onto the international stage from the country which also produced men's world number ones Thierry Lincou and Gregory Gaultier, Serme followed her maiden win of the French national crown early this year by picking up three Tour titles in France, Switzerland and Egypt - and this month celebrated a career-high No14 world ranking.

All five Player winners also received a year's Gold Level Membership to the Abu Dhabi national airline Ethiad.

A special Services to Squash award was made to WISPA CEO Andrew Shelley. Presented by England Squash & Racketball CEO Nick Rider, the award recognised "someone who has worked tirelessly for the game of squash for nearly 35 years."

After 18 years at the then Squash Rackets Association, where he was heavily involved with the transformation of the British Open into an all-glass court championship, Shelley moved to WISPA where his 15 years in charge have seen the women's organisation "grow phenomenally both in terms of players, countries and events," Rider pointed out.

A legendary figure of the sport in the 1930s was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Widely considered to be the first truly dominant player in the sport, Egyptian F. D. Amr Bey won the British Open six consecutive times from 1933-38 and became known as the first 'professional amateur' in squash, as his training for the game became the key focus of his life.

The late Amr Bey also won the British Amateur Championship six times, and never lost in the final of either British Championships - a feat only matched by Jonah Barrington.

"He is widely considered to have raised the level of the sport of squash to new heights through both his outstanding racket skills and his exceptional speed & fitness - hence his nickname the 'Human Streak of Lightning'," said event organiser Peter Nicol.

"Combined with his championship squash abilities, he left a legacy of sportsmanship, good will, and friendship with his strongest rivals. He was the first building block that created the foundation for Egyptian squash that has been carried on - and is no better illustrated than by the recipients of this evening's other awards," added Nicol.

An additional award was made by PSA CEO Alex Gough to Sheila Cooksley, the PSA's Tour Executive who celebrated 25 years with the Association earlier this year.

"Sheila has been with the professional game since day one. I am sure if it wasn't for her knowledge and experience we wouldn't have the successful Tour that we have today," said Gough. "She has seen the good times and the bad times and she has been unwavering about always wanting the best for the Association and its members.

"The PSA is very lucky to have had someone like Sheila and I feel very proud and fortunate to be working with her now."