United States No.1 Amanda Sobhy made history in Chicago at the 2020-21 PSA World Championships as she became the first American-born player ever to reach the semi-finals of the biggest tournament in squash.
The Philadelphia-based 29-year-old will return to Chicago this year hoping to end the week as the first American World Champion and has already enjoyed success on the PSA World Tour so far this season, winning both the Oracle NetSuite Open in San Francisco and the Canadian Open in Toronto.
We caught up with Sobhy to get her thoughts ahead of this year’s championships.
Q: Amanda, how much of a boost is it to have the World Championships on U.S. soil?
Amanda: “I think having home advantage is huge. Having the familiarity of being in the U.S., being in Chicago and having good vibes with the crowd in my favour, that goes a long way.
“Those are tiny little things but they make a huge difference.”
Q: When the World Championships were held in Chicago back in 2021, you became the first American-born player to reach the semis. Talk us through your memories from that event?
Amanda: “I beat Hania [El Hammamy] in the quarter-finals, so that was a really special moment. I was in the zone the whole time and I think it was one of those matches where I was dialled in from start to finish.
“It’s one of those matches I will always remember in terms of my performance because it was a 3-0 win, which doesn’t really happen every day against Hania.
“My dad and my sister were watching back home and they sent me a fired up selfie. I was fired up and I had part of my family there, as well as a lot of supporters and friends. It truly meant a lot to perform and to keep playing on that glass court was incredible.
“I have really good memories and I hope to bottle that and carry it with me going into this World Championships in Chicago.”
Q: What is the goal for you at this year’s World Championships?
Amanda: “I’m definitely going to go in there backing myself, I’m going there to win it. I’m trying not to put too much pressure on myself given the fact it’s in the U.S.
“I’m seeing it as more of a privilege and an opportunity to perform in front of a home crowd. I want to enjoy the moment and be really present.”
Q: A winner of a major PSA event these days has to beat one or two of the Egyptian ‘Top Three’ in Nouran Gohar, Hania El Hammamy or Nour El Sherbini – how much of a challenge is that?
Amanda: “They’re the top three for a reason and they’ve been the dominant ones. It takes a bit of pressure off of me because people don’t really focus on me and I can go and do my thing, there is nothing I love more than proving people wrong.
“But I need to believe in myself and know that I belong there too. They are great players and I respect them, but I’m also a great player and I can beat them.”
Q: You beat the reigning World Champion – El Sherbini – recently at the Black Ball Open. What does a win like that do to your confidence coming into this year’s World Championships?
Amanda: “Getting a win against Sherbini recently is huge in terms of the confidence and belief it gave me, knowing that I have the capability to beat the top players in the world. Sherbini has been World Champ a handful of times, so I think that definitely helped with my momentum coming into the World Champs.
Q: USA made history at the WSF Women’s World Team Championships in December as you reached the final for the first time – you came within a point of beating Gohar there, what did you learn from that match?
Amanda: “There was so much going on behind the scenes. Going into the World Teams I had only played three times since I hurt my back in Singapore.
“My back wasn’t healthy at all and I was so burnt out and injured and I had seasonal depression. I was not in a good state at all at the World Teams, so the fact that I was able to somehow perform that way and be a point away from beating the World No.1 – when I was so broken that entire week – is a testament to my resilience and my mental strength. I channeled all of my anger into that one.”
Q: What would it mean to you to become the first American to win the World Championships?
Amanda: “It would mean everything. I train day in and day out for moments like that. To be able to call myself World Champion, not only would I be pleased for myself, my entire team and US Squash have been backing me for all of these years.
“It’s about so much more than just results, all of the hard work behind the scenes would make it so much more satisfying.”