When people think of Egypt, they often think of its rich ancient history. The great pyramids of Giza, the sphinx, camel rides, delicious mouth-watering food, and an entertaining culture just to name a few things.
The only ancient wonder of the world, that is still intact, the amazing pyramids of Giza coupled with a camel ride while feasting on a succulent shawarma kebab and a thirst-quenching sugar cane juice are just some of the many delicacies in the North African country.
“Have you seen the pyramids? Have you been to the Valley of the Kings and queens in Luxor and Aswan? Did you do a Nile River cruise? Did you have a nice relaxing holiday in Sharm El Sheikh or perhaps Hurghada or ‘Ain El Sokhna’? “How awesome are the beautiful Coptic monasteries"?
“Did you swim or go snorkelling in the Red Sea?”
These are just some questions that tourists are asked when they return from their holidays to Egypt.
In terms of sporting prowess, Egypt is well known for its soccer (or as Egyptians call it ‘football’) and handball. Often they are African champions in those sports.
Liverpool striker Mohamad Saleh is regarded as a national hero. The top soccer teams, Al-Ahly and El Zamalek walk around the country like superstars.
Egypt is an incredibly beautiful country with a rich history. Egyptians proudly call Egypt “om el donya” which literally is translated to “the mother of the world” and really means the ‘jewel of the world’.
But for all its glory, it is not known for being a leader in women’s sport and definitely not women’s tennis for that matter.
While there are tennis tournaments played in Egypt, rarely does an Egyptian Tennis player make it in the top 50.
Up until last week, Ismail El-Shafei held the title for Egypt’s highest ranked tennis player ever.
He reached number 34 in the world in April 1975, a record he held for almost 50 years.
But that’s all changed now… with the 180-cm Mayar Sherif having just surpassed compatriot El-Shafei’s long-standing career-high mark and Sherif is determined to continue to break records on and off the court.
Having recently turned 27, Sherif is proving to be a dominant force to be reckoned with on the women’s circuit.
As my fellow ‘The First Serve’ Tennis contributor Val Febbo wrote, “Every once in a while a player from a country with a minor tennis history embarks on an inspiring run at a tournament that can spark attention from the region they call home.”
And Sherif is doing just that, making waves on the tennis landscape and inspiring her nation.
Just like other sporting heroes, the Cairo-born right-hander is motivating young girls in her country to dream and never give up on their goals. She wants to set a trail for other Egyptian women to follow.
To highlight how far she has come in the past six years, Sherif was ranked 787 in 2017 and is currently ranked 31. That’s a climb of 756 spots in the world rankings. An incredible achievement.
After an impressive 2020 and 2021 where she reached the second round of the Australian Open, she broke the top-100 barrier in August 2021 and has continued to demonstrate significant promise since.
The right-handed tennis ace has broken records left, right and centre lately.
Her big breakthrough came in October last year when she won her first WTA Tour title, the 250 in Italy defeating top 10 player Maria Sakkari.
Sherif has also won all six WTA 125 finals she has made in her career, winning over 85% of matches at this level.
In the past two weeks, Sherif has won back-to-back WTA 125k titles. First she won the Makarska Open 125 in Croatia on 11 June with a come-from-behind victory over Italian Jasmine Paolini in the final, after saving six championship points. She then backed up by securing another title in the BBVA Open Internacional de Valencia in Spain with a straight sets 6-3 6-3 victory over Marina Bassols Ribera.
It capped off a dominant week for the Egyptian where she clinched the title without dropping a set and lost only 17 games in her five matches throughout the tournament.
She has sky rocketed up the world rankings and currently sits at 31, an all-time career high, not only for herself but also for an Egyptian.
In 2020, she made history as the first Egyptian woman to reach the main draw of a Grand Slam at the 2020 French Open.
With her rise through the tennis world rankings, the Cairo-born athlete hopes it inspires other young ladies in Egypt and North Africa to greatness.
After winning gold at the 2019 African Games and becoming the first Egyptian woman to qualify for the Olympics in tennis, she made her historic debut at a Grand Slam at the French Open in 2020. This made her the first Egyptian female player in a main draw of a Grand Slam.
While unfortunately she bowed out at the second round of singles in the French Open, her convincing win in the first round over American Madison Brengle was impressive, only dropping four games for the match. And in that second round, she even won a set against 24th seed Russian Anastasia Potapova.
Sherif is in red-hot form and has demonstrated she can match it with some of the best in the world. Earlier this year, she defeated world number number 7 Maria Sakkari for a 2nd time in her career in Parma.
In Madrid, she defeated fifth seed Caroline Garcia and 24th seed Elise Martens.
Sherif now enters the grass season full of confidence with a 10-match winning streak.
Sherif will now compete in the WTA 250 event in Bad Homburg, Germany, as preparation before making her way to Wimbledon. It will be her main draw debut at the home of tennis, and she is likely to be seeded at a Grand Slam for the first time, due to her climb in the rankings.
At just 27, Sherif still has plenty of great tennis ahead of her.
And the question is how far can this girl from the land of the pyramids go?