Sherif becomes first Egyptian woman to advance in Grand Slam

By: AFP      Published: 09:18 PM, 9 Feb, 2021
Sherif becomes first Egyptian woman to advance in Grand Slam

Mayar Sherif became the first Egyptian woman Tuesday to advance past the first round of a Grand Slam tennis tournament on Tuesday, with a little help from superstar footballing compatriot Mohamed Salah.

The Cairo-born, California-educated Sherif, 24, beat French player Chloe Paquet 7-5, 7-5 in what Australian Open organisers called a "slice of history".

The win guarantees Sherif will continue her meteoric rise in the world rankings (she is currently at 131) and comes only a few months after she secured a berth at Roland Garros last year -- also a historic first at the time.

She will face Kaja Juvan in the next round, after the Slovenian's British opponent Johanna Konta was forced to abandon her match due to injury.

The successive achievements of the young Egyptian tennis player since 2019, when she turned professional, have caught the eye of Liverpool striker Salah.

In a video call organised by their shared sponsor, he imparts wisdom on dealing with the pressures of high-level sport.

"I can tell you that when I started working on my mental strength more, I saw huge improvements in my play," Salah told her in a post shared last week.

Guided by Spanish coach Justo Gonzalez, Sherif went on a 26-match win streak and cracked the top 200 in women's rankings just months into her budding career last year.

In Egypt, where football is normally the dominant sport, her gritty demeanour and determination to excel have scored her much-needed sponsorship.

One of Africa's richest tycoons, Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris, has lent his financial support to Sherif through his property firm Zed.

She hopes to continue her stellar run and represent Egypt in the delayed Tokyo Olympics this year -- another first for the country.

For now she is savouring the historic win and setting her sights on the next round in Melbourne.

"It means a lot to me. This was a mental barrier I had to pass... it was very, very tough to adapt my game to it. Courts are faster and the heat... but (I am) very, very happy with my accomplishment," said Sherif.

"And I'm going for more," she added.