Browse All Categories
Alex Robertson
By Alex Robertson on March 19, 2024

The Reign Of Nour El Sherbini AKA 'The Warrior Princess'

I recently wrote an article on men's World No.1, Ali Farag, who has had an unbelievable career so far, and, who continues to dominate the top of the rankings (showing no sign of slowing down).

Well, if we look at the women's rankings, it's a similar story when it comes to Egypt's Nour El Sherbini, who also sits at World No.1 (and has done for some time now).

In my opinion, Nour has already done more than enough to secure her legacy as a squash legend.

She dominated women's junior squash from a very young age, then, after joining the PSA World Tour (also at a very young age), she's carried on that trend until today.

So, this week I'll be talking about about El Sherbini's history and achievements in squash so far, then, I'll delve into her style and why she's so dominant, and, I'll finish by giving some predictions for her future...

Nour's Legacy (So Far)...

Nour El Sherbini was born in Alexandria, Egypt, and coming from a very athletic family, she started playing squash at the age of just 6 years old, with reports of her playing tournaments by the age of 8!

Fast-forward 5 years and the 13-year-old El Sherbini became the youngest World Junior Champion ever in 2009, and, she also became the youngest Tour finalist of all time in June of that year when she finished runner-up at the Miro Classic.

In her following year on the PSA World Tour (now aged 14), Nour broke into the top 50 and claimed her first Tour title at the Heliopolis Open in 2010.

She also went on to win the Alexandria Open title in 2012, however, the achievement that really put El Sherbini on the map was when she made it to the final of the British Open aged 16, losing to Nicol David in the final.

Following that, there are plenty more special moments, wins, and titles that I could mention, however, the list would be long and I think you get the picture that El Sherbini was a squash phenomenon from an incredibly young age.

Fast-forward again to 2016, arguably El Sherbini’s most transformative year in professional squash. Now aged 20, she claimed a maiden World Series title at the prestigious Tournament of Champions before also becoming the first female Egyptian to lift the British Open trophy two months later.

Nour then also became the youngest World Champion of all time that year and became the first female Egyptian to win the event in the process.

In May 2016, El Sherbini reached the World No.1 spot for the first time in her career, and, this is where her reign really began as she held that spot for a whopping 30 months straight after that.

In fact, from May 2016 all the way up until now, Nour has only dropped out of the top 3 in the world for two months.

This shows how strong El Sherbini has been for such a long period of time.

Now aged 28, Nour is showing absolutely no signs of slowing down either. 

Speaking purely from a numbers perspective, Nour's PSA stats are, as expected, ridiculous.

She's played 124 tournaments, 473 matches (winning 385 of them, giving her a 81.45% win rate), made 62 tournament finals, and won 40 of them.

In the earlier stages of her career, Nour was battling against the likes of Laura Massaro, Nicol David, and Raneem El Welily (all of whom have also left incredible squash legacies following their retirements).

However, the players that I will mainly be comparing the current-day El Sherbini to in this newsletter are Hania El Hammamy and Nouran Gohar, who have been jostling and battling amongst the world's top 3 for some time now.

Gohar has indeed reached that World No.1 spot on a few occasions too and is certainly very dominant in her own right, however, El Sherbini just seems to have that edge.

Anyway, with seven World Championship titles to her name (amongst many, many other insane accolades), she must be doing something right, and, more importantly, something that the other players aren't doing (or aren't doing as well)...

The Warrior Princess Style Of Play

In contrast to Ali Farag (who plays a very patient, yet consistent style), Nour El Sherbini has a much more attacking style of play.

This is something I'll unpack in more detail when I break down El Sherbini's game into different categories further down, however, I think this is what sets Nour apart as a World No.1, so it's a good thing to start with.

Looking to her closest rivals, Hammamy and Gohar are definitely very attacking players in their own right as well, but, I think that the way in which El Sherbini attacks is much more calculated and precise.

She is very dangerous if she has any time on the ball whatsoever, and, of course, she's able to put some excellent disguise on her shots as well.

Something that isn't often mentioned about Nour is her hold. In my opinion she has one of the most devastating holds in the women's PSA World Tour.

She uses it often and always at the right time, which gives a nod to her amazing shot selection too.

You won't get any easy points from El Sherbini, and, she does a great job of holding the T and keeping that ruthless pressure on her opponent through powerful, accurate drives and cross court (many of which are on the volley).

Nour also has an impeccable ability to put away kills and winners on command, being especially proficient in playing low, hard, straight kill shots, another major weapon in her arsenal.

Another element of Sherbini's style that isn't often discussed is her fitness. Of course, to be World No.1, you need to be fit, but Sherbini is physically ruthless.

This is partly down to her impeccable fitness, however, this is also where the mental side of her game comes into play. She's known as the 'Warrior Princess' for a good reason, and that reason is that you can never ever count her out, no matter how much of a deficit she's in.

Nour El Sherbini has an unbelievable fighting spirit and I've seen her come back from 2-0 so many times that it can't just be pure luck.

Something else that is worth noting is that El Sherbini is actually being coached by none other than French squash legend, Gregory Gaultier.

Gaultier is renowned for his attacking, relentless, physical style of play, and, you can certainly see some elements of that in El Sherbini's style too!

Anyway, let's go into a bit more technical depth on Sherbini's attacking nature...

Attacking Nature

The first thing that comes into my mind when it comes to El Sherbini's attacking shots is her two-wall boast.

She wins a heck of a lot of points from this shot by holding to draw her opponent in, then, playing a hard low two-wall boast, forcing her opponents to move all the way round her to try to reach it.

Then there's that kill shot I mentioned above that Sherbini executes so well. She can play this type of kill from the front, middle, and even back of the court, and, it can come in the form of a straight kill or a cross court kill.

Needless to say, her ability to cut in a straight or cross court volley drop directly into the nick is also very strong.

She uses all of these shots very tactfully and at the right times, which means that her opponents have to cover each and every one of them any time they are under pressure when playing El Sherbini.

Which is most of the time considering that the 'Warrior Princess' also hits her lengths with impeccable power and accuracy again and again. 

She does a great job of holding the T and taking the ball early (taking time away from her opponents in the process). Her lengths nearly always hit below the service line and, since she usually applies a lot of power, her opponents often have to scramble to reach them before they die in the back corners.

This way of playing is very very attacking, especially in comparison to most other players on the PSA World Tour.

However, it's worth mentioning that Nouran Gohar also plays a very attacking style of squash. I don't think anybody hits their lengths as hard as Gohar, however, I feel like (in comparison to El Sherbini), Gohar is just slightly lacking in touch, deception, and shot selection.


Photo credit: Steve Cubbins

Warrior Mentality

You can never count El Sherbini out of a battle, no matter how bad things may look.

This was exactly the case in her recent semi-final match against Hania El Hammamy in the Tournament of Champions.

El Sherbini injured her lower back at the end of the first game, and, it almost looked as though she was going to concede the match since she was in so much discomfort.

Throughout the whole match, you could tell that the spasms were really bothering Nour, however, she battled and battled through it to win the match 3-2. Even Sherbini herself quoted "I don’t know how I won this match".

Perhaps this maybe wasn't a wise move from a longevity perspective as playing through back problems could lead to further injury, however, nobody knows El Sherbini's body like El Sherbini does.

More importantly though, it shows the lengths to which she is willing to go in order to win matches, especially ones against players like Hammamy (who currently sits at World No.2 as I write this).

You can tell that the Warrior Princess is very very focused during every match she plays. You don't often hear her burst out with emotion (whether that's at the referee or after a big rally). It's easy to see that she is just fixated on winning that match.

This isn't to say that Nour El Sherbini isn't gracious in defeat, it just happens so rarely that we don't get to see that side of her personality very often!

Of course, she's also gracious in victory and gives a heck of a lot of credit to her coaches, friends, and opponents in her speeches.

Accurate Winners

Turning back toward her shots now, Nour El Sherbini has that ability to play very accurate winners.

From drop shots, to crash nicks, to attacking boasts, and even to mid-court kills.

Touching again on her attacking style of play, she goes for these winners at the right time, every time.

Every single person Nour plays knows that she is capable of executing these winners if she gets the slightest chance to do so. This puts a lot of pressure on them to ensure that their shots are tight and that they don't give Sherbini any opportunities to go for these attacks.

It's the accuracy of these winners that is a real stand out feature of Nour's squash game. Her drops often remain tight and glued to the side wall, or, they roll smoothly out of the nick (whether it's a straight or cross court drop).


Something I touched on further up, fitness isn't often associated with El Sherbini, and I'm not quite sure why that is.

Obviously to be the best in the world at a sport, you're going to have to be fit, however, I still think El Sherbini's incredible fitness level should be talked about more.

Perhaps this is because she doesn't necessarily have the same 'athletic-looking' build that players such as Hania El Hammamy or Ali Farag have, but, you certainly shouldn't let that fool you.

I've seen El Sherbini in countless five-set matches and her explosive movement never seems to slow down or falter.

Unlike some other players on the PSA World Tour, I don't often see any footage or content of El Sherbini's training regime, so, I don't know too much about what kind of work she puts in behind the scene.

I would assume that it's pretty rigorous.

She's great in those steady rallies, however, in squash, you'll be well aware of how physically difficult things can get as soon as the pace picks up a bit.

Since the Warrior Princess's game revolves around her fast-paced, attacking style, she needs to be able to keep up this style physically for the duration of entire matches. Of course, she can certainly do this, and that's why she's at the top.

Keeping up shot accuracy, patience, and maintaining a game plan in the latter stages of a long squash match is very tough to do, however, Nour often looks as good in the fifth as she does in the first.

It's pretty incredible to see.

Handling High-Pressure Moments

This point is perhaps pretty similar to my point about El Sherbini's warrior mentality, however, I think it's important to zone in a little into one of the key areas in which her mentality gives her an edge over other players.

Especially in comparison to players further down the women's rankings, Nour has this ability to perform extremely well in those crucial high-pressure moments of matches.

Whether that's clinching a mega rally at 10-9 down during the fifth game, or, clawing a game back at 2-0 down, El Sherbini seems to flick a switch and play incredibly well under high amounts of pressure.

In contrast, many other players would begin to mentally crumble and struggle during these vital moments in a big match, especially on the world stage of a high-level PSA event.

Another example would be when a referee makes a questionable decision at an important stage of a match. On these occasions, you'll very rarely see El Sherbini get angry or distracted by the referee's decision, she's incredible at just staying focused on the task at hand.

Even El Hammamy and Gohar do show anger and frustration during high-pressure match moments and it does seem to cost them points every now and then, although I'd say they're still both very good in those crucial points, I would still say that El Sherbini can do it even better.

She always looks focused and confident which are both very important mental states to be in when you absolutely have to win the next point. You will never see El Sherbini go for a risky shot or try and win an easy point, she's always willing to plug away and stay consistent in every single rally.

Right until the bitter end!


Photo credit: Steve Cubbins

Devastating Holds

Another excellent skill that El Sherbini displays that always thrills the crowds is her superb hold.

Let's say her opponent hits a high three-wall boast or back-wall boast and Sherbini has some time on the ball. She will move onto it very fast, lift her backswing up, but then just hold it up to draw her opponent in.

Then, Nour will wait until the last minute before flicking a straight or cross court kill.

Everything about her timing, technique, and positioning makes these holds so deceptive, you can never really guess where the ball is going to go.

Plus, she can also do the opposite and show that she's going to play a hard length or cross court, but, then push in a drop at the last second instead.

These holds are another example of the Warrior Princess' attacking style of play.

She does them pretty often and very consistently too, just giving her opponents yet another threat to deal with.

I think this is another aspect of Nour's game that isn't often mentioned, however, in my opinion, it makes me enjoy watching her matches a lot.

Her style is both entertaining and exciting, however, she still does all the basics of building a rally so well.


Last, but not least, is Nour El Sherbini's overall experience in the game.

Despite still being relatively young at 28, she still has a whopping 22 years of squash under her belt since she started at 6 years old.

Then, if you think about how young she was when she joined the PSA World Tour and began competing with the other best players in the world, you could say that she's been exposed to squash at the highest level for an unbelievably long time.

I think this could be considered as something that gives her a really big edge over the other women on the PSA World Tour.

Experience is a big deal in squash (similar to most other sports) for a number of reasons, but, I think the main reason is that it really helps players learn what to do and how to keep their calm in those crucial moments of matches.

As I mentioned earlier, the ability to perform to a very high standard at very high-pressure stages in a match is one of Nour's biggest superpowers.

The way to learn this superpower is through years and years of playing under that kind of pressure.

I think this is what gives El Sherbini that edge over Hania El Hammamy in particular, who is still only 23 years old.

Although, that isn't to knock El Hammamy at all, as she has also proven time and time again that she does have it in her to beat the top dogs.

El Sherbini's extensive experience has also enabled her to learn the patterns of the game so well, meaning that she can often read her opponent's shots accurately, move them around the court, and control the T strongly as a result.

Predictions For Nour's Future...

Again, going back to Hania El Hammamy and Nouran Gohar who do seem to still be the biggest threats to El Sherbini's reign, the head-to-heads are pretty interesting to look at...

Sherbini has won 12 out of the 19 times she's played El Hammamy, and, she's won 22 out of the 30 times she's played Nouran Gohar.

These are still quite close ratios, however, it still just seems that El Sherbini has that edge over the other two Egyptians, and, judging by the way she's playing at the moment, I really don't see that changing any time soon.

Also, we do have a number of other players such as Nele Gilis, Amanda Sobhy (who was on an incredible run until she, unfortunately, got injured), Gina Kennedy, Nour El Tayeb, and many more who have made very noticeable improvements to their game in recent seasons.

These are definitely all players to look out for.

However, with that said, I really struggle to see Nour El Sherbini slipping down the rankings any time soon. That isn't to say that she won't lose the number 1 spot, however, I think she will be in that top three for a very long time to come.

Her style is also something we should bring into question with regard to longevity.

That very attacking style of play that the Warrior Princess plays with can indeed be very harsh on the body.

I don't believe that Nour has had a lot of bad injuries throughout her career, so perhaps I'm just being pessimistic here, but, I worry that Nour's attacking style is perhaps one that will be hard to carry on playing in the future.

I do think that Hania El Hammamy and Nouran Gohar do both play an attacking, aggressive style of squash as well, and, between the top three, we have seen a few injuries dotted around throughout the years.

But, these are professional sports people who are pushing their bodies every single day, so, the more I think about this, the more pessimistic I think I'm being, as injuries are commonplace amongst all pro squash players.

On the other hand, I do think that a heavier, more aggressive style of moving and playing will take a harsher physical toll on the body.

Anyway, time will only tell, plus, it's not impossible for a player as experienced as Nour El Sherbini to update and adapt her game for longevity in the future as well.

I don't want to end this newsletter on a negative note, so, I just want to summarise by noting just how incredible El Sherbini is at her craft.

She's sealed her position as one of the greatest players of all time, yet, she's still arguably in her prime, which is an awesome position to be in!

For upcoming and aspiring female squash players, Nour El Sherbini AKA the Warrior Princess is an absolute idol.

This article was taken from our 'Control the Kitchen' Newsletter, if you're interested in receiving more content like this, please feel free to sign up using the subscribe section located at the bottom left of this page (or underneath the article if you're on mobile), thanks!

Published by Alex Robertson March 19, 2024
Alex Robertson