World Champions look to Chicago

Coming into the Chicago World Champs, Raneem El Welily, Nour El Sherbini and Laura Massaro all know what it feel like to be crowned World Champion, and they’ll be aiming to capture that feeling again in Chicago’s Union Station on 2nd March …

Ranem El Welily

Raneem claimed her maiden title last season at the third attempt after beating compatriot and two-time World Champion Nour El Sherbini in the final in Manchester in December 2017,  and she is looking forward to having the chance to defend the sport’s biggest title.

“The World Champs is the biggest event of the year,” said the Cairo-based 30-year-old.

“Everyone wants to go there and do their very best every year. We all prepare for the whole season for this one big tournament and it’s everyone’s dream to win the title at least once.

“I was lucky enough last time to grab the title, but it’s the World Champs and you can never have enough of it.”

“Everyone has a chance to win and this year is going to be very exciting. All the players are in top form so far this season and are fighting to win every match. Everyone wants to win it and everyone has a chance.

“There is no such thing, in my head, as a defending World Champion. There is, obviously, but everyone is there to win and everyone is there to do their best.”

Nour El Sherbini

After losing out to Laura Massaro in the World Championships final in Penang 18 months earlier, Nour El Sherbini got her revenge over the Englishwoman in 2015, as she secured the World title for a first time – just months after winning the British Open.

In doing so she became both the youngest woman to ever lift the crown, and the first Egyptian woman to ever become World Champion.

“It is amazing, being able to say that you are the World Champion and the World No.1, Wow! That is really big,” she said of winning the tournament.

“People now say it to me and I think it is always something that I wanted to achieve. I always want to keep it, so everyone can see me as the World Champion and as the No.1.

“It is big, it is really big. Putting your name alongside legends of the game and people I have grown up watching. I grew up watching all these players playing and competing so it is an honour to put my name beside them.”

“When I got back to Egypt, I felt like I was a celebrity. Everyone was waiting for me, people were calling me and texting me. Everyone wanted to talk with me, so it was really huge, and that’s what makes it so special for me.

“I wasn’t just the first Egyptian women to win the tournament, but it was my first time, and I was the youngest, and I became the World No.1. A lot of achievements happened from just one tournament. It is very special, and I feel very honoured to have won, I am proud of it.”

Nour won a second World Title, on home soil, when she beat Raneem in the final of the 2017 Championship in El Gouna.

Laura Massaro

Laura became the 2013 World Champion, after she defeated Nour El Sherbini in the final in Penang, Malaysia (in 2014), adding the world title to the British Open crown she won earlier in 2013.

For the Englishwoman, it is something that she will always be proud of.

“In a way, I think the postponement of the Worlds helped me process it all. It helped me to build on that British Open win. It helped me to digest it and come through the emotional side of it and then build again.

“If I could hold it together for the week, I was in with a chance,” she admitted.

“As the event progressed, I felt like I was playing well. I got through the first couple of round fairly steadily I think but then that is where the experiences as a junior came into play because I played Low Wee Wern from Malaysia, and also Penang, in the quarter finals.

“I saved three match balls in that match and I think that’s when I really thought ‘this could be my week’, because of the whole situation from juniors. The comeback, I think I was 2-1 down against Wee Wern, saved a couple of match balls and ended up winning in five. It felt like things were coming together for me.

“This is the one event that transcends the sport and it is the one thing that gets you the media attention. It is the one thing that everybody understands when you are introduced, even more so than perhaps being No.1.

“Even if I win another one, two, three, or even if I don’t win another one, I will always be a World Champion, and that is something that I can be proud of for the rest of my career.”