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Tennis talent
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 29 - 09 - 2011

In a rare feat, an Egyptian reached the quarter-finals of the US Open for juniors. Ghada Abdel-Kader reports
Egypt's Karim Hossam reached the quarter-finals of the boys' singles event at this year's US Open tennis championship, a result not achieved by an Egyptian in almost 50 years. Hossam thus followed a little in the giant footsteps of the famed Egyptian tennis player Ismail El-Shafei who won Wimbledon U18 in 1964, after being runner-up in 1963. El-Shafei remains the only Egyptian player to have entered the Top 40 in the Grand Prix/ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) ranking.
El-Shafei also beat the Swedish legend Bj��rn Borg in Wimbledon in 1974, knocking him out in the third round. Borg was one of the best tennis players of all time, winning five consecutive Wimbledon singles titles and six French Open crowns.
A player has to be among the top 100 in the world rankings in order to play in the four Grand Slam tournaments �ê" the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. Hossam, 17, is currently No 34 in the world in the ITF (International Tennis Federation) junior rankings.
Hossam said he hoped that by the end of this year he would be among the top 10 juniors in the world.
In the Open in the first round, Hossam defeated American Ronnie Schneider 6-1, 6-4. In the second round he beat the Portuguese Frederico Ferreira Silva,coming from a set down, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4. In the third round Hossam blanked Bolivian Hugo Dellien in a tight contest 7-5, 6-4. In the quarter-final Briton Kyle Edmund ended Hossam's winning journey 6-2, 6-4.
Hossam did not play in the qualifying rounds. "I went directly to the main draw. In the first round, I beat the American player Schneider. Then, it rained hard for three days. So we had to stop. When play resumed in the second round, I had to play two matches on the same day. I played six hours non-stop. The next day, I had to start playing at 11am. I was totally exhausted and dog tired. Edmund was a good player. He didn't give me any chance."
Hossam tried many sports including swimming, basketball and volleyball. "My mother encouraged me to try tennis. I started playing when I was eight. "After two years I fell in love with the game. My father saw my talent. He took me to the Tawfikaya Tennis Club where I trained for three years. My results were good. I was No 1 in the U12 at that time. Then, I went to El-Gezira Sporting Club. It has more facilities and professional coaches," Hossam said.
Hossam has played 13 tournaments, winning 23 matches and losing 13. He was a consistent winner at the African junior championship, having won the U14 title in 2008, U16 in 2009 and U18 in 2010. He also won the U14 title at Roland Garros in 2008.
Hossam's coach in El-Gezira Sporting Club Karim Zaher told Al-Ahram Weekly that he has big expectations for Hossam. "He is going to be among the top 10 juniors in the world. Next year, Hossam will win one of the four junior Grand Slam tournaments."
The problem now is sponsorship. "We don't have companies or organizations which invest their money in us. Most famous players depend on the money and support of their sponsors."
Hossam's agenda in the next four months is packed, participating in several championships to raise his world ranking. He played in the Egypt ITF Junior Tournament (G2) held in the Smash Tennis Academy from 19-23 September; the Egypt 4 ITF Junior Tournament in Golf Al-Solaimaneyah Club from 26 September to 1 October; the XXV Yucatan Cup (Grade one) will take place in Mexico from 21-26 November; the Eddie Herr International Junior Tennis Championships (G1) will be in the US from 28 November to 4 December; and the Dunlop Orange Bowl (G1) in the US from 5-11 December.
Hossam is currently studying for the SAT, the standardised test for college admissions in the United States.


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