Rising Stars: Orfi Taking Inspiration From Legendary Duo

By Jonty Banks

Egyptian squash prodigy Amina Orfi is taking inspiration from two all-conquering squash legends in her bid to break into the world’s elite and continue writing her name in the history books.

Orfi, 16, has taken the PSA World Tour by storm in her first season as a full-time member, claiming her maiden World Tour title at the Squash On Fire Open and becoming the youngest-ever player to reach a Platinum quarter-final at the U.S. Open last October.

Such form has seen Orfi cut her way through the world rankings with apparent ease, currently sitting at a career-high spot of World No.12, and subsequently being billed as one of the players to watch for the next 15 years, if not longer, on the PSA World Tour.

With Orfi due to compete at this week’s Black Ball Open in her hometown of Cairo, she has revealed that when it comes to inspiration, Orfi has looked towards two greats of the game: former men’s World No.1 Mohamed ElShorbagy and eight-time women’s World Champion Nicol David.

“I look up to Mohamed ElShorbagy a lot because of everything he has done in the sport,” Orfi said. 

“He is definitely considered to be one of the greatest players in the sport. He is one of the very few players who gives me advice as well.

“After my British Junior Open win at U13 level in 2020, he texted me on Instagram, saying how he was watching me and thought that I was good and that I needed to work hard.

“Since then, he has contacted me and given me advice about the tour, which tournaments to play, the ranking system, and overall, some tips on how to play on the pro tour. I’m very grateful to him for that.

“Another inspiration who I have looked up to on the court is Nicol David. She was always very consistent and calm on the court.

“After I started playing squash as well, Nicol David was the name I started seeing everywhere, and so I started watching her, seeing who she is, and becoming a fan. I liked the way she played and how she was very calm and focused on court. She didn’t care if she won or lost and I liked her personality.

“You can never see if she is nervous or not, and her body language is always so calm. It gives the opponent a bit of a ‘I don’t know what to do’ feeling because she is so calm.”

Orfi in action at the 2022-23 PSA World Championships
Mohamed ElShorbagy and Nicol David prior to the PSA World Tour Finals in Dubai, 2016

When it comes to mental resilience, Orfi believes there is no better place to look than ElShorbagy, whose nickname ‘The Beast’ is apt considering his remarkable consistency over nearly two decades.

And if the early signs are anything to go by, Cairo-born Orfi has already begun to instil this toughness into her own game, having overturned significant deficits in all four of her victories over top ten players so far this season.

At the Platinum-level U.S. Open tournament, Orfi trailed New Zealand’s Joelle King but managed to claim three consecutive games to secure victory, while also coming from 2-1 down against England No.1 Georgina Kennedy in the Hong Kong Football Club Open semi-finals.

Meanwhile, her two victories over Belgium’s Tinne Gilis certainly displayed her battling qualities, overturning a 2-0 deficit at the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions and fighting back from 9-5 down in the deciding game of the Squash On Fire Open final to eventually seal victory.

On how she has looked up to ElShorbagy’s mentality during the early stages of her career, she said: “He is one of my main role models as he has remained at the top for a very long time and that must have required such a strong mindset as well as self-belief.

“He was really successful as a junior and when he was young on the pro tour, but has continued to be at the top throughout his whole career, so that’s another reason I look up to him.

“I look up to his mentality on court and in particular the focus he has while playing each and every shot.

“I think I have tried to put ElShorbagy’s mental toughness and his winning mentality into my own game, not focusing too much on the outcome but instead focussing on point by point.

“The tournament that sticks out to me the most from Mohamed’s career for his mentality was when he won the Black Ball Open in 2023 after a couple of not-so-good events.”

Currently ranked at World No.12, the next steps in Orfi’s career will include attempting break into the top ten as well as looking to record a win over one of the Egyptian trio at the summit of the women’s game: Nour El Sherbini, Nouran Gohar or Hania El Hammamy.

However, Orfi was happy to admit that players such as El Sherbini and El Hammamy, who both broke onto the scene in a similar manner to herself, have, in fact, given her inspiration that anything is possible despite her lack of experience on the big stage.

“I think the fact that Hania [El Hammamy] and Nour El Sherbini were so successful at a young age is definitely something that has been on my mind,” she said.

“They picked up titles at a very young age and proved themselves among the greats at that time.

“It has given me the idea that once I’m competing with these people I shouldn’t be thinking about age at all, because we are actually all very close in terms of level.”