When Nour El-Tayeb found out she was pregnant in late 2020, she recalls becoming very emotional, suddenly forced to grapple with the idea she was going to retire from squash without achieving two of her biggest goals: reaching No. 1 in the world and winning the World Championship.
The Egyptian former world No.3 announced she was pregnant in a raw and heartfelt video, holding back tears as she reflected on her career, and although it sounded like she was hanging up her racquet, her closing statements left the door open for a possible comeback.
“Probably my dad thinks I’m going to do a Serena Williams and come back and play again, my dad believes so much I can do it; I’m not sure,” El-Tayeb said, referring to the tennis superstar who reached four Grand Slam finals after having her first child, Olympia.
El-Tayeb’s father was not wrong.
Although she hadn’t really planned to, El-Tayeb was back training two and a half months after having her daughter Farida — who arrived in July 2021 — and by December she was competing in her first tournament, the Squash Open Black Ball in Cairo.
She enjoyed a winning return, triumphing in her first match back from maternity leave before falling to world No.1 Nour El-Sherbini in the quarter-finals.
According to her husband, squash world No.2 Ali Farag, El-Tayeb doesn’t plan too far ahead and she only felt the urge to start training again and contemplated a possible comeback when she attended the World Championship in Chicago last summer.
“The day Ali won the World Championship in Chicago, I was there with Farida, she was just two weeks old; I got there and I watched Nour (El-Sherbini) and Nouran (Ghoul) compete in the final, I felt like I really wanted to play,” El-Tayeb told Arab News on the eve of the British Open, which begins on Monday in Hull.
“I initially started exercising to lose weight and get fit again after giving birth. I took it step by step at first but as soon as I started exercising I felt like I wanted to try to make a comeback.”
This week’s British Open — one of the most prestigious events on the squash calendar and dubbed “the Wimbledon of squash” — will be just the fifth tournament on El-Tayeb’s comeback tour.
So far, she reached a semifinal in her second event back, pushing world No. 1 El-Sherbini to four games before bowing out, then shocked world No. 3 Hania El-Hammamy en route to the quarter-finals of the 2022 Black Ball Open a few weeks later.
“At first, one of the reasons I wanted to retire from squash — and thank God I got pregnant — was that I felt I was getting too desperate for a while to get to number one in the world. So anything less than getting to number one …….