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Game, Set, & Match: On Court with Mayar Sherif

Egypt’s top-ranked women’s tennis player Mayar Sherif on her career, goals, and life after tennis

Egyptian women’s tennis has seen a huge boost through  Africa’s #2 player Mayar Sherif. The 27-year-old Olympian broke records as the first Egyptian to win a match at a Grand Slam and made history as the first Egyptian to qualify for eight Grand Slam tournaments. 

ELLE sat down with Sherif to get the inside scoop on her beginnings, her training routine, goals, mantra, and life after tennis. 

Sherif’s journey with tennis started at a very young age. It was her parents’ faith in her talent that pushed her to go professional. “My parents always believed in me, they wanted me to go professional right from the beginning,” Sherif tells ELLE “I think when I was 15, we realized that maybe I had something special. And that’s when I think everything started to change.” 

Sherif has broken multiple records for Egyptian tennis. The most notable of which was winning the 2022 Emilia Romana Open, six 125 WTA singles titles, and reaching the number 31 WTA ranking in June 2023. Huge wins, yes, so huge they went down as the best achievements in the history of Egyptian tennis.

But breaking records isn’t easy. Sherif trains six days a week. Her workout routine is as intense as you would expect it to be. “My training schedule is usually a full day, and when it’s not (it’s because) I’m really tired because of how hard I train all week,” Sherif explains. “I usually train in the morning, about 3 hours of tennis. And then in the afternoon, I’ll do 2 hours of fitness. So, an average of 4-5 hours daily, and one day off for rest.” 

Sherif says preparation is key, she divides her routine into both mental and physical fitness. The athlete takes time before every match to write down everything she has to remember and do, “I imagine the place and go over how my opponent plays.” She tells us, “And then there’s the physical preparation. My fitness coach and I warm up with some agility, some mobility, and then the eye-coordination reactions.” 

Sherif keeps her mental space clear and positive. When asked how she feels about competing with some of the top 10 players in tennis, she replied that, to her, it is all about determination and belief. “The first (time) beating Maria Sakkari (the current #11 ranking player in the WTA ranking) I really wanted to win the first WTA tournament. I knew it was something huge for Egypt, Egyptian tennis, and the Arab world as well. And I really wanted to get that win.” 

We also asked her about rivalry among players. “I don’t really have rivalries. I think we all compete, I think that everybody is dangerous. I can beat anybody and I can lose to anybody. That’s the mentality that I have going on the court.” 

Of course, no victory comes without its costs. And for Sherif, they come in the form of injuries. “I think the worst time I got injured was a couple of years ago at the French Open. I fractured my foot playing the first match. There were many Egyptians that came all the way from Egypt to watch this match, and I was in very good form, the best I’ve ever been,” She tells us, “And I won that match, getting the foot fracture in the middle of the match. And as I was walking out, I knew I couldn’t go back out on the court and play the second round. It was a huge opportunity for me, especially since I had (already) beaten the player I was set to play in the second round (before). I had a  very very good momentum going for me, so it was very hurtful, both to me personally and to my career.” 

The athlete’s cup-half-full attitude extends even to her losses. “Obviously, there are losses that hurt a lot, but none of them really stay for that long. As a tennis player, you just have to go on. You accept that you can lose and you can win. And when you lose, you just take whatever you wanna improve from that match, whatever you wanna work on, and you take it with you to the next match.” 

There are many monumental moments in the tennis player’s life, “One of the highlights of my career was qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics, and reaching the quarterfinals in Madrid.”

Life after tennis? Sherif hopes to help young Egyptian players to become top international players. “I think we have great talents with a lot of potential, but it hasn’t been fully tapped into yet. I think I might even start before my career ends, and I’m gonna take it on after my career as well. Hopefully, I can get a new generation of Egyptians, Arabs, or Africans to become top players.” 

We for one, can’t wait to cheer for Mayar at her upcoming tournaments, most notably the French Open and the Madrid open!

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