Schwartz: Long Island Native Looking To Squash The Competition At Grand Central

Growing up in Sea Cliff on Long Island, Amanda Sobhy played a variety of sports but eventually focused on a pair of activities that she became really good at…tennis and squash.

Squash? On Long Island?

Tennis is a common sports for kids to playing while growing up on Long Island as well as soccer, lacrosse, baseball, hockey and football but how does one get into playing squash?

“Everybody asks that because squash is not really a sport that you play on Long Island,” said Sobhy.

As it turns out, Sobhy’s father Khaled is from Egypt which is currently the hotbed for squash players. He would play for the Egyptian National Team and then played professionally before coming over to the United States in the 1980’s to compete in more tournaments while also coaching the sport in Locust Valley on Long Island.

He entered a competition in New York City where he met Amanda’s mom Jodie who was the tournament’s organizer. Amanda’s mother picked up the sport in her early twenty’s and became pretty good at it too.

“That’s how they met,” said Sobhy whose brother Omar also learned to play squash because of their father. “He got us into it. My brother was the first person to play, I didn’t pick up the sport until I was eleven. I played tennis beforehand. I played every other sport before squash and then I got dragged continuously to my brother’s tournaments.”

When Amanda was twelve, she was playing tennis and squash when her father suggested picking one and becoming really good at it so she chose squash. At the age of sixteen, Amanda won her first professional tournament and then on her seventeenth birthday she captured the World Junior Championships.

At that point, she knew that squash was going to be a big part of her life.

“That kind of solidified for me that I love this sport, I want to make this a profession one day and I want to become one of the best in the world on the professional level,” said Sobhy.

And that’s where Amanda is today at the age of 25 as she gets ready to play in the Tournament of Champions beginning this Sunday at Grand Central Terminal in New York City. The tournament runs from January 16th to 24th and Sobhy is ready to strut her stuff in front of a hometown crowd.

“Excited is an understatement,” said Sobhy who will compete for a share of $360,000 in prize money that will be split evenly between the men and women. “It’s my favorite tournament on the tour because of the atmosphere and the fact that its in New York where I grew up and I get that home crowd support.”

Sobhy currently resides in Boston, but her parents still live on Long Island so this will be a homecoming of sorts for her.

In October of 2016, Sobhy was the highest ranked United States born player in history when she reached a ranking of number six in the world. She was well on her way towards being number one in the world when her career hit a roadblock in March of 2017 at a tournament in Columbia.

Amanda was in the semifinals and matched up against fellow American Olivia Blatchford. She was up 2-0 and 10-5 and had match ball up but things would not end well.

“I made a movement to the front of the court and I pushed off my left leg and I just heard a pop and fell flat on my face,” said Sobhy. “I knew right away that I popped my achilles.”

Sobhy faced a long road back from a ruptured Achilles’ tendon that could have been career threatening.

After extensive rehab, she returned to the tour in 2018 and began to rise up the world rankings again. In March, Sobhy reached the Windy City Quarterfinals and then won the $25,000 Texas Open. This past October, Amanda beat Nor El Tayeb who is currently ranked third in the world. She also scored a triple gold medal performance in team, singles and doubles at the Pan American Championship. This summer, she will compete in the Pan American Games, the largest international tournament for American players as squash is not an Olympic sport.

Now ranked 11th in the world, Sobhy likes where here game is.

“I feel like my game is better than it was before I think being out for that long,” said Sobhy. “You kind of had this blessing to start over and start from scratch and rebuild your body and game up from ground zero.”

Sobhy, who compiled an undefeated record at Harvard including a record-equaling four individual national titles and three team titles, also represented Team USA in all major competitions as a junior and senior. She won the World Junior Squash Championships while becoming the first and only American champion of the world’s most prestigious junior event.

Sobhy will begin her quest for the Tournament of Champions title this Sunday as tournament organizers are thrilled she is back among the best in the world.

“Amanda Sobhy is the best international squash athlete the USA has ever produced and brings tremendous excitement every year to the Tournament of Champions,” said Tournament of Champions promoter John Nimick. “This year is special as she is back in form after her traumatic Achilles tendon injury and starting to rise strongly up the world rankings again. Every match she plays on the glass in Grand Central is a packed house affair!”

It’s a really unique tournament for squash fans given the atmosphere at Grand Central Terminal but it’s also expected to be something that’s also fascinating for the novice squash observer. If you happen to be passing through Grand Central Station and you see a crowd of people around a glass enclosed court, you might want to stop by and check it out.

“(The fans) can expect some fast-paced, high-energy, really exciting stuff,” said Sobhy. “At what sporting event do you get to set up in Grand Central Station, stop and be just a couple of feet away from the court or arena or players? It’s truly something special that I think fans should appreciate.”

Amanda Sobhy was a terrific athlete growing up on Long Island and could have played any sport she wanted. While many kids in her neighborhood and other communities might have gone the route of soccer, hockey, lacrosse or baseball, Sobhy chose squash over tennis and it’s clear that she made the right decision.

She rose up the world rankings before suffering a serious injury and now she’s climbing up the ladder again. Starting this Sunday, she’s back home in New York looking to show local fans just why she is one of the best in the world and perhaps soon back in the top ten.

About the Author

Peter Schwartz

Peter Schwartz is a contributor covering the Islanders for NY Sports Day while also writing about general sports in the New York/New Jersey area. In addition to his column, Peter also hosts his “Schwartz On Sports” podcast as he interviews players, coaches, and other sports personalities. He is also currently a sports anchor for WFAN Radio, CBS Sports Radio, and WCBS 880 radio while also serving as the public address announcer for the New York Cosmos soccer club.

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