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Open Squash

Apr 18th 2024

The Older Sister Always Wins—Or Does She?

Sibling rivalry takes the center stage at FiDi as Farida Mohamed faces off against her older sister Habiba in a feisty squash match

Farida vs Habiba on court at Open Squash Fi Di


That was the direct and…honest reaction of Professional Squash Association World Ranked #17 player Farida Mohamed after losing a key point at 16-all in the first “Sister Vs. Sister” exhibition game against her older sister Habiba, on April 17, before going down 16-18 and lightly…tossing her racquet across the court in dismay.

11-year-old Sean Kapoor was co-refereeing the match and declined to give a conduct stroke against Farida—perhaps because losing the first best-of-three game against her older sister was evidently humiliating enough.

“I’ve refereed a lot of tournaments,” he said afterwards. “So, you learn when to stand firm and when to be a bit more understanding of a player’s reactions.”

The first game between the sisters was some of the most attacking squash seen so far on Open Squash’s glass exhibition court just off Wall Street. Before a feisty and partisan crowd of several dozen waving signs that said, “squash your sister”, and hundreds more joining digitally on Instagram Live, the sisters went nick-for-nick, hitting drop after drop and standing at close quarters to receive serve with their racquets raised high in each other’s faces. Habiba applauded her own shots. With her right thigh strapped in neon pink to match her dress, she managed to retrieve balls most players would miss, by doing the splits. When Farida went up a point at 11-12, Habiba chopped the ball into the nick.

“That’s what you get,” she told her younger sister. Then she used a lob serve. Then she served out, then finally, she pushed through to win the game, eliciting her younger sister’s profane reaction.

This all started with some good old-fashioned smack talk.

“I heard them talking about how they’d beat each other in a game,” said Ona Prokes, Open Squash’s Director of Operations and Head of Marketing. “So, I said, well, let’s set this up. ‘Once we’ve put the post on social media, there’s no going back’, I told them. And they were both up for it. I’ve also got a sister who plays, and I know how that can be. I wanted to see what would happen.”

What happened was surprising, most observers said. Although those with older siblings also agreed that in fact, it wasn’t terribly surprising at all. Habiba told her younger sister to “breathe in, breathe out” when she came back to 5-7 in the second after going down 4-1. When she pulled level to 7-all, she told her, “it’s fine, it’s fine, don’t let it get in your head.” By the time she was up 9-7, she told her sister, “keep your eyes on the ball, how many times!?”

Although if anything, it’s possible Habiba may have overdone the smack talk and forgotten to breathe.  

“My heart is going more than 200 beats per minute right now,” said Habiba, at 10-all. “That’s bad.”

Then a moment later at 10-11, she hit a ball into the tin, to lose the second game, setting up a decider in the third.

Originally from Alexandria in Egypt, Farida has made her practice home at Open Squash in the Financial District, with coach Amr Khalifa, and has seen stunning success on the PSA tour over recent months, winning two tournaments—the Carol Weymuller Open in Brooklyn in January, and the Kinetic Challenger event in March—as she continues to rise up the rankings. Her older sister Habiba retired from the PSA tour when she was 15, after beating some of today’s highest-ranked players, ranked 18th in the world. Habiba went through three shoulder surgeries and could no longer play a backhand thanks to a combination of a labrum tear, some nerve issues, and what she describes as a case of the “yips”. Nevertheless, she went to Columbia University, playing first string on the college’s squash team, hitting her backhands with her racket switched to her left hand in what effectively gives her two forehand strokes. She also continues to have a psychological advantage over her younger sister.

“The first thing most people say to me is, you’re Habiba’s sister, she’s the one who plays forehands on both sides, right?” said Farida. “She’s always been my role model since I was four and a half, getting on court trying to copy her strokes. Her squash is the reason I can achieve better things now.”

Both sisters credit their family with supporting their journey into squash, traveling around the world with them and ensuring the sisters stayed disciplined in practice.

“We had this connection through squash, we’d be driving home from events, saying ‘remember that nick?’ or looking back on other aspects of the match,” Habiba said. “

Now, Habiba coaches squash at Open Squash, and is pursuing a career in finance. Despite all the smack talk, she’s fiercely proud of her sister.

“She’s one of the most talented players I’ve ever seen,” Habiba said. “I know that when she graduates (from Columbia) she’s going to achieve incredible things on the PSA tour. I’m really proud of (her).”

Before the match, Farida said she might let her older sister win.

“I’m a kind person,” she said.

“I’m 100% winning,” Habiba said. “And letting me has nothing to do with it.”

The third game put more pressure onto the referees. Farida demanded an explanation for a ‘stroke’ call against her at 5-5.

“You were in her way,” said referee, Sean. Ice cold.

“They need to read the rules,” Farida said. Then she started to applaud her sister’s errors, going against agreed sporting conduct in squash. She hit a couple of shots behind her back. It riled her older sister up, inspiring Habiba to hit an insane boast from the back court to go up 8-7, and from that point, the older sister didn’t look back, going on to win the third game 11-8, and the match, 2-1.

It's a tale as old as time: The older sister always wins. In fact, Farida has never beaten her.

“I feel I’m capable of beating her, but she’s my older sister, and you can’t beat someone you respect,” Farida said.

“That’s nice, but it’s b.s.,” Habiba said. “Two days from now, people aren’t going to say Farida respected Habiba. They’re going to say Habiba beat Farida, and that’s all there is to it.”

Oh, well. Whoever won, it was extraordinarily entertaining to watch. And when’s the rematch?

“I’m ready when she is,” Farida said. “In fact, I’m ready to go right now.”  

You can also watch a video version of this interview at our new Boast About It show here!