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Open Squash

Feb 23rd 2024

Squash Professional Farida Mohamed Finds a Home and Success in NY

Farida Mohamed (Patch)

Overcoming Ups And Downs With Her New York Squash Family

Farida Mohamed, 22, is on a high after winning her first title on the Professional Squash Association World Tour in January, beating her compatriot Fayrouz Aboelkheir 3-1 at the Carol Weymuller open in Brooklyn.

That said, it has not been an easy road to this point. Farida has been through an especially tough year, with her beloved father Mohamed dying in 2023.

“My father used to travel with me to all my tournaments. He was always there. My level dropped badly after he died, and I couldn’t train at all. I barely did any work,” she said. “I was at a moment where I was going to quit squash. My mom was my best supporter. And my sister. And I made a decision that I was going to go out and do it for him.”

Farida Mohamed with sister and dad Patch

Farida (right) with sister Habiba (left) and their father Mohamed

Now ranked 17th in the world, Farida has found a home practice facility at Open Squash, a nonprofit squash center with two locations in New York’s Manhattan, and a mission to grow the game as it prepares to debut in Los Angeles at the 2028 Olympics. Farida came to the facility thanks to her older sister, Habiba, 24, who was a fantastic role model for her, growing up, and now works at Open Squash as a coach.

“When I first came to the U.S., I didn’t know where I was going to train, and it was stressful, but my sister introduced me to Open Squash, and they’ve treated me as family. It relieves so much pressure for me. It’s great to feel part of it,” she said.

The Mohamed sisters have played squash together since they were four and six. Farida describes Habiba as her “idol” when they were playing in Alexandria, growing up.

Farida Mohamed with sister (Patch)

Farida (left) with sister Habiba (right) on court as youngsters in Alexandria

“At a young age, you don’t know what’s good for you. I refused to work with a coach. I used to watch Habiba play with her coach and try to copy what she was doing by myself,” she said. “In some ways I was harder on myself because coaches were very encouraging at that age, and say, ‘good shot!’, but I’d say, ‘that’s not right,’ and try to get it right on my own. I’d say, ‘I’m going to go and watch my sister.’”

Habiba blazed a trail for Farida to follow in the game, beating the best players in the current women’s adult game while still a junior, and winning the world junior championships in 2016. Then she injured her shoulder and could no longer hit a backhand—which put an end to her Professional Squash Association career. Habiba did, however, learn to hit backhands with her left hand and played in the number one spot for Columbia University. She overcame a knee injury, too, and still went undefeated in her final season at Columbia. Farida followed Habiba to Columbia where she also played in the number one spot and now aims to graduate this year while also playing on the professional tour.

At Open Squash, Farida started working with Amr Khalifa, the Director of Squash at the FiDi facility. Amr won the world Junior Championship in 2010 and enjoyed a successful PSA career before emerging as one of the world’s most prominent junior coaches, developing Egyptian juniors. Farida now “hits”, or practices, with Amr at Open Squash every day apart from Sunday.

Farida Mohamed with Amr Khalifa (Patch)

With Amr Khalifa, the Director of Squash at Open Squash FiDi

Farida knew it would be hard for her to trust a new coach. But she knew Amr from Egypt where she had trained under him for a session in preparation for the World Championships when she was 19. When she began working with Amr, she was still very deflated over her father’s death, and she found it hard to believe that a coach would push her.

“But Amr was there every single session, even if I was hitting solo,” she said. “And he pushed me so hard, and he talked with my mom, and they worked as a team. And I started to believe that he wanted me to be successful, and to believe that it might work out. He worked hard to know me as a person and how to treat me as a player, and it is working out very well.”

As a player, Farida doesn’t suppress her emotional reactions. While some players wear a mask of neutrality on the court, she plays with her emotions on display.

“I’m an extremely emotional person, and a coach needs to be part of this, he needs to work with it,” she said. “Even if we’re working in practice together, I’ll be emotional during my practice sessions, and that’s a part of it.”

Farida had confidence, going into the Weymuller final, she said, because her father had always wanted her to win a PSA tournament. On court in the final, however, Farida relied on Amr’s calm coaching insights to maintain the emotional balance she needed to come through and win.

Farida Mohamed with sister at Columbia (Patch)

Farida (right) with sister Habiba at Columbia University where they have both played squash

“He has always told me, ‘It’s okay. If you lose, what’s going to happen?’ I always say, ‘I can’t lose’, and Amr has this strategy of making everything look simple. And that’s played a huge role in not fading under pressure. He is okay with the ups and downs. After the Tournament of Champions [the previous tournament in New York City] we were quite unhappy with my performance, and then we started working towards the Weymuller together with the goal of coming back strong. As we were working together, we started to have this belief that I was going in to win it. We had this attitude of, ‘it’s not just one match, I’m going in to win the whole event’.”

It worked. Still, the final was an emotional experience, regardless.

“I went and played the final and I was barely even focusing on the sport. I could only see my father in front of me,” Farida said. “That’s why I cried so hard after I won because I just couldn’t control it.”

As an advocate for young people playing the game, Farida has had to contend with real struggles on and off the court. She discourages sugarcoating of the game’s challenges and says it is important for athletes to be honest about how hard it can sometimes be, both physically and mentally.

“When you’re playing professionally, there are going to be days when you don’t enjoy the game,” she said. “But it’s a lifestyle for us. For me, it’s not like I could work a job at a bank. I couldn’t do it. I play squash. It’s my profession. And I must go to work and figure out how to manage the ups and downs.”

There is a lot of pressure on social media with people reacting to Farida’s wins and losses. But she is excited about her future in squash, and ready for the next challenge.

Thanks for sharing your story with us, Farida!