After the recent triumph of Qatari squash player and Aspire Academy graduate, Abdulla Al-Tamimi, at the Professional Squash Association (PSA) World Tour 2018 Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur, his Australian coach and former squash world no. 1 Geoff Hunt explains the importance of this big win and takes a look at Al-Tamimi’s development while he attended Aspire Academy, and being a role-model for young athletes through his Aspire Academy’s graduate scholarship.
During an interview with the squash legend, Hunt described Al-Tamimi’s most recent win as “his best… better even than his British Open results in December, when he beat a player in the top 10 and another in the top 30.”
He explained that the reason Al-Tamimi’s win in Malaysia tops his list of individual triumphs is because Al-Tamimi won the overall Malaysian Open championship, making his way to the title by knocking out World Nos. 20 and 29, Leo Au and Tsz Fung Yip.
Hunt explained: “Al-Tamimi’s progress has been steady, but he has grown rapidly since he moved overseas, where he has more opportunities to play world class squash players. New York represented the ideal solution for this, given the exceptional coaching Rodney Martin offers. They are a well-matched pair, particularly because their natural skills and instincts align.”
When he was still a teenager at Aspire Academy, Al-Tamimi was talented in squash but his passion was football. He played for Al-Sadd Sports Club, like many promising young boys who play football in Qatar.
Commenting on what made Al-Tamimi finally put 100% of his effort into squash, Hunt said: “He is athletic, a good footballer and was a good player for Al Sadd SC. As Head Squash Coach, I was happy to let him play football because of how much he enjoyed the game, even though he showed enormous talent at squash and won numerous junior events, including gold medals at the European, Arab and GCC championships. I think the level of success he attained in squash eventually encouraged him to take the sport on professionally, but throughout his footballing days he was developing fitness and awareness that have stood him in good stead today.”
Hunt believes that the environment at Aspire Academy assisted Abdulla on his way to the top in squash: “I think the whole support system for all athletes at Aspire has been fabulous, not only for developing sporting prowess, but also academic and social ability. Aspire Academy’s philosophy of developing students to become champions in sport and in life is what makes it such an impactful place.”
Speaking on Abdulla’s graduate scholarship from Aspire Academy and his opportunity to support the squash program as assistant coach, Hunt said, “Apart from being an exceptional player, Abdulla is a fantastic role model for the students: he is a natural coach; he understands the game thoroughly, from technique to tactics; he also enjoys helping people and is a good communicator. He has already influenced and motivated a number of the squash student athletes positively through his squash results, his presence at training, and his coaching advice.”
While Abdulla is only 23-year-old, when most top players in squash are older than 30, Al-Tamimi has been able to get to the top of squash quicker than others because of his self-control on court. His performance at the Malaysian Open demonstrated that, Hunt added.
Feeling optimistic about Al-Tamimi’s future, Hunt continued: “I have seen a big improvement in Abdulla’s performance in many areas over the last 12 months and I think this will continue over the next few years. By then, I believe he will be challenging the world’s best. It would be nice to see squash included in the Paris Olympics and I believe Abdulla will be at or near his peak by then.”
Al-Tamimi became the reigning world No.1 in the World Squash Federation’s junior circuit rankings (Under-19) in 2012. He has won several other prestigious titles, including the Under-19 Qatar Youth Open Championship in 2012 and the Under-19 Dutch Junior Open in July 2013. He finished fourth in the World Youth Championship in Poland in July 2013.
Throughout 2014 and 2015, Al-Tamimi continued to shine in various international squash championships in Qatar and around the world, reaching the final rounds in many different tournaments. These included the Guilfoyle Financial PSA Classic, the NASH Cup, the AnyPresence Open and the Qatar Classic Squash Championship, amongst others. In 2017, his progress continued as he achieved a career-best world ranking of 37 after he reached the second round of the World Squash Championships in Manchester. As of 2018, Al-Tamimi has risen to a world-ranking of 33 and is expected to be among the top 30 after claiming his 2018 Malaysian Open title.
Cover image courtesy of Aspire Academy
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