POUR MEMOIRE – ICYMI
If you are young(er), you might only know Karim Darwish as the WSF Vice-President, the charismatic Wadi Degla Squash Director – one of Cairo’s most prestigious Private Clubs – and also as the Coach, you see next to Ali Farag in most of his matches.
World Junior Champion, former World No.1 and winner of 23 PSA World Tour titles, Karim, now 41, retired at the age of 33. He had turned pro in 1999, taking just two years to break into the World’s Top 20 at the start of a career that would see him go on to contest 42 tournament finals and compete in 500 world tour matches.
“I started playing squash at the age of 6, and ever since, squash has been my only passion.
WORLD NUMBER ONE
He reached the top ten for the first time in 2003, where he would remain for a combined 118 months, with the crowning moment of his career coming in January 2009 when, after winning the PSA World Series Saudi International in December, upsetting Amr Shabana, Nick Matthew and Gregory Gaultier en-route to the title, he topped the world rankings for the first time.
A moment he remembers very well : “My proudest achievement is when I reached world no 1 after beating Shabana at the Saudi open in 2008, and by staying in the top 10 for more than 10 years.”
He also held on to the World No.1 ranking for 11 months in 2009…
“It was always an honour to represent my country in the Teams’ events.”
The Dark Prince also represented Egypt in seven successive World Team Championships since 2001, winning the title twice, including in 2011 in Paderborn when he upset the odds to defeat James Willstrop in the deciding match to take the title away from top seeds England.
“I played the deciding match in the final against James, and I won that match in 4. I remember I hadn’t beaten James for a couple of years before that match, and nobody was expecting me to win, but I gave everything and probably played the best squash of my life” he smiles, concluding, “It was always an honour to represent my country in the Teams’ events.”
But it wasn’t always easy. I remember a defeat against Wael El Hindi in the final of the Petroleum in 2008, it was a very warm August night, and I can still see the despair running down Karim’s face in the dark behind the glasscourt erected for the occasion right next to the Petroleum Sky Club – one of former President Moubarak’s preferred places.
But it’s not that defeat that stung the most in Karim’s memory. But it’s against the same opponent during my first ever visit in Egypt, two years before that, in 2006.
He explains : “My worst ever memory is when I lost to Wael at the Ahram Championship first round, even though I have never been training that hard before that event, and I got chopped by him in three. It was definitely my worst memory ever.”
Now a proud husband (Engy Kheirallah, former world number 11, who won the World Teams with Egypt both as player and coach, will you please) and father (one boy and twin girls), he actually feels like Edit Piaf that “non, rien de rien, je ne regrette rien”
“I can’t recall that I have regretted anything, but I do mistakes like any human being, and I learn a lot from my mistakes.”, a message he passes on to his players, of course.
And “le mot de la fin”, Karim, how do you want to be remembered?
“I want people to remember that I was disciplined on and off court, a fighter on court, and my drop shot forehand, of course 😁.”