During the 2017 US Open Squash Championships, Ali Farag and Nour Al Tayeb, became the first married couple in history to win the same major sports title on the same day, marking a great achievement for them and for all Egyptians. The victory was made even sweeter by the fact that it was each player’s first time to win a major sports title. The young couple’s fierce determination, avid support for one another, and their sheer love for the sport paved the way for their remarkable accomplishment.
Farag and Al Tayeb’s love story dates back to when they were just seven and eight years old playing squash at the Heliopolis Sporting Club. According to Farag,“We were just squash colleagues, and good friends just like everyone else on the team.” It wasn’t until Farag went to study Mechanical Engineering at Harvard University in 2011 that their relationship intensified and took a different dimension. “I was very homesick at the beginning, and she would wake up in the middle of the night just to Skype with me. At that point I knew we were more than just friends.” Upon graduating from university and returning to Cairo, Farag and Al Tayeb got engaged, and by the summer of 2016 were married.
While Farag was studying abroad, Al Tayeb was studying Economics at the American University in Cairo and was successfully and tirelessly able to balance her professional squash career while studying. Astonishingly, she was able to secure the world’s number five spot in her sport. “It was a huge achievement for me. But shortly after graduating I had a shoulder injury, so I had to sit out for a year.” Farag recalls how hard that year was for his wife, “Even though she was training so hard, she started losing to people she used to beat before she was injured, and as a result she dropped nine spots in the world rankings. It’s not easy at all for a sportsman to go through that. But she trusted the process, and it all paid off at the 2017 US Open Championships.”
It was indeed a momentous moment for them to both win the title and doing so together was just the cherry on top. “Of course, these wins were a huge deal for us, but we actually didn’t do much after our victory that day,” Farag jokingly recalls. “We just went to Shake Shack for a burger and went to bed! However, the following day we woke up to an unbelievable amount of calls, messages, and media inquiries. Our story had gone viral, and it was a real media frenzy! Because it was our first major title, we weren’t used to attention of that scale.”
The next day they each had to go their separate ways for different tournaments in different countries, so they didn’t have much time to savour their sweet success together. But they made sure to support each other through phone calls between games. “Bear in mind, we would just have 90 seconds to call, but the emotional support meant so much for us,” recalls Farag. Although they continue to travel separately sometimes, they still play a lot of the same tournaments, which often allows them to stay together while travelling. “We are very lucky to be in the position we are in,” says El Tayeb, “because other players have to leave their families behind for up to 14 times a year, and that can be very tough.”
Farag and El Tayeb also try to travel together for leisure and relaxation. “Our idea of a perfect destination is any place similar to our honeymoon in Cancún, Mexico where we did nothing for four days except lounge by the pool, swim at the beach, and eat really good food,” they both agree.
Of course, this charming couple’s 2017 double victory at the US Open Squash Championship, has only whetted their appetite for more. They are now working towards their combined goal, to win the World Squash Championships together on the same day, and to each become the world’s number one squash player. And that’s no pipe dream! We are ready to bet that Mr. and Mrs. Farag, with their hard work and perseverance, and their undying love and support for one another, will make their dreams come true!