Amanda Sobhy: ‘Harvard exams? Beyond brutal. Squash is easier’

Harvard graduate Amanda Sobhy's work ethic has propelled the US Number One into the squash pantheon battling in front of the Burj Khalifa at the PSA Dubai World Series Finals this week

Over four years at Harvard University, Amanda Sobhy never lost a match. It was this ultra-competitive edge that enabled the 22-year-old to graduate with a major in Social Anthropology and Global Health in 2015 as the number one female squash professional in America. 

In January of this year she achieved a career-high ranking of number eight in the world, after a successful campaign to the semi-finals of both Malaysian and Hong Kong Opens. It points to a future as glittering as the Burj Khalifa she is playing in front of at the PSA World Tour until May 28. 

Is there a strong squash culture at Ivy League Universities?

Squash is really big in the Ivy League Universities. If you look at the collegiate rankings all the top schools are Ivy League. A lot of the players when they’re getting recruited they try for Ivy League Schools to get into the best programmes in the country. Obviously it’s still very hard because you can’t rely on squash alone getting you in, you have to be academically up there, so it recruits a very small handful of people. The people they choose hopefully they’re going to try and get the best of the best.

How did you find Harvard University?

I loved it. It’s very tough and academically rigorous but the whole college life social aspect, academics, squash and playing for a team is something I really enjoyed throughout my four years and I’m glad I did it and decided to do the university route.

Amanda Sobhy Squash 2
In January 2016 the 22-year-old achieved a career-high ranking of number eight in the world

How did you find the change from college to pro squash?

The best thing was being able to play in all the tournaments and focus on squash and not have to worry about writing a paper during a tournament or studying for an exam – so I love that part! The toughest part was managing my schedule. Seeing that I had so much free time I thought ‘I need to be training all the time’ so I ended up over scheduling myself and got a little burned out mid season. I’m hoping as I progress with future seasons that I figure out my schedule better and manage my time and train more smart, as they say.

What is harder – playing a tournament or sitting through Harvard exams?

Oh definitely sitting through Harvard exams, by far. That’s just horrendous. I at least enjoy playing a squash tournament even though it’s probably as mentally taxing and physically a lot more. But sitting four hours in an exam and staring at questions that you have no idea what the answer is, that’s absolutely beyond brutal.

How would you convince people that squash is a great spectator sport?

I think sport is an unbelievable spectator sport. You’re witnessing something that is so fast-paced and there’s something always happening. It’s so high energy, it keeps you on your toes it keeps you thinking and always looking, you have no idea where the ball is going. I’ve gotten a lot of my friends who don’t know what squash is in college to play squash and as soon as they did they were hooked and they watch all the time. They’re working in New York City in investment banking and they’re looking at computer screens with Squash TV. The fact you can easily do that by playing with them once is amazing so hopefully more people when they see squash they will just fall in love with it.

Amanda Sobhy Squash 3
Amanda is relieved to focus entirely on squash and not have to worry about writing a University paper

What were your friends’ initial reservations with squash?

Well nobody knows what it is so when I’m travelling everyone’s like ‘oh you’re going to play tennis’ and I’m like ‘no, I’m not I’m going to play squash.’ Then they’re like ‘oh what is that?’ so then I have to explain it to them. As soon as you bring someone on a court and you show them what squash is they love it.

What’s your ultimate goal in squash?

My ultimate goal is to become number one in the world and to become World Champion. To make a name for myself and squash in the US but also I want to be able to grow squash more in the US and get it to the standards of tennis where people can just turn on the TV and that’s where it is. I hope through my success I will be able to promote the sport a lot and get the exposure and publicity that it deserves.

What’s it like being on Tour in Dubai?

I love the whole travelling aspect, seeing new cultures and being in different places and trying to experience things whether it’s food or culture, life – I love all of that. The amount of people you meet overseas, you make friends all over the world and to do that while playing a sport you love is better than that. Dubai is absolutely unreal and I feel like I need another week after this tournament to see everything so I’m going to try and fit in as much as I can when I’m here. 

Don't miss the full interview with Amanda Sobhy appearing in Vision July-September 2016 issue