Mayar Sherif made history in September by becoming the first-ever Egyptian female tennis player to reach the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament. Sherif, who was making her Grand Slam main draw debut in the Roland-Garros Series, one of the tennis world’s major Grand Slams, flew through qualifying without dropping a set en route to the biggest match of her life against second-seed Karolina Pliskova on Court Philippe-Chatrier. The 24-year-old continued her fine run by surprising her opponent to win the opening set in an epic tie-break before eventually going down 6-7 (9-11) 6-2 6-4 on Tuesday, but her performances have captured the imagination of the country of her birth.
Speaking to Roland-Garros about her momentous victories, Sherif said, “I always imagined myself and visualized myself doing something good here in Paris. I’m just enjoying it, it’s such a dream to be here and to compete here. I’m going to try to enjoy it as much as I can.”
Egyptians took to social media to celebrate the player known as “Egypt’s Golden Star,” who became the first Egyptian woman to win a Grand Slam match. The National Council for Women in Egypt also praised Sherif’s qualification. The body said it was an unprecedented achievement for Egyptian sport.
Sherif was born on 5 May 1996 in Cairo and studied at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, graduating in 2018 with a BS in Sports Medicine. She was part of the university's women's tennis team, playing for the Waves. Upon graduation, she reached out to Justo Gonzalez, a Spanish coach she had worked with seven years ago during a short stint of training in Alicante. Sherif was ranked in the top-50 of the ITF World Junior rankings as a teenager, and Gonzalez has believed in her ever since.
That confidence was seriously tested when Sherif went to Rabat to contest the African Games. A gold medal in singles would secure her a spot at next year’s Tokyo Olympics, provided she is ranked in the top-300 on June 8, 2020. She suffered an infection and played the whole tournament on antibiotics, but walked away with yet another piece of history, as Egypt’s first ever tennis player – alongside Mohamed Safwat – to qualify for an Olympic Games. Sherif has said she is preparing for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics by taking part in major tournaments.
She has career-high WTA rankings of 171 in singles, as well as 268 in doubles, set on 16 March 2020. Sherif has won eight singles titles and six doubles titles on the ITF Women's Circuit.
In response to her historic achievements, Sherif received support from fellow Egyptian sports star, Liverpool FC’s Mohamed Salah, who took to Twitter to congratulate the star. “It’s very, very nice to get this kind of support from someone who is already very, very good, and someone who is very special from Egypt,” Sherif told Roland Garros, “Honestly it’s very nice to see that people know who I am, that people know the effort I’m doing, that people know that, ‘Oh, this person is special, this person is doing something different’. This is very, very important, it gives me a lot of mental support.”
Asked what advice she would give aspiring young Egyptian female players coming through the ranks, Sherif said: "I would tell them that they can do it with hard work, with talent, because we have so many talented players in Egypt.
"They just have to believe in themselves, and they have to follow the way, the right way to get to where they want.
"There are many obstacles in Egypt that can stop a tennis player, especially a female tennis player, from playing. They have to always believe, they have to always fight through this to get to where they want [to be]."
She continued: "I'm having a very big reaction from the Egyptian population, from my fans. Everybody in Egypt is just reacting to what I'm doing right now.
"That's giving me such a big push to continue and do my best to improve and get better."