Tournament wildcard Nada Abo Alnaja became the first Saudi woman ever to compete on the PSA World Tour after the Riyadh-born 32-year-old featured on day two of the 2018 Saudi PSAWomen’s Squash Masters, World Series tournament.
Alnaja, who now resides in Jeddah, taught herself how to play the sport initially, before enlisting the help of coach Fabien Polly while spending time in Grenoble, France and she was making her Tour debut after being granted the wildcard spot for the tournament.
She came up against World No.3 Camille Serme – who reached the semi-finals of last month’s PSA Women’s World Championship – in round one and the Frenchwoman was in ruthless form to claim an 11-1, 11-3, 11-2 victory to move into round two of the first ever women’s professional squash tournament to be held in Saudi Arabia.
“It’s such an honour to play against the first ever [female] Saudi player and to live through that historical moment,” said Serme.
“I hope she is going to keep on playing and make more and more tournaments.”
Alnaja said: “Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined I would one day stand here, in front of a Saudi crowd, playing Camille, in front of Nour [World No.1 El Sherbini] and all the top players.
“When I was hitting the ball for hours in my club in Jeddah, looking like a crazy woman, I would never have imagined where it would take me. So the lesson is, ladies, whatever it is, if you love something, whatever activity, make up, clothes, if you love it enough, just do it, just put all of your energy in it because you never know where it may take you.”
Serme will face Egypt’s World No.7 Nour El Tayeb for a place in the quarter-finals after El Tayeb claimed a comfortable 3-0 victory over Hong Kong’s Liu Tsz-Ling.
“Camille is one of my favourite players, she is very fair and fun to play with,” El Tayeb said.
“I have learned a lot from her, I’m quite excited to play against her tomorrow.”
Also through to the second round is World Champion Raneem El Welily after she eased past Belgium’s Nele Gilis in straight games – winning 11-3 in all three games – and she will line up against United States No.1 Olivia Blatchford, who dispatched Mariam Metwally 3-0.
“Nele is a strong player, physically she is very powerful and she hits the ball very hard,” said El Welily.
“I was trying to not give her anything to hit today. The court is different from any court we normally play on so I was trying to get used to it. I was trying all my shots and trying to move on court to get the feel of it.”
Elsewhere, Malaysia’s eight-time World Champion Nicol David earned her place in the last 16 courtesy of a win in three games against Mayar Hany and she will take on Indian No.1 Joshna Chinappa next, with the World No.14 coming through a tough five-game battle with Canada’s Samantha Cornett.
The other fixtures on day two saw Welsh World No.12 Tesni Evans and England’s World No.8 Sarah-Jane Perry prevail over Millie Tomlinson and Joey Chan, respectively, and the pair will go head-to-head for a place in the quarter-finals.
Round two of the Saudi PSA Women’s Masters will take place tomorrow (January 9), with matches starting from 15:30 local time (GMT+3).
Results – First Round (Bottom Half): 2018 Saudi PSA Women’s Squash Masters
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) bt Nele Gilis (BEL) 3-0: 11-3, 11-3, 11-3 (18m)
 Olivia Blatchford (USA) bt Mariam Metwally (EGY) 3-0: 13-11, 11-5, 11-4 (26m)
 Tesni Evans (WAL) bt Millie Tomlinson (ENG) 3-0: 11-2, ret. (6m)
 Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt Joey Chan (HKG) 3-0: 11-9, 11-6, 11-6 (24m)
 Nicol David (MAS) bt Mayar Hany (EGY) 3-0: 11-4, 11-3, 11-3 (17m)
 Joshna Chinappa (IND) bt Samantha Cornett (CAN) 3-2: 11-9, 6-11, 13-11, 9-11, 11-5 (49m)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) bt Liu Tsz-Ling (HKG) 3-0: 11-4, 11-3, 11-8 (19m)
 Camille Serme (FRA) bt [WC] Nada Abo Alnaja (KSA) 3-0: 11-1, 11-3, 11-2 (18m)
Draw – Second Round: To Be Played January 9th
 Nour El Sherbini (EGY) v Hania El Hammamy (EGY)
Dipika Pallikal Karthik (IND) v  Alison Waters (ENG)
 Annie Au (HKG) v  Joelle King (NZL)
 Victoria Lust (ENG) v  Nouran Gohar EGY)
 Raneem El Welily (EGY) v  Olivia Blatchford (USA)
 Tesni Evans (WAL) v  Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG)
 Nicol David (MAS) v  Joshna Chinappa (IND)
 Nour El Tayeb (EGY) v  Camille Serme (FRA)
A Gutsy performance from both sides