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Amr
Bey : The First Dominant Squash Champion


May 2001, Concord MA, © 2001 SquashTalk

Photos: © 2001 SquashTalk

by Ron Beck

F.D. Amr Bey: "Human
Streak of Lightning"

Abedel
Fattah Amr, known simply as F.D. Amr Bey, or more universally as Amr Bey,
won the British Open championship six straight times, from 1933 through 1938,
held the British Amateur championship six times and numerous other titles.
He was the first truly dominant squash player in the sport. He was termed
the first "professional amateur," meaning that his squash training
in many ways became his life. He has been compared to Jonah Barrington, with
regard to his work ethic and fitness. Amr was never beaten in the finals of
either the British Open or Amateur – neither was Barrington.

Don Butcher, whom
Amr deposed to gain the British Open title, said, "The speed of Amr Bey
was positively amazing. He never allowed the ball to reach the back wall,
and his angle shots and drop shots have never been surpassed for their accuracy
and brilliance." According to another observer at the time, Brian Phillips,
"Amr was tiny, about 5′ 5”. He had a little wrist and a thin pencil
grip on the racket. It was like a wand. Very light… He was probably the
best attacking player I’ve ever seen."

In 1932, Cazalet
in The Times wrote, "I would merely remark that
it is possible, as in the case of the present Open and Amateur Champion, Amr
Bey, to bring the game to such a degree of scientific perfection that a really
good first-class player in a championship match may consider himself fortuneate
if he scores a single point other than a fluke against this remarkable Egyptian."

Amr Bey was a creative
player, who broadened the bounds of the sport and introduced new offensive
weapons to the game. Amr Bey said, in his 1934 book, " …[in squash]
the battle between attack and defence continues and will continue indefinitely.
I am firmly convinced that the supply of possible strokes in squash rackets
is practically unlimited."

Amr Bey combined
anticipation and shot making skills with, for his time, incredible fitness
and speed. Stories of his retrieval of virtually irretrievable shots have
given him legendary status.

Don Butcher said,
"To give you some idea of his wonderful fitness and lasting power, I
am the only player who has scored points against him in the fifth game of
a serious match."

Combined with his
championship squash abilities, Bey leaves a legacy of sportsmanship, good
will, and friendship with his strongest rivals. Bey was the predecessor to
the next great Egyptian champion, Mahmoud
Karim.

Together, Bey and
Karim created the foundation for Egyptian squash dominance, a legacy being
carried on today by such stars as Ahmed Barada,
Kareem Darwish, Maha Zein, and Engy Keirallah.



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