Eddie Herr International Tennis Championship | Sandra Samir inspired by Egyptian roots

Samir advances to quarterfinals at Eddie Herr

adell@bradenton.comDecember 6, 2013 

BRADENTON -- Growing up in Egypt, Sandra Samir had to use her ingenuity to pursue her dream of become a world renowned tennis player.

There is not an abundance of tennis facilities, and elite athletes are swayed toward soccer and squash.

The political upheaval in Egypt adds more obstacles, and there is not an abundance of household tennis names.

But Samir has not allowed those factors to discourage her.

Before she was tall enough to reach over the nets, Samir realized all the inspiration she ever needed was not far from her doorstep.

She grew up in the city of Giza, known for its pyramids and some of the most compelling sites in the world, including the Great Sphinx and the Great Pyramid of Giza.

"It inspired me to know that there were people, ancient Egyptians, who built that and I am a part of that. The families gave their lives to building those pyramids and I appreciate that. Now I would like to build a tennis career and so something for my country that way,"

Samir said after a 6-2, 6-3 win over Emma Higuchi in their third round match Thursday in the girls 18s division of the IMG Eddie Herr International Junior Tennis Tournament.

Samir, who turned 16 about a month ago, thrives on challenges. It's what initially drew her to tennis. She says her passion comes from her father, Sameh, who was a boxer in his youth and recently retired as a policeman in Egypt.

"I love tennis because you have to be a fighter to be successful, and I am a fighter," Samir said. "My dad was a boxer and taught me a lot. I got that fire from him. I don't like team sports because if you lose it's 'you did this and you did that.' You don't get that in tennis. You win for yourself and play for yourself."

Things are not easy in Egypt these days because of the political unrest, making it extremely difficult for someone trying to pursue a tennis career.

For almost three years, there have been widespread protests in Egypt. In July, a new government was installed amid even more havoc and violence.

"There were times when I couldn't get out of the house, and there was a stretch where I was confined to the house for about 10 days because there was shooting and violence," Samir said.

"It's made me mentally tough and I feel I can face anything. But I want to be the first one from my country to do something in tennis. It's made me sad what is happening there. I hope it gets better before I go back."

The upheaval in Egypt and tennis in general have caused Samir to mature quickly and made personal discipline a priority. She started traveling alone at age 12 to attend tennis events in what she describes as on-the-job training for life. She moved to California about a year ago to take advantage of the opportunities in the United States.

"When you are first on your own, you do things that aren't good for you like not eating right and going to bed too late, but you learn that isn't the right way to do things," Samir said.

Now Samir takes nothing for granted and lives a highly disciplined life that is geared to help her reach her potential. Her goals have increased significantly.

She is the champion of Africa for the under-18 age group and a key player on Egypt's Junior Fed Cup team. It used to satisfy her, but now she has raised her personal bar.

"I want more. My sights now are set on the Australian Open," said Samir, who is 52nd in the ITF junior rankings. "I went there last year for my first grand slam, and I was caught up in all the excitement and didn't play my best. This time I am going to give it 100-percent effort."

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