(Reuters) - Malaysia’s Nicol David had her nine-year run as women’s squash world number one, one of the longest reigns in world sport, finally halted on Tuesday by Egyptian Raneem El Welily.
The 26-year-old El Welily, who kicks off her season at the China Open on Thursday, becomes the first Egyptian woman to become a world number one in any sport, the Professional Squash Association said upon updating the rankings.
“I‘m absolutely thrilled to have become the new World No.1,” El Welily, PSA Women’s Player of the Year in 2015, said in a statement.
“Nicol has been number one for so long and the gap between her and all of us has been so huge that to get close to her is an achievement in itself. To be the person to finally overtake her is huge for me.”
She had been second in the rankings for eight months after winning a hat-trick of major titles, including her home Alexandria Open in June.
Her lead over David is just 125.625 and with the Malaysian also competing in China on the opposite side of the draw, El Welily knows her reign could be short.
“I know I could just be there for one month and that that’s ok because I still need to do more in order for me to earn that spot - at the moment it’s only a matter of calculation,” she added.
“I know that the challenge now is proving whether I’m worthy of staying there or not. If I want to do that then it all rests on how I perform this season.”
David has held the top spot since 2006, a startling run of 109 months where she has dominated the sport.
The 32-year-old from Penang has won eight World Opens, six Asian games gold medals, two more at the Commonwealth Games as well as claiming a host of other titles around the world.
Earlier this year she eclipsed the previous 105 month record run at the top of the squash rankings set by New Zealand’s Susan Devoy in 1993.
Other lengthy sporting stints at the top include American Ed Moses’ 10-year, 122 consecutive wins in the 400 metre hurdles which finally ended in 1987.
Scotland’s Stephen Hendry was snooker number one for eight years in the 1990s, while American Tiger Woods topped golf’s world rankings for 281 consecutive weeks until 2010.
Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; editing by Amlan Chakraborty