By Britni Riley Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations Intern
Most college student-athletes have seen the campus and the town before deciding to join that particular program. They take official visits. It’s harder to do that when you live half way across the world. For women’s tennis freshman Mai El Kamash, born and raised in Cairo, Egypt, a visit from head coach Mark Beyers convinced her this was the place she wanted to continue her tennis career and get an education.
“Coach came to see me back in the fall and talked a lot about the school and the town. Even though I didn’t come for an official visit here, I had a feeling that it was a nice place, kind of small and quiet,” Kamash said.
Kamash has had no problem adjusting to American culture and school in Mississippi. She is no stranger to being far from home. Kamash played on the world junior circuit for years, and in that time, traveled to several countries.
An accomplished junior player, Kamash played in the French Open and Wimbledon Junior Championships and last year represented Egypt in the Federation Cup. She was also the runner-up in the African Women’s Cup of Nations, and won the Arabian Junior Championships in 2011.
The tennis prodigy had her choice of American universities to attend after reaching a career-high ITF Junior World ranking of No. 63 but chose Ole Miss.
The transition for Kamash from Cairo to Oxford has been easier than she thought it would be.
“At first I was terrified to be living away from my family and not being able to see my friends for a long time, but as soon as you come here and start classes and matches you just kind of forget about all of that,” she said.
The engineering major stays busy in the classroom and on the courts. Since her debut in January, the freshman has played in the top half of the lineup in every match. She is 5-4 in the SEC and helped the Rebels defeat then No. 38 Kentucky and No. 13 Vanderbilt on the road. She has won five of her last six in the SEC.
Kamash says one of the things she loves most about playing tennis in college is the support she gets from teammates and fans.
“It’s nice to be supported by all of your teammates,” Kamash said. “If you lose, you have someone besides you to lift you up, and you don’t get that in the juniors.”
The Rebels are currently ranked No. 37 nationally and improved to 10-9 overall with five wins last week, in which El Kamash went 4-0 in singles and doubles. It’s been an up and down year for the team, which features no seniors and two freshmen and three sophomores in the lineup.
“We had a rough start at first, but we are starting to do better,” Kamash said. “I think we are going to continue to get better. We have a lot of freshmen who don’t have a lot of experience, but we fight hard in all of our matches.”
The next stop for El Kamash and her teammates is Gainesville, Fla., Friday to face No. 2 Florida followed by a match at No. 31 South Carolina Sunday.
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