Sherif: It's like a dream for them coming here

Family rides the wave as Egyptian on cusp of breaking new ground in Paris

Mayar Sherif, Roland-Garros 2023, first round© Loïc Wacziak/FFT
 - Dan Imhoff

Growing up in a household as one of four sisters, Mayar Sherif knows firsthand siblings can always be relied on to deliver a reality check on any seemingly pie-in-the-sky plans.

For the Egyptian, it came five years ago, while watching tennis on television with her family.

Boldly declaring to her aunt that she would have a chance to sit courtside in her player’s box in the next year, younger sister Dalia was quick to bring her back to earth.

“Dream on,” Dalia quipped.

The now 27-year-old Sherif has emerged from her US college tennis route to establish herself on the brink of the world’s top 50 (she hit a career-high No.43 earlier this month).

No need to remind her sister how far she had come.

Actions speak louder than words.

Aunty Hoda will realise her dream of watching her niece from the player’s box at Roland-Garros this year, when Sherif attempts to become the first Egyptian woman to reach a Grand Slam third round.

Mayar Sherif, Roland-Garros 2023, first round© Loïc Wacziak/FFT

A 6-3, 6-1 victory over American Madison Brengle set a date with 24th seed Anastasia Potapova, a welcome second chance after a foot injury cost her any chance of advancing further a year ago.

“All my family are here. It's like a dream for them coming here, to watch me play as well,” Sherif said on Sunday. “So that got me pumped up and excited to win while they're watching and while they're here.”

The sisterly banter it seemed remained alive and well.

Could it be a chance now to get one back on Dalia?

“Yeah, she's not going to get into my box,” Sherif joked. “She's not going to be there, but one of my aunties will, she's crazy about tennis.”

Almost two years younger than North African trailblazer Ons Jabeur, Sherif took a vastly different path to the big league.

While Jabeur announced herself as the junior champion at Roland-Garros in 2011, Sherif at the time had shelved plans to follow a professional tennis route.

Ons Jabeur / Rome 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

“I left juniors very early because I couldn't afford travelling,” Sherif said. “It was upsetting not to be able to follow your dream because you cannot financially, even though you feel you have the potential, you can put all the hard work.

“You know you can make it, but you don't have the resources, and that's what I felt. It was more of a burning or, like, a bad feeling inside that I think translated into the hunger that I had (on tour) after I graduated from college.”

A breakout run to a Masters 1000 quarter-final in Madrid earlier this month - in which Sherif claimed her second top-10 win, over Caroline Garcia, and snatched a set from eventual champion Aryna Sabalenka - had instilled a fresh sense of belonging.

“I feel like the Madrid experience gave me a lot of mentality to see where I can get,” Sherif said.

“Now passing the first round feels like, OK, I got this. The next round, I also got this. I don't feel any more nervous first rounds and the second rounds as much as a couple of years ago.”

Mayar Sherif, Roland Garros 2022, first round© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Looking ahead to her Wednesday second round showdown with Potapova, Sherif said: "She's a feisty player. I know that. She has very good strokes. She moves well. She's kind of a complete. She was a very good junior. I'm just going to go out there and put a plan and follow it and see what I can do.

"I'm more excited than anything else. So, to be honest, I can't wait to play the next one!"