Aly Abou Eleinen happens to have been born right at the turn of the millennium on January 1, 2000, which might be an unconscious factor in his desire to establish himself as one of the elite squash players of this millennium so far.
Eleinen, who hails from Egypt, is preparing to enter his senior season for Penn squash and is expected to have another huge year after a sophomore season in which he was deemed first team CSA All-America and unanimously named first team All-Ivy.
His junior season was unfortunately canceled due to COVID-19, but Eleinen found a way to make the most out of the year, and subsequent summer, with what he called an “internship” on the professional squash circuit.
“So my coaches, my family, and I have decided for sure that we want to pursue this professionally and just get myself ready for after college to get going,” Eleinen said. “So this summer, I played professional squash tournaments in Egypt, Denmark, and in the U.S. I think this is gonna put me in a good position for when I graduate. I'm right there to start competing with the best players.”
Eleinen, who currently sits at 125th on the Professional Squash Association (PSA) world rankings, believes that his most recent tournament in Marietta Ga., where he upset the world Nos. 100, 97, 52, and 40, will move him into the top-100.
In addition to playing in numerous tournaments, Eleinen followed a rigorous training regimen, meeting with mental coaches, nutrition coaches, and strength and conditioning coaches throughout the summer. On top of all that, he would also track his training on Excel in order to see ways in which he could improve his game.
“I would approach it like a job, which was definitely very hard,” Eleinen said. “And it was definitely a lot of hard work [that was] physically, mentally and emotionally draining, but it was absolutely worth it. I love doing it.”
Consistently defeating top ranked squash players worldwide and working to improve nonstop would certainly seem to indicate that Eleinen is capable of turning pro, a belief that Penn squash coach Gilly Lane also holds, especially given his own experience playing professionally.
“I definitely think that he has the ability to do it, and what he did this summer was he put in the work,” Lane said. “He trained like a professional to see what it was like, and the results are showing. I think people know who he is on the world stage right now, and having played on the World Tour myself, I know that he's gonna be very successful."
“The goal right now is obviously moving up the rankings as much as possible so that when he graduates he could go right on to tour and play some of the bigger events, but I have no doubt that if he sticks with it long enough, he's going to put himself in a position to be one of the best.”
While coach Lane and Eleinen have their sights set on his professional aspirations — which Eleinen has envisioned ever since he was 10 years old — the Egyptian native still has his senior season to play through.
For Lane, that fact comes as a welcome surprise, given how fond he is of Eleinen from a coaching perspective.
“He grew up playing soccer — a team sport — and he's brought those team values over to an individual sport, such as squash,” Lane said. “But from day one, he kind of led by example with his work ethic, and he came in and worked extremely hard and established himself as the number two player on the team pretty quickly. Over the course of these last couple years, he's just matured and his game has grown and grown, and he's become a world class squash player."
“For me as the coach, it’s just an absolute thrill to be around. I hope I'm teaching him something, but he's teaching me a lot of things each and every day, and [I’m] just really lucky to be able to work with someone like him.”
With sports finally back in full swing, Eleinen has been energized by what he calls an “incredible” last couple weeks of practice. In addition to a new group of freshmen boarding the team, a couple of seniors from last year are returning for a fifth year. Eleinen will likely become a key leader and asset for the group, especially given his 34-9 overall record as a Quaker.
Once this next season is completed, Eleinen will fully begin his professional squash career, which he hopes will eventually end with him becoming a top-five or 10 player in the world, if not number one.
If his past is any indication, becoming one of the world’s top squash players might not be so far-fetched.