NEW YORK (FOX 5 NEWS) - Amanda Sobhy is already the highest-ranking American ever in professional squash. But the 21-year-old from Sea Cliff, Long Island, has her sights set on clinching the top spot in this week's J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, being held at Grand Central Terminal.
"This tournament is huge -- the fact that it's in my back yard is amazing," Sobhy told Fox 5.
Squash runs in the family for Sobhy. Her father played professionally in the 1980s and she grew up watching her mom and older brother play.
"Naturally I was just dragged to squash tournaments because of my brother and I would just hit on an empty court and people would say 'you're pretty good,' so one day my dad just threw me in a squash tournament I ended up doing pretty well," she said.
Fast forward 10 years and she's gone on to an undefeated record at Harvard, from which she graduated last year. Now she travels the world playing professionally.
Her younger sister Sabrina just started at Harvard in the fall and is following in Amanda's footsteps. The pair has drawn comparisons with another set of sisters. The Boston Globe announced: "Meet the Venus and Serena of squash."
"The fact that my sister and I can emulate them and be considered the Venus and Serena of squash, that is truly just a great feeling," Sobhy said.
The sisters' high profile is helping boost the popularity of squash here in the United States, says J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions Director John Nimick.
"The whole idea of getting the 20-year-old sports fan interested in squash, it's the holy grail for us, and Amanda is leading that effort," Nimick said. He said the number of people playing the sport domestically has grown from 300,000 to 1.2 million in the last 10 years.
Helping shake the sport's stodgy reputation has been key, Sobhy acknowledged.
"It was mainly just a northeast thing played in country clubs and prep schools and everyone else is thinking, 'Oh squash, it's a vegetable," Sobhy said. "And now you have it in over 60 colleges played across the country, you have it in urban squash programs, they're trying to build public courts in New York City.
Sobhy's first match is this Saturday afternoon but she hopes to make it to the finals next Thursday to play in front of a sold-out crowd at Grand Central. For more information on the matches and tickets, visit http://www.tocsquash.com/.