Bouncing back from the brink

Sea Cliff squash player prepares to return to the court


She was the top seed in the Professional Squash Association’s Floridablanca Open in March, but when Amanda Sobhy, a Sea Cliff native, was competing in the tournament’s semifinals, the unthinkable happened. “I was one point away from the finals,” she said, “and then my Achilles ruptured.”

Sobhy, 24, knew that winning the Open would catapult her into the top five in squash’s world rankings — she is currently No. 11 — but, she said, “At that moment I was in disbelief. I had no words.”

For the last seven months, Sobhy, a 2011 North Shore High School graduate, has spent her days getting stronger, both physically and mentally. Her recovery consisted of physical therapy and fitness training to restore mobility in her left leg, which she said resembled a chicken leg after three months in a boot while the injury healed.

“Transitioning out of the boot was the toughest part,” she said. “I thought it’d be easy, but it took about a month, because I was overdoing it without the boot, so I was detracting from my progress, which was upsetting.”

She took the boot off for good in July, and gained strength with each passing week. “I was able to do more exercises, and eventually balance all my body weight on my left leg,” she said, “so it was like all the checkmarks were hit.”

In August, her fitness coach cleared her to get back on the court. “At that point, I hadn’t hit a ball in five and a half months, so it was exciting to get back and return to a routine,” Sobhy said.

Although her injury kept her from playing the sport she loved, it allowed her to live like a normal 24-year-old. “I realized that my time in recovery would be the most time I’ll have off from squash until I retire,” she said, “so I was going to dinners with friends, concerts, music festivals. I even survived a vacation in Barbados in my boot!”

Sobhy, who did not lose a single squash match during her college days at Harvard University, initially planned to make her return to the sport at the world championships, in Manchester, England, in December. But she realized soon after her injury that she wouldn’t be fully recovered in time. “In September, the strength in my left calf had become stagnant, and it took atrociously long to build back this component,” she explained. “I wasn’t confident pushing off, so there was more work to do to get into proper playing form.”

The decision to forgo competing in Manchester left her distraught. “It was mentally frustrating because it was like a little tease,” she said, “and I had to remove the notion that the worlds was do or die [for my career].”

Earlier this month, she checked into a six-week program at the Zarett Rehab & Fitness Center in Philadelphia. “The owner [Joe Zarett] is very knowledgeable, and the facility has more amenities, and all the monitoring is under one roof,” she said. “This is what I need.”

Jodie Larson, Amanda’s mother, said she believes this is the best move for her daughter. “I’m glad that she’s listening to her body, and understands that she needs to come back when she’s ready, not when everyone expects her to be ready,” Larson said. “She’s a determined and dedicated athlete, and when she comes back she’ll be stronger than ever.”

Sobhy said she believed the next month and a half of training would prepare her to make a comeback at J.P. Morgan’s Tournament of Champions, at New York’s Grand Central Station, in January. But the injury was an eye-opening experience that helped humble her. “The process [of recovery] has made me mentally stronger, and will help me be stronger in matches,” she said. “It’s sort of like a reset button; I feel more excitement [now] because I’m enjoying every single moment, knowing it could be wiped out in a second.”

She added that she appreciates the support she’s received from family, friends, fans and sponsors on her road to recovery. “They’ve been helpful, and they’ve watched me get back and make sure I’m getting the best training,” she said. “It’s helped immensely.”