How far is too far from home?
How far is far enough?
For Alabama women’s tennis player Ann Selim and Alabama men’s tennis player Mazen Osama, 6,510 miles across the Atlantic Ocean seems to be just right.
Sophomore Selim and junior Osama hail from Cairo, the capital of Egypt. Cairo sits on the Nile River and is near the city of Giza, home to the pyramids and Great Sphinx.
Egypt is not known for tennis. Regardless, Cairo is where Selim and Osama fell in love with the game. Although they took different paths once they graduated high school, the two have been reunited on the court again in Tuscaloosa.
Selim began playing tennis at the age of 4 when her parents encouraged her and her brother Tony to try different sports to see which ones they liked. She tried gymnastics and swimming and realized those were not a match. The next choices were tennis and squash. Her brother helped her choose.
“Tony was two years older than me and he said ‘I want to play tennis,’ and he was so obsessed and in love with the sport and I was like sure, I’ll do what my brother says,” Selim said. “I ended up loving it, so it was good.”
Osama was a standout player from a young age. He dedicated his physical and mental energy toward his ultimate goal of going pro. His options after high school were to attempt to play as a professional or play in college.
“I was ranked 23 in the world under-18. I was only 18 at the time and it was pretty tough to make the transfer right away, because you face different players and start playing bigger tournaments,” Osama said. “My decision was to come here and develop my game a little more and then when I’m done here I can do what I wanted to, go pro.”
Although Selim dreamed of going pro too, she always wanted to go to college first. She spent one season at Oklahoma but transferred to Alabama after the coach there left.
After spending time here, Osama was able to get a feel for the university’s culture and what it has to offer. When he saw Ann last year playing at Oklahoma, it seemed like a chance encounter, but she eventually reached out to him to ask him about transferring to Alabama.
“I knew she was talking to a coach here,” Osama said. “She asked about the school, the environment, the campus and how the people are. I told her there are very nice people here, everyone says what’s up even if they don’t know you and I told her it’s a good school.”
Selim found what Osama said to be true: the people are kind and her experience at Alabama has fulfilled what she was looking for in a university. Now that she attends school with Osama, home doesn’t seem far away at all.
“It’s nice to have an Egyptian person that just gets you. To have someone from the same country with the same culture that can speak your native language with you is really nice because we look out for each other.”