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Thatcher on Thursday
Alan Thatcher's regular comment on the World of Squash  

The Views And Opinions Expressed In This Column Are Not Necessarily The Views Of or Squash Player Magazine

Contact Alan with your views or opinions


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The Views And Opinions Expressed In This Column Are Not Necessarily The Views Of or Squash Player Magazine

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16 December 2010


Nick Matthew wrote down a wish list for 2010 that included three major

targets: the world No.1 ranking, the Commonwealth Games gold medal, and the World Open title.

Last week he completed a dazzling full house of achievements by lifting the World Open crown in Saudi Arabia. Delivering in style on all fronts, Matthew certainly made the year 2010 his own.

Achieving those three targets certainly tasted sweeter after his long lay-off because of a shoulder injury. He returned fitter, stronger, faster and more focused. He always possessed phenomenal mental discipline, especially in the face of adversity, and he numbers many sensational victories from seemingly hopeless positions throughout his career.

The new, improved version was even harder to beat. Simply put, he would not allow matches to drift away from him as he sometimes had in the past.

Matthew took over the world No.1 ranking in June and will be back there, ahead of Egypt's Ramy Ashour, in the January list.

His global rivalry with Ramy perhaps eclipses his domestic competition with fellow Yorkshireman James Willstrop. But, played out on the international stage, their matches always deliver contests of high quality with a definite edge and intensity that no other current rivalries propuce.

Matthew, the top seed, faced Willstrop in the final in Saudi, as he did in the Commonwealth Games gold-medal decider, and there was a special frisson surrounding this first all-English World Open final.

Willstrop had not beaten Matthew in three years, and he had a point to prove. The opening game took 21 minutes and it went to Willstrop. With 40 minutes on the clock Matthew had drawn level at one game all.

The effort clearly took its toll on Willstrop, who had battled through marathon matches against compatriots Daryl Selby and Peter Barker in the third round and semi-finals.

Matthew dominated the third and fourth games to triumph 8-11, 11-6, 11-2, 11-3 in 74 minutes, collecting the biggest purse in squash history along the way.

Next year promises to be equally fascinating. Matthew, now 30, begins in pole position and the 27-year-old Willstrop will have to dig even deeper if he is to catch up.

He began the year with a spectacular series of victories over Amr Shabana, Ramy Ashour and Karim Darwish to win the Tournament of Champions in New York but could not reach those heights again during 2010 as the supremacy swung between Ashour and Matthew.


New world champion Nick Matthew paid tribute to runner-up James Willstrop after their battle on the beach in Al-Khobar.

Matthew said: "I only thought about winning the title in the last few rallies. You are only human. At that stage you are playing against yourself instead of your opponent.

"You are sort of fighting the demons in your head. You see the finish line and as it comes closer in terms of score it gets further away because you are drifting in your thoughts.

"With every single thought I tried to tell myself 'next rally, next rally'. I didn't play badly in the first game but James was just immaculate. He was unlucky that he had had those hard matches which took it out of him."

Referring to the shoulder surgery in 2008 which kept him away from the PSA World Tour for nine months, Matthew added: "I never in my wildest dreams thought that all this would happen to me. As for that shoulder injury, it taught me to keep things in perspective - not to get too low on the low points, and not to get carried away either with the high if I am in a big final."


England enjoyed their best-ever performance in a World Open with three semi-finalists lining up at Sunset Beach. Peter Barker reached the last four when his quarter-final opponent, Karim Darwish, conceded with a thigh injury when he slipped on the floor with the match score at one game all and the Egyptian leading 7-6 in the third. After a three-minute injury break, Darwish returned to the court but before a ball could be struck he offered his hand to the left-handed Londoner.

A subdued Barker said: "I thought I was playing well and had a good chance to go through. But no-one ever wants to do it like that. It's a very physical game and when there's a bit of sweat on the court that can happen to anyone. I really feel for Karim and wish him a speedy recovery.

"I'm in the semi-finals of the World Open, and I'll get to play Shorbagy or James. If it's James, then I've never beaten him - what better time to do it!"

After a marathon battle, it was Willstrop who overcame the No.8 seed 8-11, 14-12, 11-4, 11-8 in 87 minutes. Matthew, meanwhile, overcame Amr Shabana 11-6, 12-10, 12-10 in 59 minutes. After the final, Matthew thanked his fellow English team-mates for their support, saying: “It’s been such an amazing year for me and winning this title means a lot. I would also like to give credit to the rest of the England lads, and James in particular, as they have all been fantastic throughout.”

Back home, the celebrations continued, with a cork or two heard popping in the Manchester offices of England Squash and Racketball.

Jim Lord, Operations Director for ESR, said he was delighted but not surprised with the way the English contingent performed. He said: “What an achievement for English squash! To see two Englishmen that have worked hard all year competing at this level, and producing such a gripping final, is a great feeling.

“With our success at the Commonwealth Games, and Nick achieving his World Number 1 status, it has been a truly great year for squash in England. Having such a talented elite squad that continue to excel at such prestigious events proves the work that we’re doing at grassroots is paying off, and that is something that we are keen to continue into

2011 and beyond.”


2nd December 2010

Top coach reveals inner turmoil

My respect for leading American coach Paul Assaiante has grown enormously after reading an interview this week which heralded the launch of a coaching book in which he also deals with personal family tragedies.

In the book, called “Run To The Roar: Coaching To Overcome Fear,” Assaiante revealed the enormous contrast between coaching the most successful college sports team in US history and dealing with a son who is a heroin addict.

During an interview with the Hartford Courant, Assaiante insisted: “I've done a better job working with other people’s children than with my own.”

Since taking over the Trinity College squash programme, Assaiante has led his squad to 12 national titles and enters the new season with an unbeaten record stretching over 224 matches, which is thought to be the longest winning streak in American collegiate

Away from the spotlight, Assaiante blames himself for his son’s drugs problems.

Here is an extract from the interview by Kathleen Megan published in the Hartford Courant.

Success on the court tempered by troubles with his son

In 1996, Trinity College President Evan Dobelle asked the small school’s
squash coach, Paul Assaiante, what it would take to compete with the elite
Ivy League colleges that dominated the sport like an old boys’ club.

“Not to be national champions, Paul, but just contend and maybe knock one of
them off once in a while,” Dobelle said.

To contend, Assaiante told him, he would have to recruit players from around
the world. Dobelle gave him the go-ahead. Then, as Assaiante went to leave,
Dobelle added, “Don’t blow this.”

Today, Assaiante has collected 12 national titles and is running a 224-match
winning streak, reportedly the longest streak in American collegiate
history. He has recruited players from all over the world - every continent
except Antarctica - and somehow turned the tightly wound, highly
individualistic premier squash players into a team that cares about each

But while the accolades have piled on his shoulders for his coaching
success, Assaiante has faced personal tragedy for which he largely blames
himself: His son Matthew has wrestled with a heroin addiction for years and
has been in and out of jail.

“I’ve done a better job working with other people’s children than with my
own,” said Assaiante in an interview this week.

Now Assaiante has written a book, “Run to the Roar: Coaching to Overcome
Fear,” in which the above scene with Dobelle is described. In it, he also
details his theories on coaching; his good decisions and bad ones; the
nail-biting matches when it appeared certain the streak was over; as well as
the journey with his son.

Here we talk to Assaiante, 58, about his book.

Q: What is your approach to coaching your championship teams?

A: My feeling is that what you fear owns you. Most of my contemporaries
will sit down before the season and say: What do we want to accomplish as a
team this year? What do we want to accomplish as individuals? I don't do to
that. We don't goal-set here. I just ask the guys: What are you afraid of?
What's your biggest fear? When you come to grips with those, you are able to
reach your top physical performance because you are not encumbered by fear.

Q: What comes up when you ask that?

A. Well, of course, right now, the big thing that they say is the streak: “I
don’t want to be on the team that loses.” They are afraid of letting their
teammates down. We emphasize team so powerfully here. They talk about
disappointing their family. The natural fears. You know, Arthur Ashe once
told me that everyone chokes, everybody. But the people who are more
successful are the people who are more able to manage their choking. The
first thing is to recognize that it's going to happen, because if you go on
the court and you’re thinking “Oh god, I hope I don’t choke,” then it’s
going to happen and you are going to be scared to death of it. So we talk
all the time about, when you’re choking, take deep breaths and move your
feet. We try to help them come to grips with their fears. My biggest fear is
becoming too wed to winning. I didn’t come here to win. I came here to
touch young people and I don’t want to be wed to winning.

Q. How do you deal with the burden of the streak?

A. It isn’t tough on me at all because I don’t care. I look forward to when
we lose. It's going to be wonderful, a celebration, because then we can get
on with the business of starting a new one. For the kids who practice every
day under 12 banners, that’s a little more problematic, so we talk about it
a lot. The first day of practice I held up a piece of paper that had the
number 12 on it and then 224 which is the number of wins and I tore it into
pieces. I said, guys, it doesn’t mean anything.

Q. How did you decide to weave your son Matthew’s story into your book?

A. Having Matthew in there was always important. You have to have a life
that's balanced. My life has not been balanced. And it doesn’t matter what
you accomplish professionally. Something in the ledger is going to give and
my children, particularly Matthew, paid a dear price and so it has to be
shared. Otherwise it would be living a lie. You have to be honest. When you
sign up to be a parent, you promise to be omnipresent and there was a time
in Matthew’s life where I wasn’t there to guide him at every fork in the
road, so he was making decisions that I wasn’t there to help him with and he
invariably made some very poor choices and I can’t have that time back. He’s
in a program in Vermont now. We talk often. I’m hopeful now. I’m not
optimistic, but I’m hopeful.

Q: Where does the title, “Run to the Roar” come from?

A: In the jungle, lions hunt in packs and they take with them with the
oldest female of the pride. Usually, by this point, she can’t catch her own
food, she’s infirm. They put her in the middle of the field and she has a
deep roar. All the lions are hiding in the bush, so when she roars, the prey
run away from the roar to their deaths. It means go directly at the
problems. The problems are never as bad as they seem.


18th November 2010


I am so proud of a young man I have the privilege of coaching. James Evans won the British Under-15 title in Manchester recently and showed enormous determination and composure to fight back from 2-1 down in the final to beat the top seed, Hamish Falconer from Lincolnshire.

James has certainly made his mark on the Kent senior squash scene in the past few months, recording several notable victories for The Mote Squash Club first team.

He is currently chopping up most of his first team colleagues and recently beat former county champion Duane Harrison in the Bexley Open. His victory in Manchester crowned a fantastic year in which he made a successful debut for England juniors and led the Kent Under-15 team to the national inter-county championship.

He should be very proud of his British title and it’s a wonderful achievement also for his mother, Sharon, who introduced James to squash and has been at his side in tournaments all over the country as he has developed into being a real star in the making. Having said that, he is a very modest and polite young man, an intelligent pupil and a real pleasure to work with.


James is already one of our leading under-19 players and many of last season’s successful Kent under-15 squad are playing alongside him in that age-group. While celebrating their success, the fact that these guys are also filling the under-17 squad highlights a disturbing lack of junior activity at many squash clubs. Here in Kent we have made enormous strides following the successful launch earlier this year of the Kent Open PSA tournament and the Kent Junior Festival that ran for three months leading up to it.

We are already making plans for next year’s Kent Open and Junior Festival and our priority is to introduce a large group of under-11s to the sport each season. That way we will have the most important age-group in place to start the junior development conveyor belt. We have already launched an under-11 coaching squad on the back of the Festival and our intention is to repeat the process every year. That way we will have an under-13 squad next season, an under-15 squad two years after that, and so on through the age-groups.

I have said it before and I will happily say it again if it helps to kick-start some action elsewhere in the country. British junior squash is suffering because we are losing the numbers game. We simply do not have enough junior players across the board in all the age groups, largely because the majority of our clubs are poorly managed by committees who fail to see the bigger picture.

It’s not just about elite players and the next wave of county squads, but also about creating a new generation of members who will keep clubs alive in the future. 


Tickets are now on sale for the 2011 ISS Canary Wharf Squash Classic and it will be a real pleasure to welcome reigning champion Nick Matthew to the East Wintergarden venue as the Commonwealth Games champion.

The eighth edition of the ISS Canary Wharf Squash Classic, a PSA Five-Star world-ranking tournament, takes place from March 21-25 next year and co-promoter Peter Nicol is looking forward to another sell-out.

Nicol, who held the world No.1 slot for more than five years, was delighted to see Matthew win the Commonwealth gold medal in Delhi in an all-English final against James Willstrop, a three-times champion at Canary Wharf.

Matthew’s triumph followed Nicol’s Commonwealth Games wins over Australia’s David Palmer in Melbourne four years ago and Canadian Jonathon Power in Malaysia in 1998.

Nicol said: “The competition for the No.1 position between Nick Matthew and Ramy Ashour of Egypt is producing an electrifying era for squash

“Ramy is one of the most gifted players in the history of the game but Nick produced the most consistent squash of his career to claim the No.1 position for several months earlier this year.

“He thoroughly deserved his gold medal in Delhi and was clearly the best player in the competition. He plays fast, aggressive, attacking squash and not many players can get close to him at the moment.”

Matthew’s triumph over Frenchman Gregory Gaultier in the final at Canary Wharf in March this year helped him to reach the No.1 slot for the first time in his career but his marathon semi-final win over Willstrop was the outstanding match of the tournament.

Nicol added: “Those two played themselves to an absolute standstill in a match of incredible quality lasting two hours and ten minutes.

“Nick needed two hours of treatment from the physiotherapist to get ready for the final the next day and it showed just how fit and strong he is to get back on court less than 24 hours later and dominate the final against Gaultier.”

Nicol is urging squash lovers to book their tickets early to avoid disappointment. He added: “With squash of that quality, it was no surprise that this year’s Canary Wharf tournament broke all records by selling out every ticket on every day of the competition.

“The crowds at Canary Wharf are probably the most knowledgeable and vocal anywhere in squash and they obviously love cheering on their home-based heroes.

“We are very proud of the fact that we are able to stage the event at the East Wintergarden at Canary Wharf and over the years it has become one of the most popular venues on the world tour for players and spectators alike.

“We have wonderfully loyal and supportive Title Sponsors in ISS Facility Services and we are enormously grateful to them and our Host Sponsors Canary Wharf Group plc for making it possible to showcase top professional squash in such a spectacular fashion.”


25th November 2010 

Kent Open Exhibition Evening

Alan Clyne, our reigning Kent Open champion, is heading back to The Mote Squash Club in Maidstone on Friday December 10 for a special exhibition evening.

The Scottish international from Edinburgh will be joined by his Commonwealth Games doubles partner Harry Leitch to take on Kent’s finest doubles exponents after a special coaching clinic with some of the county’s leading juniors.

Alan and Harry reached the semi-finals in Delhi after knocking out England’s highly-fancied pairing of Peter Barker and Daryl Selby. Depending on how the English boys perform in the World Open, it would be nice to set up a re-match.

A Scottish bookmaker friend of mine is happy to lay some interesting odds!

World Squash Day

News has flooded in with some major events taking place in Fiji, Iran, India, Russia, Malaysia and the USA.

Things were a little quiet in England this year.

Interestingly, a number of English counties made it known that they wanted to see some changes in the way the game is run in this country ahead of the England Squash and Racketball AGM.

I emailed several of the counties to see how many were supporting World Squash Day. The number of replies led me to believe that many of our leading county administrators are more interested in the politics than in doing something practical to develop the sport.

Next year World Squash Day is planning to focus on attracting more females to the sport. Ideas to the usual email address, please.

Scottish squash ace passes away

Former Edinburgh squash star John McGhee has died, aged 53, after a long illness. Capped 44 times, McGhee helped introduce a new generation to squash during the boom period of the 1970s and 80s.

Former Scotland and Edinburgh Sports Club colleague Ray Stevenson paid tribute, saying: “John and I didn’t come from the traditional private school background but from Firrhill High, where teacher Dougie Yule was a squash enthusiast. As a player John was renowned as a battler and it showed in the way he fought his illness.”

23 September 2010

Siri Fort Sports Complex
Competition dates: 4-13 October 2010


Taking a late summer holiday in Tunisia meant a squash-free and media-free escape from the everyday stresses of life. I deliberately left my mobile phone and laptop at home and refused to buy a newspaper during the holiday.

However, I couldn't resist tuning in to the BBC World Service on the hotel TV to catch up with the headlines.

Sadly, the biggest news item of the week was the seemingly shambolic preparations for the Commonwealth Games.

The collapse of a spectator footbridge near to the main stadium highlighted the fact that short-cuts were being taken in a desperate attempt to complete the building projects ahead of the opening events on October 3.

My first calls when I arrived home were to check the mood inside several national squash teams heading for Delhi. The official response from the squash camps was that the players were keen and hungry to go, but higher up the management scale several national federations, including New Zealand, Canada and Scotland, decided to delay their departure pending emergency Commonwealth Games checks on building progress made in the next few days.

Reports from the BBC today (Thursday) included pictures of unfinished building work and unhygienic conditions in several accommodation blocks in the athletes' village.

Despite angry comments from various national federations, Team England's chef de mission Craig Hunter announced that he is optimistic the problems will be solved at the last minute "like an Indian wedding".

English squash supporters will be hoping that, should the Games go ahead, Nick Matthew will have recovered from the illness that forced him to withdraw from a PSA tournament in Manchester.

Ramy Ashour beat James Willstrop in the final of that competition then flew across the Atlantic to overcome Gregory Gaultier in the deciding match of a one-day squash extravaganza in Boston's Symphony Hall last night. 


England's Daryl Selby says he is confident the Games will go ahead. The world number nine from Essex told the BBC today:  "People from Team England are out there and they say that the preparation is fine. They have the best perspective, so we have to trust what they say. Team England have put our minds at rest and have said everything looks fine from their end."Selby added:  "If they make the decision not to go then we'd have to trust them and believe it was the right decision. Hopefully everything will be sorted, it becomes a smoothly-run Games, and everyone enjoys it for the athletic ability.""Unfortunately squash is not in the Olympics at the moment, so for us it's the biggest major Games. It's going to be an honour to represent my country and hopefully I'll bring back a medal." 


Congratulations to Nicol David for achieving a fifth World Open victory in Sharm El Sheikh. Her straight-games victory (11-5, 11-8, 11-6) in the final over Egypt's local favourite Omneya Abdel Kawy brought the Malaysian level with Australia's Sarah FitzGerald on five world titles.

In her typically humble and modest style, David was quick to thank Fitzgerald for the guidance she had  given her earlier in her career, along with her long-time coach Liz Irving, another Australian.

David will certainly be back next year to aim for a sixth world title and cast an indelible mark on her domination of women's squash.


We all know how squash fans love to debate refereeing decisions - and sometimes let the officials know their feelings during major tournaments. Well, the Boston Symphony Hall audience had the opportunity to influence decisions by texting the referee to let him know if they agreed with his calls. This took place during the third-place shoot-out between Jonathon Power and Amr Shabana, with both players having two "lifelines"  to ask  the crowd if they agreed with the decision.  For once, Power was happy to side with the match official as decisions went his way during his 11-4 victory.

Earlier, Power had lost a new-style tiebreak against Ramy Ashour with the score level at one game all. Given the option of playing to three or a single point, Power continued the habit of a lifetime in opting for sudden-death. This time it was Ramy who clinched it to reach his place in the final, but it was crowd favourite Power who won the biggest cheer of the night.

Good to see more interesting innovations from promoter John Nimick following the introduction of a five-let rule in an exhibition series in America organised earlier this year by US Pro Squash chief Joe McManus.

9th September 2010


 James Willstrop aired his forthright views on Pakistan in his latest column in the column Evening Post and accused the country or cheating in World Junior Championships. He wrote:

Scouring the websites on Sunday morning made it palpably clear that either the sporting world is in a complete mess, or the media and the public's thirst for scandal far overbears the interest they have in a plain old sports story.

The first of the two main headlines concerns the astonishing news of Pakistan's inane cricket team, who could not be in worse position if they tried.

And the second is yet another allegation of adultery by a high-profile sportsman, this time Wayne Rooney.

Whether Rooney's extra-marital dalliances are any of our business is doubtful, the former matter however puts the reputation of a whole sport in jeopardy and the public has a right to know the outcome.

Mohammad Amir at 18 looked to have a potentially brilliant future; how sad that one so young and talented has potentially sacrificed his whole career for the sake of money.

Rather than a symbol of hope for a country in political turmoil and most recently ravaged by floods, some of these players have disgraced their nation and let down their sport.

Indeed it now comes to light in another undercover interview that a team-mate, Yasir Hameed, has confirmed that some of his colleagues are guilty of spot fixing.

In an unsavoury piece of video, he claims that he has never taken the offer of money in matches, and ironically states that he "had been saved by God" and that it was "fate"!

He'll have to pray that God is still listening because he may need to be saved again from charges of withholding information.

Through the years, Pakistan has produced a number of amazing squash players, most notably Jahangir Khan and Jansher Khan.

However Pakistan's reputation in squash has in the past also been tarnished by what can only be called cheating.

At each of the two world junior team and individual championships in which I was involved there were Pakistani players taking part who appeared much older than the official age limit.

During the second of these events one of these players was sent home, and the tournament hierarchy cited personal reasons for his ejection.

These players never reappeared on the pro-tour which fuelled the suspicion that they had been brought in to significantly strengthen the Pakistan junior squad.

These allegations were eventually confirmed years later by other Pakistan players who were against this practice of age misrepresentation.

Unfortunately, cheating in sport is something I fear will always have to be combatted and certainly doesn't restrict itself to Pakistan – which has perhaps been unfairly singled out in this column.

One thing is certain, corruption in sport needs to be harshly dealt with – maybe a life ban is the only reasonable penalty in this most recent scandal.


Leevey eyes another Commonwealth Games medal By JONATHAN MILLMOW - The Dominion Post Last year Tamsyn Leevey decided to have one last shot at squash.

The 32 year-old solo mother from Wainuiomata could see the Commonwealth Games on the horizon and she liked the thought of adding to the silver medal she and Shelley Kitchen won in the doubles in Melbourne in 2006.

The other option was to return to work, possibly processing GST accounts.

Now, with three-and-a-bit weeks to go, Leevey feels she is ready and says she is fit and hitting the ball well.

"I've been training four hours a day, six days a week," she said. "I can get better but I feel at a good level."

Everything was going to plan until a few weeks ago when Kitchen withdrew from the Games due to exhaustion.

That threw a spanner in the works. Leevey's doubles partner, Joelle King, was switched to pair with Jaclyn Hawkes and Leevey had to strike up a new combination with Matamata's Kylie Lindsay (51 in the world).

It looks to have diminished her medal prospects.

"I wouldn't say that. We know each other's game very well.

"Communication is a big part of it. Maybe we won't have the higher seeding that Joelle and I would've had but there is no pressure on us at all and sometimes that can work in your favour.

"Kylie's racquet skills are amazing, she was very good at a young age.

We've had a couple of hits together.

"Neither of us are playing singles at the Comm Games so we can spend the whole time playing doubles to get ready."

The draw is yet to be made, but Leevey jokes that having a court to play on is a greater concern to her, given the venue construction delays in New Delhi.

"Doubles competition will be tight, it is on the day, it is so cut-throat, best of three sets, first to 11."

Leevey's career has been stop-start. She had a career-high singles ranking of 25 in 2005, retired in 2006, then drifted in and out of the game before committing again last year.

"I'm happy with my decision," she said. "I get to go and experience it all again – it is going to be amazing. I'd love to come home with another medal, any colour."

Leevey went to India in 2004 for the world doubles championships. She finds the overseas trips unusual given all the downtime she has compared to the busy life being a mother to sons Niwa, 9, and Cassius, 3.

Wellington coach Nick Mita has helped prepare Leevey. They have finished her strength phase and are now focusing on her speed.

There was a speed bump at the weekend when Cassius was hospitalised with asthma but he says Leevey never complains.


12th August 2010


Former Nottingham Forest striker Garry Birtles gives a vivid insight into the often unfathomable mind of football manager Brian Clough in his weekly column for the Nottingham Post.
Clough knew that all sporting combat is eventually solved by individual strengths and weaknesses, and he was a pioneer of what we now call mind games.  In his column, Birtles admits that being Clough’s regular squash partner was something of a poisoned chalice. And he also reveals that the wily old fox was something of an expert blocker in the middle of the squash court. Birtles writes:

I am a shocking loser. Just ask my old squash partners at Chilwell Olympia. I used to play there every Thursday afternoon when I was at Forest.

You can't even go for a stroll for a carton of milk 48 hours before a game these days without asking permission of the fitness trainer and the manager.

The Gaffer loved squash though and it was never a problem in those days.

I was a pretty good squash player. I thought about taking it up before football and I must have been half decent because the Gaffer had me play with him
at Trent Bridge squash club on a regular basis.

But I lost count of the number of racquets I smashed up in anger on the back wall because I had lost a poxy game of squash to a mate! But that was the way I had been brought up. The Gaffer always drilled it into us that if you are 3-0 up, go 4-0 up and 5-0 up. Never let up. Never take the foot off the pedal. That is a weakness. Destroy them, grind them into the dirt.

Once the gaffer discovered I played squash, that was it. He had me earmarked as his new playing partner and that might sound a privilege, but let me assure you, it was not.

The way it would work was fairly simple. He would let me go down to training and complete virtually the whole session and then, as regular as clockwork, ten minutes before everyone was allowed to pack up for the day and return to the ground, an apprentice would come jogging over in my direction and utter the immortal words 'you're playing squash with the Gaffer in ten minutes'.

I used to have to sprint back up the banks of the Trent and get back to the dressing rooms in double-quick time.

The best I could hope for was to rub most of the mud off my legs and filthy training kit, before grabbing my squash gear and shifting my backside to the front of the ground where the Mercedes would be running and he would be looking at his watch.

He would drive us over there and we would be straight on the court, which was where the fun began!

Despite always complaining about having a dodgy knee, he was a bloody good sportsman and loved squash and tennis, but I was better than him.

He knew it and I knew it, but I don't think I ever won a game! It was not that I was some pathetic brown-nose who let him win in the vain hope that might curry favour and get me in the first team. He was a terrible cheat and hated losing.

Whenever I was attempting to manoeuvre myself towards the T and into the optimum position to make my next shot, I would somehow bump into this immovable object that went by the name of Clough.

Or he would play his shot and accidently set up a personal road block on the exact route I needed to take to continue the rally. 'Would you like that point again son?' was his usual response when that occurred.

There was no such thing as a let when he was playing squash. Effectively I was left apologising for running into his racquet with my teeth and the point was his!

It was a ritual humiliation I endured for an hour a couple of times a week. We had some great games and battles, but whenever it got to key points, or tight, I knew the offer of replaying the point was never far away.

Cheating? He would have called it gamesmanship and he hated losing, especially to a carpet fitter.



Mike Way has been named director of the men’s and women’s squash squads at Harvard. Way has coached a number of leading professionals on the PSA and WISPA tours, including former world champions Jonathon Power of Canada and Sarah Fitzgerald of Australia.

Way has said he is looking forward to becoming part of college squash. A Harvar
d press release Way says: “I am delighted and honored to have been offered the position of director of squash at Harvard. I have coached a number of young men and women over the years who have gone on to compete at the varsity level.  This opportunity will enable me to be an important part of their further development. I am also excited to be part of the broader and dynamic community that makes up the college squash scene.”

Way, who most recently served as the head squash coach at the National Squash Training Centre in Canada, helped create the training center and was an integral figure in developing over 50 world and national champions, All-Americans and junior national champions.  Way has been the primary coach from the U13 category to some of the most successful U.S. college players over the last 10 years, including Harvard’s Laura Gemmell, the 2010 CSA national champion and Ivy League Player and Rookie of the Year.  Way also worked since 2003 as the head squash professional at The Oakville Club, where he was directly responsible for all aspects of the program, leagues, tournaments, clinics, exhibitions and coaching.

Way will take the reins of the Harvard squash program after the controversial dismissal of Satinder Bajwa in April. Last season, the women’s team won the Howe Cup—the team national championship—but the men’s team, which took second place nationally at the start of Bajwa’s tenure, placed fifth for the second straight year.

At the time, athletic director Robert Scalise said in a press release that the athletic department “decided to go in a different direction with the leadership of the program.”

A man who has led several players to worldwide prestige, Way’s most notable success was the career of Power, who clinched the No. 1 spot in the Professional Squash Association’s world rankings in May 1999 and held that rank for 14 months during his career. Power retired from professional squash in March 2006 after reclaiming the first-place spot from Australian David Palmer, though he still played for the Canadian national team at the World Team Championships in 2007 and 2009.

Way has also coached other noteworthy players, including Graham Ryding, a three-time Canadian squash champion, and Shahier Razik, who won the most recent Canadian squash championship—his fourth—after Power withdrew due to a leg injury.

But though Way has never headed a collegiate team before, he does have experience coaching younger players, including rising Harvard sophomore Laura Gemmell, who posted a 16-0 overall record at No. 1 on the women’s team last season en route to an individual national championship. Working with junior squash players, Way said, enables him to participate in a “broad spectrum of coaching” and illustrate to players that as young adults, their abilities can still improve.

“I want us—and I know it sounds like a cliché—but when I tell them I really want them to enjoy the program, I mean it,” he said. “I really want to show them they can still develop as players.”

Way said that finding assistant coaches will be among his top priorities when he arrives in Cambridge, but rather than radically changing the existing program, he said that fundamentally, he’ll be doing what any other coach would do—“working very hard and very smart”—though he does offer his players this piece of advice.

“Get ready—and I mean that with an exclamation mark.”

Sources: College Squash Association ( and Harvard Crimson (

29th July 2010


Sylvan Richardson is a familiar and popular figure around the squash circuit, treating a succession of tired bodies during major tournaments.

The former Simply Red musician traded in the fame game with Mick Hucknall to learn a new career as a physiotherapist.

News of his success obviously travelled far beyond the world of squash and this week he was announced as the new masseur to Liverpool FC.

He joined the Anfield club for pre-season training in Switzerland and told BBC Liverpool: "They have been giving me a lot of stick, especially assistant manager Sammy Lee."

No doubt Sylvan will be looking forward to Liverpool’s fixture on September 19, when he might well be meeting up at Old Trafford with his former Simply Red band-mate Hucknall, who is a keen supporter of Liverpool's main rivals, Manchester United.

Richardson was kept extremely busy by the walking wounded during the ISS Canary Wharf Classic in March, with champion Nick Matthew thanking him during his victory speech for the two-hour treatment he received from Sylvan after his brutal semi-final victory over James Willstrop, which lasted a similar length of time.

Now he will be charged with helping to keep some of the most expensive athletes on the planet in prime condition in the treament rooms at Anfield and the Melwood training ground.


Tania Bailey is a real inspiration to anyone struggling to overcome illness or injury. For years she has been fighting the effects of a debilitating virus infection and, more recently, a knee injury.

Her determination has been rewarded with a place in England’s Commonwealth Games squad heading for Delhi in October.

Bailey, 30, won a silver medal in the women's doubles at the 2002 Games, and bronze in the same event in 2006.

She has slipped down the world rankings following a serious knee injury.

But she told BBC Lincolnshire: "It was a goal of mine but it looked a long way off over the last two years, but the team selectors have kept faith in me."

Bailey, who was a beaten quarter-finalist in the women's singles in 2002 and 2006, added: "Having played in two previous Commonwealth Games, my experience probably helped with their decision."

England squad - men: Nick Matthew, James Willstrop, Peter Barker, Daryl Selby, Adrian Grant.

Women: Jenny Duncalf, Alison Waters, Laura Massaro, Sarah Kippax, Tania Bailey.


I am always on the look-out for special hotels that include squash among the facilities on offer to guests. I can now happily add another venue to the list.

The Avisford Park Hilton Hotel, situated on the A27 between Arundel and Chichester in glorious West Sussex, possesses an 18-hole golf course, two squash courts and a delightful outdoor swimming pool. Your humble correspondent and his long-suffering wife celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary last weekend and Avisford Park was an ideal location.

As you might imagine, the idea was to get as far away from squash business as possible and I was banned from stowing the squash rackets in the boot.

However, I look forward to another visit when I might be able to squeeze in a game or two.

Other favourite haunts with courts on-site include the Racquet Club Hotel, Liverpool, and the White Oaks resort at Niagara-on-the-Lake in Canada. Ideal for courting couples.


24th June 2010


Here’s a great challenge for any aspiring junior squash player: the chance to get on court with world No.1 Nick Matthew!

In the coming weeks he is going to be fronting a squash challenge with the new Talent Nation website (, encouraging youngsters to film them trying to hit as many “figure of eight” shots in a minute. The winner will get to spend a training session with Nick.

Talent Nation is a brilliant new website created for genuine sports enthusiasts.

Squash is among 128 sports with its own channel. Users are invited to create their own Locker (like a profile), to upload videos and photos of their sporting achievements, to safely interact with other users and stars, and to share comments and tips on their sports. 

Unlike other social networking sites, TalentNation has employed specialist security software which ensures no inappropriate language, behaviour or contact is allowed on site.

Hook up with Nick Matthew and many other sports stars on:


Work has already started on developing next year’s Kent Open and Kent Squash Festival following the success of this year’s first edition.

The professional tournament, held at The Mote Squash Club in the county town of Maidstone, was the pinnacle event of the three-month Kent Squash Festival, which introduced more than 300 school pupils to squash and racketball.

The quality of play in the PSA One Star tournament produced a week of top-class entertainment at the Mote and it was great to see spectators travelling to watch the action from all over the county.

Funding events like this is always a major undertaking and we are grateful to England Squash and Racketball for their enormous support, with further sponsorship emerging from Harrow Rackets, Kent SRA and the Shepherd Neame brewery, plus a number of generous individual donations.

The sponsorship search for 2011 has already begun and a number of solid pledges are already in place.

It was wonderful to see the PSA players willingly giving up time in the afternoons to help coach school children during the daily clinics at The Mote and we look forward to seeing a significant growth in the number of junior members at squash clubs throughout the county as a result of this initiative.

Our major targets for the Open and the Festival were to raise the profile of the sport through an ongoing publicity campaign and to attract new players to the sport. We would like to think we achieved both targets but there is no resting on our laurels.

Our ambition is to reach every school in the county over the next few years to attract new players and provide a much larger playing base for our sport.

I was interested to learn from one of our Egyptian visitors that his home club in Cairo has around 180 junior members.

That kind of programme is bound to create the kind of competitive atmosphere responsible for the recent surge in Egyptian squash at all levels.

Those numbers will also sustain a team of full-time coaches, and increasing the number of qualified coaches in the county has to be another of our priorities as we look to build on this year’s success.

For English squash to compete with the likes of Egypt, we need to build our junior participant base as quickly as possible.

27th May 2010

James Willstrop and Nick Matthew enjoy a phenomenal rivalry on court. Much has been made of Willstrop’s reaction to his defeat by Matthew in last year’s British Open final. But any thoughts of possible friction between the two players were clearly dispelled at the climax of their phenomenal two-hour battle in the semi-final of the ISS Canary Wharf Classic.

Willstrop’s challenge in that match was ended by injury, a freak fall causing a painful spasm of cramp that completely immobilised the 6ft 5in Pontefract player.

Matthew’s response, one of obvious concern for Willstrop’s well-being, and his refusal to accept an instant victory as he insisted on his opponent being given more time to recover after the referee had gone on court to award him the match, clearly illustrated the enormous respect both men have for each other, as did the hug in mid-court when Willstrop was finally able to stand up and concede defeat.

That respect was echoed this week in Willstrop’s column in the Yorkshire Evening Post as Matthew celebrated his elevation to number one in the world rankings.

Willstrop’s commentary provided a clear insight into the stress that Matthew had to overcome to beat Thierry Lincou in his semi-final of the Sky Open to collect the ranking points necessary to overtake Ramy Ashour at the top of the rankings.
Here’s what Willstrop wrote:

It has been a week that those involved in squash in England will remember for a very long time. England has a new world number one in squash in Nick Matthew.
There are very few English sportsmen and women who are the very best, so we have a major story on our hands.

Nick has st
ood at world number two behind Ramy Ashour, who had one of his whimsical weeks in his hometown, Cairo, when he lost to Karim Darwish comfortably in the semi-finals of the Sky Open, since January.

Karim's vic
tory over his fellow countryman was a decidedly frustrating match for me personally to observe, seeing as though 24 hours previously Ramy played as a different being, ending any hopes I had in three games.

However, Ra
my's flying off of the handle against Karim paved the way, quite nicely, for Nick to achieve his dream, though it was utterly tantalising.

Nick had wa
tched Ramy's defeat as he prepared for his match and I might suggest that it was a good thing Nick was on immediately afterwards, so he had little time to consider the precipice on which he stood.

After all the trials and tribulations over all the years, it came down to one match; he had to beat Thierry Lincou on Friday night to gain enough ranking points to hit number one; the calculations were done after Ramy's match. He knew exactly what needed to be done.

Thierry is a player of vast, vast experience. He has been world number one and world champion, and he is immensely tough to beat. On any other day, and especially considering the form Nick has produced of late, he would have been a definite favourite, but this was not just another match.

Nick said afterwards he finally knew what it was like to play with a 'glass arm', and declared that it was probably the toughest match of his life. He may not have meant this in a tactical or physical respect, but rather in terms of what was at stake for him.

It wasn't just the match he had to think about, but the threat of injury too. One ankle roll and the dream ends. In a situation such as this it is probably best not to think, so as not to realise the enormity of the occasion.

Nick not only completed the win against Lincou, but he also held out and reproduced again to beat Darwish in four games on Saturday to win the tournament.

Going to bed on Friday knowing that he had achieved the ultimate but still had another match to play must surely have been a tortuous counter-punching of feelings for his head to deal with, but the job was completed. England's squash fraternity has cause to celebrate.

Let's hope the rest of the country's sporting fraternity joins in, as this sort of achievement doesn't happen every day.



Nick Matthew has finally made it to number one in the PSA world rankings and a chorus of congratulations is echoing round the squash community.

He finally overtook Ramy Ashour after the Egyptian was knocked out in the semi-finals of the Sky Open in Cairo by Karim Darwish, whom Matthew overcame in the final.

At 29, Matthew has left it slightly late in his career to hit the top. But that’s an irrelevance. His achievement is a phenomenal one in an era of strong competition at the top of the rankings where any one of half a dozen players is capable of winning major tournaments these days.

Alongside Matthew, Ashour and Darwish, Amr Shabana, James Willstrop and Gregory Gaultier make up the Super Six.

Right now Matthew will be savouring this moment and reflecting on the tremendous strides he has made in the past year since returning from a shoulder injury that kept him off court for many months.

He has added a ruthless efficiency to his high-paced, attacking game and will be keen to extend his career, and his period at the top of the rankings, for as long as he can.

He is generous to acknowledge the help and support he has received from family, friends and a variety of support systems down the years.

A more recent development has been his involvement with the English Institute of Sport in his home city of Sheffield, where he has worked alongside athletes from a variety of disciplines and learned how to cope with the frustrations of dealing with a long-term injury, and absorbed the knowledge necessary to programme his recovery.

Like James Willstrop, he has emerged a better player after returning from injury. 

Both players have returned to the competitive arena following these setbacks as more hardened professionals, learning how to strengthen both mind and body in the process.

For Matthew, the return to top form after a back injury has given him a new perspective on life.

He said: “I’m feeling good right now and I have learnt throughout my career that when you have a good win you can’t stay on that high for too long. There is a gap between tournaments when you come down and at some point you have to get yourself up for the next one. Sometimes, if events are back to back that doesn’t happen until the middle of the next tournament!”

I enjoyed a long chat with Matthew ahead of the recent ISS Canary Wharf Classic, and he is clearly chalking off a lot of ambitions this year. His first Canary Wharf followed, beating Gaultier in fairly straightforward fashion after his brutal two-hour semi-final battle with Willstrop.

After a well-earned summer rest he will be aiming to get himself fired up for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

He said: “Getting up for tournaments, I am grateful to have such a fantastic team behind me, starting with national coach David Pearson who has been at my side for so long. I am also indebted to Mark Campbell, my physio, and Mark Bawden, a psychologist based at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield. I am now working with him on a more regular basis.

“I want to thank them for giving me all the help they can. Ultimately it’s all down to me but the EIS has been a massive part of my life. There are athletes there from all walks of life. Jessica Ennis, the heptathlete from Sheffield, is a leading light and a good friend.

“It’s great to be part of it all and you can’t help but learn from all the different influences that are available. You absorb things from other sports and it is so nice not to exist purely in a squash bubble.

“You are always watching other athletes in action, and watching how they prepare for events. It is great to be part of it and to see how they handle the different stresses that arise in all the different disciplines, and especially those sports that attract more publicity than we do.

“Normally squash players just exist in a squash community but being part of this kind of sporting community leads to good habits.”

Matthew has certainly taken those habits with him on court in recent months as he has added tournament triumphs in Qatar, Sweden, Virginia, Canary Wharf and now the Sky Open to his tally of two British Open victories and another national title in Manchester.

The threatening cluster of so many powerful Egyptians around the top of the rankings is a constant presence but not something Matthew chooses to worry about.

He said: “This is not a conscious rivalry that we think about all the time. You just have to take each match one at a time and try to beat whoever you are drawn against, wherever they are from.

“This is a very good time for English squash. We have lot of players who are now approaching their peak years, and they can’t be called promising players any more. They are right at their peaks and delivering some excellent results. This is a very prosperous time for English squash as a whole, with tremendous strength in depth in both the men’s and women’s games.

“It would be nice to leave a legacy to the next generation coming through and hopefully they can learn from us and carry the torch at the top after we have gone. I don’t see that happening at the moment but there are players around like Jon Kemp, who has yet to hit his peak, so a lot of things can happen in the next few years to prove everyone wrong about the next generation. 

“A lot is made of the Egyptian thing and rightly so, but as players you have got to do it for yourselves. So, yes, they are exciting to watch but it’s not something we think about all the time.

“You simply have to beat the next guy in front of you wherever you are playing and wherever they are from.”

Matthew admits that he has learned a lot from two experienced campaigners, Frenchman Thierry Lincou and Australia’s David Palmer.

Both are still playing superb squash well into their 30s and I asked Matthew, who is 30 in July, if he had a similar long-term plan.

He said: “Me? A five-year plan? I don’t have a five-minute plan! Five hours is about as far as I go these days!”


1st April

Squash legend Jonah Barrington took to the court again at Canary Wharf when England Squash and Racketball announced a five-year sponsorship agreement with Dunlop.

Jonah played an exhibition match with his son Joey and, thanks to some creative officiating from Tournament Referee Linda Davie and myself, somehow squeezed home 12-10 in a tiebreak.

“That is the first tiebreak I have ever played in my whole life,” said Jonah. “And hopefully it will be the last.”

In a deal worth in excess of £500,000, Dunlop have become the Official Development Partner to ESR and will become the lead sponsor of several high-profile events including the Premier Squash League, the National Racketball Championships and the Mini Squash Programme.

Dunlop have enjoyed a long relationship with Jonah ever since they persuaded him to give up his old Grays Light Blue for a wooden Maxply, and he has been an ever-present Dunlop figure in a constantly changing world as racket designs and shapes have evolved in keeping with the technological strides being made in all areas of the game.

Jonah was the driving force behind the launch of a professional world tour and the introduction of glass courts has allowed the PSA and WISPA to develop the ideas he formulated some 40 years ago.

It was a treat to see Jonah in action again, with Joey using one of his dad’s old wooden rackets and Jonah using one of Joey’s modern weapons.

The 68-year-old Jonah clearly enjoyed the rules of combat, which meant that Joey had to strike all of his shots to the back of the court and Jonah could hit the ball anywhere he liked. This resulted in a lot of sliced drops to the front of the court which had Joey scrambling to keep the ball in play.

Before the match, Jonah could be seen stretching and ghosting in the Canary Wharf corridors outside the East Wintergarden, bringing back so many visions of his phenomenal training workload down the years which either inspired or frightened off  opponents or the generations of younger players subsequently sent to him to acquire a squash education.

Towards the end of their one-game challenge, Jonah was clearly warming up, moving smoothly and happy to rally up and down the walls.

At the end of the game, I couldn’t resist joking with him that after 50 years he had finally realized that he was a touch player after all and that if he hadn’t wasted all that energy in two-hour battles with Geoff Hunt he could still be playing on the PSA Tour.

Jonah’s comments throughout the match clearly unnerved referee Linda and as the tears of laughter rolled down her cheeks I was happy to take the microphone and try to restore some semblance of order. But up against a master wordsmith like Jonah there was only ever going to be one winner!

Later in the evening Jonah was looking forward to commentating with his son on the semi-finals and said: “We can never have a conversation for more than a minute, or maybe a minute and a half, without arguing so it will be interesting to see how things go.”

Joey countered: “This time it’s my job to try to keep him under control for once.”

The audience at Canary Wharf enjoyed it enormously and they were delighted to cheer Alison Waters to victory in her racketball challenge that followed against Jonathon Kemp.

Kempy may have climbed into the world top 20 but he clearly needs to brush up on his racketball skills!


Before the exhibition, I was pleased to welcome Nick Rider, chief executive of England Squash and Racketball, who explained the details of the hugely encouraging tie-up with Dunlop.

Nick was keen to point out that squash is rated a top-six sport in England, meaning that we have more active players than sports such as tennis, rugby and hockey.

Nick said: “Squash is one of the few sports where England has genuine world class talent with four men and three women ranked in the top 10 in the world. We want to continue this tradition which is why the partnership with Dunlop will help increase resources at a grass roots level to make the sport more accessible to all.

“One of our strategic aims over the next five years is to introduce 122,000 children to squash and racketball and this partnership will help us achieve that. The announcement of the partnership is an important milestone for us as we have been working with Oaks Consultancy in restructuring our sponsorship offering in order to create more value to sponsors and revenues for the sport.”

Dunlop already sponsors elite players such as Egypt’s Amr Shabana and England’s world No.2 Nick Matthew, who beat France’s Gregory Gaultier in an all-Dunlop final on Friday.

How’s that for a sponsor’s dream?


Nick Matthew couldn’t resist going on court for a quick hit during the Dunlop Radar Gun Challenge, but his top speed of 147mph (and Jon Kemp’s 148mph) was soundly beaten by Declan James from Nottingham, who struck the ball at 158mph.

19th March


The ISS Canary Wharf Classic is a total sell-out. Every seat for every session, from Monday to Friday, has been sold in advance. I'm pretty sure this is a first for a major PSA ranking tournament.


Even in the good old days of the British Open selling out all 3,000 tickets for the finals at Wembley Conference Centre, there were always hundreds of empty seats during the early rounds.


Fellow promoters Peter Nicol and Tim Garner are naturally delighted. Peter said: "It's a first for us in our seventh year of competition and I'm pretty sure it's a first anywhere in squash."


He added: "It's a sign of the quality of the squash on show, the fantastic atmosphere in the magnificent East Winteregarden venue and the culmination of seven years' hard work by the organising team. I can't wait for the first game on Monday."




An already strong English presence in the tournament has been increased by the inclusion of rising star Tom Richards. The world No.33 from Guildford, Surrey, goes into the main draw to replace Aamir Atlas Khan. The world No.20 from Pakistan withdrew because of an injury sustained in the Malaysian Open this week.



Jonathon Power will be putting in an appearance at Canary Wharf. More news on Monday - watch this space!


4th February


 I first met John Dale when he travelled down to Kent 12 years ago to play in the Maidstone Open and the European Squash Festival in Folkestone. He won both tournaments and made a lot of friends along the way.

John and I kept in touch and it was like a bolt from the blue when he revealed he was suffering from a brain tumour.

John’s friends swung into action and I was pleased to help out with a number of fund-raising activities in his honour, including a fabulous evening at Chichester and two events in a single day in Newcastle, first of all at the Northumberland Club in Jesmond and then at a packed-out Tynemouth in the evening.

Peter Genever senior travelled up from the South Coast to announce that John would be retained in their National League squad whatever his condition.

World champion Peter Nicol willingly supported all three events along with a number of other professionals, clearly illustrating how the squash community rallied round to help such a popular guy on and off the court.

When I visited John with Steve Cubbins he had only just been allowed home after he had contracted a life-threatening infection in hospital.

Amazingly, John recovered steadily and although he was unable to return to the professional tournament scene he was destined to carve out a successful career as a coach.

He was delighted to land a job in the States, but, tragically, the cancer appeared again and John was forced to return home to Tyneside. At least he was closer to his beloved Newcastle United.

I spoke to him on the phone a few weeks ago and he was typically upbeat about fighting the dreaded disease all over again.

Tragically, this time the cancer was not to be beaten and we all lost a great Geordie mate at such a young age.

God Bless You, John. We’ll all miss you.

14th January


Let’s start the new decade by wishing a Happy New Year to all of our readers worldwide. Let’s hope 2010 brings a non-stop wave of enjoyment on court, harmony between players and referees, dynamic leadership from our governing bodies, and a clear-headed vision of where the sport wants to be as we continue to pursue the dream of squash becoming an Olympic sport.


It was great to see Paul Johnson back in action in Kent last week. The former world No.4 turned out for Bromley Cricket Club in the North West Kent Priory League match against his old mate James Robbins, from Park Langley.

PJ, who is coaching in America, was back in Bromley for the Christmas holidays. He looked very sharp as he won the opening two games at a canter but his old county team-mate hit back to take the match to five.

PJ then regained his earlier composure to clinch a 9-0, 9-4, 6-9, 2-9, 9-5 victory which helped Bromley CC to an important 3-2 win over their Park Langley hosts, who are second in the table behind Tim Garner’s Dulwich all-stars!


Not only did Egypt dominate the British Junior Open in Sheffield once again, they extended their mastery by winning all eight titles at under-13, under-15, under-17 and under-19 level.

Mohamed El Shorbagy led the way with his third under-19 Drysdale Cup success and his younger brother Marwan clinched the under-17 championship. And Nour El Shorbini showed what an amazing prospect she is by winning the girls’ under-19 final at the tender age of 14.

Both finals were all Egyptian affairs, as were three others, as the 40-strong Egyptian squad raised the bar in junior squash yet again.

Everybody wants to know the Egyptians’ secret. The answer is simple: numbers, with lots of great coaches and loads of kids filling the courts after school every day.

They seem to have a system that allows talented children to rise rapidly through the ranks and not be trapped in the uniformity of the European age-group systems.

The Egyptians have dazzling hotbeds of squash in Cairo and Alexandria and they are clearly able to concentrate most of their competition in those two cities. In England, our juniors (and their parents) are subjected to a relentless slog around the country to collect random ranking points, with parents often choosing to select that route before their children have mastered the basic disciplines required in shot-making, movement and tactics.

That system, by design, will always discriminate against the juniors who choose not to enter so many tournaments but are more gifted than those who do.

A lot of our kids spend more time on the motorway than they do on court, and it’s wearing them out. Some of the time it’s not just travelling to tournaments, it’s the process of finding another junior player to train with or play against because they might be the only boy or girl in their club of county standard.

Clearly, we need more work at grass-roots level to produce a dramatic rise in junior participation levels. We need more British hotbeds like Pontefract, where juniors are inspired by the presence of players like James Willstrop and work hard to emulate his achievements.

All this brings me back to Paul Johnson, and the all-conquering Kent junior team of 20 years ago. The reason for their success? Numbers, once again.

In those days we had big clubs with massive junior sections creating the kind of competitive atmosphere that we see in Egypt.

Bromley Town had 16 courts, including a superb showcourt. That’s gone, along with most of the courts. It’s now a soulless fitness club with five courts tucked away at the back of the building.

Also gone are the Howdens Club in Beckenham (10 courts), Henwood in Ashford (10), Harveys in Maidstone (6), plus Dartford, New Eltham, Dreamland and many more.

The old Medway Squash Club has also been taken over by a fitness chain that banned juniors from the premises, including a child who was number one in the national under-13 rankings.

All of this has resulted in a dramatic reduction in the numbers of juniors playing squash, especially girls. It’s so serious that any child who picks up a racket can almost walk straight into a county squad. And I know that Kent are not alone in this.

It’s hard to fight against that kind of depressing backdrop, but rest assured those of us who are left are trying to do something about it.  

In the next few weeks I look forward to announcing a major development programme being launched in Kent alongside a new professional tournament, the Kent Open.

We might not be able to match the Egyptians at the moment, but to start with we’re trying to get the numbers up.

Watch this space.

10th December

If you are wondering what Christmas presents to buy for the avid squash fan, then Peter Nicol has the answer: wine and dine your loved one with tickets for the 2010 ISS Canary Wharf Squash Classic.

The seventh edition of this PSA Five-Star world-ranking tournament takes place from March 22-26 next year and co-promoter Nicol is urging squash enthusiasts to book tickets early to avoid disappointment.

The former world champion said: “This year we attracted eight of the world’s top ten players and it was no surprise that the event sold out so quickly. The fact that tickets are so hard to come by adds premium value to every back-wall seat.

“The Canary Wharf tournament is unique in that the East Wintergarden venue offers a wonderful gallery restaurant with spectacular views over the court.

“We get lots of calls every year from wives and girlfriends who surprise their partners by buying tickets that include a fabulous meal with the best view of squash anywhere in the world. The fact that they will be guaranteed a visit to their table by the game’s leading stars is an added bonus.

“We are very proud of the fact that we are able to stage the event at the East Wintergarden and over the years it has become one of the most popular venues on the world tour for players and spectators alike.

“This year, for the fourth year running, we sold every back-wall seat for every night of the tournament and I can assure you the players love the atmosphere.

“We have wonderfully loyal and supportive Title Sponsors in ISS Facility Services and we are grateful to them for making it possible to showcase top professional squash in such a fashion.”

Tickets for the 2010 ISS Canary Wharf Squash Classic are on sale via Ticketmaster ( and the Ticket Hotline is 0844 847 2419.

For details of dining and tickets to the VIP Bar, please visit the tournament website:  


While on the subject, I am looking forward to helping out at the North American Open in February to sample my first taste of Virginian hospitality.

The event promises to be a magnificent tournament, with nine of the world’s top ten players having confirmed their entry into this spectacular PSA (Professional Squash Association) Super Series Silver event with a prize fund of almost $100,000.

Tournament Director Gus Cook said: “The North American Open is renowned as being a “fan-friendly” tournament and we look forward to welcoming squash enthusiasts from all the squash hotbeds here on the East Coast and from further afield.”

This year’s tournament boasts a new title sponsor in Quantitative Investment Management, based in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The event is hosted by Virginia Squash and the action takes place on the all-glass McWil exhibition court which will be erected in the Millhiser Gymnasium on the campus of the University of Richmond.

The tournament runs from February 21-27 and Cook added: “We are delighted to welcome back to Richmond so many of the world’s leading players.

“The quality of the entertainment provided by our sport’s top athletes is absolutely sensational and we are fortunate that the current era has so many gifted, talented players who produce full-on attacking squash at all times.

“This is one of the premier professional squash tournaments in a rapidly developing North American squash circuit.

“The players enjoy coming to Richmond and spectators are treated to a week of exceptional squash in a superb venue.”

(with latest rankings):
1 Karim Darwish (Egypt)
2 Gregory Gaultier (France)
3 Amr Shabana (Egypt)
4 Nick Matthew (England)
5 Ramy Ashour (Egypt)
6 James Willstrop (England)
8 David Palmer (Australia)
9 Thierry Lincou (France)
10 Wael El Hindi (Egypt)
12 Adrian Grant (England)
13 Alister Walker (England)
15 Cameron Pilley (Australia)  


Squash is in the unusual position of attracting a blaze of publicity in the USA at the moment. However, like the media feeding frenzy engulfing Tiger Woods, not all of it is welcomed.

The headlines concern spectator behaviour at a recent college game between Dartmouth and Harvard, where the home team’s soccer squad came along to cheer on their friends in the squash team and welcome their visitors with some ribald banter.

This, they claim, is commonplace on their soccer road trips. However, in the more intimate confines of a squash gallery, the jibes become more personal and hostile.

Harvard’s female players eventually sought the protection of an assistant coach after they said they were called ‘whores’ and ‘sluts’ while they cheered on their male team-mates. Despite this, much of the media comments focused on alleged anti-Semitic taunts aimed at Harvard player Franklin Cohen.

The Boston Globe reported:

About 300 fans packed into the narrow spectator gallery at Dartmouth College’s squash courts, hoping to see their underdog team topple fifth-ranked Harvard for the first time. But the cheering soon turned to heckling, and then a full-fledged verbal assault.

For at least 90 minutes, about a dozen Dartmouth students pelted Harvard’s men and women players with obscenity-laced insults that some witnesses described as misogynistic, homophobic, and anti-Semitic. Women on the Harvard team were called “whores’’ and “sluts,’’ witnesses said; the men were taunted with crude comments about their masculinity.

The Dec. 2 incident, which shattered the genteel world of college squash, has prompted a flurry of apologies this week from Dartmouth’s president, athletic director, and students, including soccer players and fraternity members involved in the incident.

The incident also has sparked soul-searching on the secluded Hanover campus that has tried for decades to shed its “Animal House’’ image, and presented a challenge to a new Dartmouth president intent on fostering a climate of tolerance and social responsibility.

“I am extremely disappointed and upset by this behaviour,’’ President Jim Yong Kim said in an interview yesterday. “There is no question it was inappropriate. Players and families shouldn’t feel threatened like that.’’

Kim said he apologized to Harvard’s president, Drew Gilpin Faust, during a meeting of Ivy League presidents at the Harvard Club in New York City.

The above article attracted almost 150 comments from readers.

The Boston Herald reported:

Dartmouth College administrators are looking into allegations that student fans pelted visiting Harvard squash players with obscenities and insults, including what one parent of a visiting player interpreted as an anti-Semitic slur.

“One parent says her son was asked whether he liked bagels, which she viewed as referring to their Jewish surname.

“Dartmouth student Bryan Giudicelli says he and his soccer team-mates were trying to create an intimidating atmosphere similar to what they encounter on the road but didn’t realize how hostile their behaviour would appear in the crowded squash court.

“He said the bagel comment referred to the zero, or “bagel” on the scoreboard.”

The incidents have generated some heavy editorial comment, including the following from the Boston Globe:

“Squash usually conjures images of middle-aged businessmen giving their joints a workout, not of rowdy collegiate spectators. And yet on December 2, a group of about a dozen Dartmouth College fans rained an hour-and-a-half-long verbal assault upon the Harvard squash team during a match in Hanover, New Hampshire, spewing forth obscenity-laced insults that witnesses described as misogynistic, homophobic, and anti-Semitic. The ruckus led to a series of apologies, one of which came from the Alpha Delta fraternity, which counts among its alums the creator of ‘Animal House’.

“The hecklers could use a lesson in local history. Dartmouth has suffered for decades from an image as the Ivy League school most in need of putting an end to its extended adolescence. Long after other top schools strove to become inclusive, diverse places, Dartmouth was still seen as a campus that revered its frattish, clubby past. The school has gone a long way toward refuting that image, but this latest incident serves as a reminder that not everyone has gotten the message.

“If Dartmouth’s students really want to squash their school’s image problem, they should behave better at the next squash match.”

Well, the nature of the incidents and the depth of media coverage prompted a flurry of apologies from Dartmouth, including the offending soccer players.

An agency report, published in a variety of media outlets across the States, included a statement from Dartmouth College. It said:

The president of Dartmouth College has apologized to his counterpart at Harvard University over profanity-laden taunts made by Big Green athletes to Harvard players during a squash match.

President Jim Yong Kim spoke to Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust when the two attended an Ivy League presidents’ meeting in New York, a Dartmouth spokesman said. Kim also has been trying to reach Harvard player Franklin Cohen and his parents, who complained that an insult directed at their son sounded like an anti-Semitic slur.

A group of about 10 Dartmouth students, including members of the school’s soccer team, heckled Crimson players during the match.

In an e-mail sent to students, faculty and staff Tuesday, Kim and other Dartmouth administrators expressed disappointment at the students’ behaviour.

“While we encourage students to vigorously support our athletes, we expect them to do so in a way that reflects our pride in those teams, not disrespect for others,” wrote Kim, Acting Dean of the College Sylvia Spears and acting athletic director Bob Ceplikas.

The captain of the Dartmouth soccer team sent his own e-mail acknowledging that some team members made comments that ‘crossed the line of what is appropriate and acceptable.’

Dan Keat said the incident made players think more about sportsmanship and prompted them to start an initiative to discuss and publicize ways to foster ‘a passionate but respectful atmosphere’ at athletic events.


11th November

Good to be back in action after a short lay-off following a family bereavement and a spell of intense pressure at work. Lots of fascinating things are happening in the world of squash right now, and I’m looking forward to seeing friends old and new at Saturday’s Squash Awards Dinner at the RAC Club. Hope to see you there.


Interesting change of dynamics at the top of the women’s game after two consecutive victories by England’s Jenny Duncalf over world champion Nicol David.

For many professional players, the failure to beat a player ranked above you can create a massive psychological barrier. The longer the situation remains, the more difficult the task becomes. For some, it is an insurmountable hurdle that prevents progress.

With two phenomenal, high-profile victories on the trot, I imagine that Jenny will now be overflowing with confidence and ready to take on anyone.

As for Nicol, the Malaysian superstar will walk away, lick her wounds and plan to come back better than ever. I know she had a slight injury in one of the tournaments but, like a true champion, she did not use it as an excuse.

It will be fascinating to see what happens next time the two girls play.


The US Open in Chicago next year is set to be the biggest and best event in squash history.

Organisers are planning to erect the glass McWil court on stage at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, a futuristic theatre in Millennium Park with 4,000 seats in the open-air.

This magnificent venue is close to the city centre, a short stroll from Chicago’s finest hotels and restaurants, is surrounded by some fabulous works of art and is just a short stroll from the world-famous Art Institute of Chicago.

The 2010 US Open is being hosted by US Squash and the City’s University Club in conjunction with the acclaimed Metro Squash programme. Plans include both men’s and women’s tournaments, with a total event budget understood to make this the first million-dollar squash tournament.

When I strolled through Millennium Park during this year’s superbly successful US Open, I picked up a fascinating booklet called Bold Plans, Big Dreams.

The publication celebrated the centenary of the 1909 Plan of Chicago, otherwise known as the Burnham Plan, which was a visionary masterpiece of city planning.

The ambitious proposals for the 2010 US Open deserve to recognised as a parallel masterpiece of squash planning. Good luck to all concerned.

8th October
Squash Design launch new USA Tour

Good luck to all concerned in the ambitious new Squash Design Tour which is about to start in the USA.

The USA is a major growth area for squash and the development of new professional events is a logical extension of an increase in court numbers across the continent, the rapid growth of the US College circuit, and progressive health club chains like the Life Time group recognising the value of making squash one of their prime activities.

Now the Squash Design Pro Tour is set to launch with a tournament in Madison, Wisconsin, from October 20-25, followed by further events in Goshen, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Rhode Island, Philadelphia and Boca Raton, finishing on December 13.

That’s seven events in less than two months and represents a major breakthrough for the PSA and their ability to provide a solid tournament structure for ambitious young members in the States.

“We are hoping to increase awareness of squash by bringing more events across the United States,” said Sahel Anwar, partner in Squash Design and Premier Performance Squash. “It is our hope to organise this tour annually – bringing the sport to even more cities.”

In addition to players earning PSA World Ranking points and prize money, there will be a separate points standing for the Squash Design Tour which will allow the players to earn additional prize money based on their points standing.

Gus Cook, PSA Representative for the Americas, added: “The communities are excited to see international level events being played in their home clubs.  The players, particularly the new rising stars, are happy to have a tour support their efforts, and showcase their talent.  This is obviously good for squash.

“Having the events linked together on a timeline, and not being too far apart in location, should make it much easier financially for the players travelling from further away. The new tour could grow to include a number of additional new smaller size events in 2010 that will provide great opportunities for the up-and-coming US players along with many others too.”

Leading US touring pro Gilly Lane also added his enthusiasm for the new initiative, saying:  “I am very excited for the upcoming Squash Design Tour. This series of events is great not only for the players but for the growth of squash in the US. 

“With new tournaments in Wisconsin and Pittsburgh, Squash is expanding to areas all across the country. These tournaments will draw some of the world’s best players and provide a great showcase for our sport in America.  I am looking forward to competing in these events and hope that it is a stepping stone for future US tours.”


            Madison Open                                           Madison, WI          Oct 20–25

            Goshen Open                                            Goshen, IN            Oct 25–31

            Pittsburgh Open                                        Pittsburgh, PA       Nov 04–08

            Baltimore Cup                                           Baltimore, MD        Nov 10–15

            Rhode Island Open                                    Newport, RI           Nov 18–22

            Fairmount Open                                       Philadelphia, PA      Dec 02–06

            Betty Griffin Memorial Florida State Open      Boca Raton, FL       Dec 08–13

One league, three systems

One league and three scoring systems. Sounds confusing, but that’s the situation in Vancouver as the new season starts.

The Vancouver Squash League will be feature PAR11 for Division One male players, PAR15 for Division One females, and traditional hand-in, hand-out to nine for all other competitors from Divisions Two to Eight.

We look forward to receiving some feedback from the VSL, who have posted the following notice on their website: “The above scoring systems will be in effect throughout the season and can only be discussed, changed or debated at the next AGM. We hope that you attend the next AGM to voice your opinion and vote on the direction that the league takes in future seasons.”

Darwish to dazzle in Jersey

THE world’s No 1 squash player, Egypt’s Karim Darwish, is primed to come to Jersey. According to squash development officer Nick Taylor he has already spoken to Darwish, who is supported by Head, a sports equipment company which also sponsors racquet ball and junior squash development in the Island.

Taylor said: “Head have a certain number of spots when Karim is expected to work for them and they’re happy to free up one of them for him to come to the Island. Our idea is to bring him, plus another three top professionals over to Jersey when the new squash courts have been built.

“The plans have been drawn up and we hope planning permission will be given by the start of the New Year. So, all being well, in a year’s time he’ll be over here. I’ve spoken to him already and he says he’s more than pleased to come across.”

Play squash on your phone

You can now play squash on your iPhone. News has filtered in from the launch of the first and only squash 3D sports game, titled Touch Squash: World Championship 09, exclusively for iPhone and iPod touch. The game is available worldwide on the Apple iTunes App Store.

Rohit Gupta, founder of Rolocule Studios and developer of Touch Squash, says: “Squash is facing a few challenges when it comes to entertaining non-squash players. Enjoying squash through the medium of interactive entertainment like video games is perfect, especially, when you can't go to play real squash, or when you are new to Squash and want to know about the sport.”

Their media release goes on: “Touch Squash puts the player in third-person perspective to play squash with artificially intelligent opponents of varying difficulties, both for the beginners and the expert squash players. It uses PARS scoring adopted by World Squash Federation (WSF) as the main scoring method, and provides the players with a variety of squash courts to choose from. The players can also participate in the squash world championship in the game featuring 24 countries, across all continents, in 4 tournaments.”

The statement adds: “Rolocule recently released Touch Squash v2.0 featuring AGON Online, a social platform for iPhone games. The players will be now able to compete worldwide, win awards at different stages in the game and publish their stories on popular social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.”

Available on the App Store, Touch Squash costs $0.99 and requires the iPhone 2.2.1 software update or later.


How squash star Maria overcame adversity

A fascinating story reached the ToT desk recently from Pakistan concerning Maria Toor Pakay, a young lady who, with the support and sacrifice of her family, has overcome phenomenal restrictions to become a national number one.

The article is by Reza Sayah of CNN
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (CNN) -- As a little girl, Maria Toor Pakay would beat up boys.

Now, she dispenses of anyone who takes her on within the walls of a squash court.

Pakay, 18, is Pakistan's No. 1-ranked women's squash player. But what makes her story remarkable is that she hails from the country's tribal region of South Waziristan.

The region, along the border with Afghanis
tan, is home to the Taliban. There, suicide attacks are a way of life. And the militants, bent on imposing a strict form of Islamic law, punish girls who attend school -- let alone play sports.

"They have no future," Pakay said. "They spend their entire lives in four walls in their home. Their ability is destroyed."

But Pakay wasn't like most girls growing up. She sported a buzz cut and mixed with the boys.

someone argued with me, I used to beat them up," she said. "I wanted them to obey me all the time."

Her father, Shams-ul-Qayum Wazir, knew early on that his daughter was different.

"I didn't want her talent to go to waste," he said. "If I would've kept her in the village, all she could do was housekeeping."  

So, Wazir packed up the family and moved to Peshawar, the capital of the North West Frontier Province.

Here, Pakay picked up the racket and swatted down the competition with ease -- first winning the Under-13 championship, then the Under-15, then the Under-17.

In squash, players take turns hitting a ball to the front wall of a court, until one misses.

Pakay, it turned out, rarely did.

"I thought nobody could beat me," she said. "From the beginning when I played squash, I thought I could be a world champion."

Today, despite the lack of a sponsor and few resources, Pakay has gone pro -- and is ranked 91st in the world.

Her father's sacrifice, she said, made her success possible.

"I think I have a great father -- so broad-minded," she said.

For his part, Wazir -- a teacher -- was more circumspect.

"I sacrificed because I want to promote a message of peace," he said. "If the tribal people pick up a racket instead of a gun, there would be peace."



24th September

click image for larger view
This week’s column is dedicated to kindness and giving, two essential ingredients that help the world go round with a smile. From Chicago to India and Namibia, it’s great to see individuals in squash setting such a fantastic example, starting at the top with world champion Ramy Ashour.

Ramy Ashour may have lost the final of the Aon US Open in Chicago to compatriot Amr Shabana, but he certainly won plenty of friends with his sportsmanship and transparent love of the game.

During the fifth game of his final battle with Shabana, Ashour was clawing back the points as his more experienced opponent seemed like he was powering to the title.

After one explosive rally, Ashour played a ball into the front left corner that the three officials saw good only for Shabana to complain furiously that the ball was down.

After much heated debate between Shabana and the referees, Ashour completely diffused the situation by calling his own shot down. It was an extraordinary act of sportsmanship because that put Shabana on match ball.

Although Ashour claimed one more point, Shabana duly finished off the job to secure his first US Open title.

That act of sportsmanship was not the only moment of generosity shown by the 21-year-old Ashour during his week in Chicago.

Following a sponsors’ reception a few miles away from the city centre, Ramy was being given a lift back to the tournament hotel by event official Jill Domke, with the PSA’s US official Gus Cook also on board.

Suddenly the car struck a large pothole and a tyre blew out. I’ll let Gus take up the story from here: “As it was around midnight, Jill wanted me to take Ramy back in a cab and not hang about, but Ramy was having none of it and so we changed the tyre together. 

“It took a while because we did not have any tools until a friendly neighbourhood cop stopped to see what was happening and lent us what we needed.

“All told it took over 30 minutes and we were both filthy by the end. It just goes to show what kind of guy he is, though, and I hope he stays that way.”

I can’t think of many world champions from other sports who would behave in such a humble and helpful manner, and long may it continue in our wonderful game. We may have lost the Olympic bid, but we can continue to set a shining example to other sports that do not enjoy the same levels of honesty and sportsmanship.

India: Noted coach Baj trains poor children

CHANDIGARH - Satinder Bajwa, an expatriate Punjabi, who is a squash coach, has set up an academy for the underprivileged children in Chandigarh to draw them to squash.

These underprivileged children never thought about playing squash. But, at the newly founded Squash Academy called ‘Mind, Body and Game Connection’, they learn how to play it.

Satinder Bajwa, who has been the manager and mentor of eight-times world squash champion Jansher Khan, has commenced this social business venture to promote the game here.

The Academy will nurture 30 children of ‘Khelshala’, a charitable trust, which serves underprivileged children through sports.

“Everybody wants to help his or her origins or the country that needs help. I am not a wealthy guy but I have something to give to kids in terms of a sport, so I thought how I give back to my country and I do a non-profit programme in the USA called Kids Squash and I thought may be its needed here in India and may be we can help kids through giving them something that they can use to help themselves,” said Satinder Bajwa, Founder of the MBG Connection Academy in Chandigarh.

“You can give somebody money, but money runs out. But if you give them something like this, maybe if they are good at it, they can become very good. If they are good students, maybe I can help to get them into some international university and few a years down the roads, we might see some results which may enable people to help themselves,” said Bajwa.

He says the objective of the Squash Academy is to highlight that through exercise and play one can achieve a healthy body and mind for a fuller life experience.

The Academy will offer members a comprehensive set of world-class facilities including top of the line gym equipment and two squash courts. Bajwa, who immigrated to the USA, is presently the chief squash coach at Harvard University. He felt the need to give back to his homeland something valuable.

Many people in Punjab believe that squash is a sport that has a future.

“The game is very nice. There is no age limit to play this game. It’s very enjoyable and there are no chances of injuries,” said Manjit Singh, a trainee.

“We were little apprehensive in the first couple of days how may kids would be interested but we have had an amazing turnout and its been tones and tones of response from the kids and everyday more and more kids want to come and play and its wonderful to see excitement and eagerness of all the kids in the village to come and play,” said Elizabeth Chaplin, a trainer from Massachusetts, US.

The MBG Connection and Khelshala are a lifetime dream of Bajwa, who also funded Kids Squash, a US-based non-profit organization that promotes well-being through sports for children of all backgrounds.

Khelshala will also have an educational component as well as it will aim to leverage sports to help kids attain scholarships to private schools.

Namibia: Reta Relishes Namibian Challenge
By Chris Buckland

Former women’s world number 29, Canadian Runa Reta, has moved to Windhoek and swapped her professional squash player’s lifestyle for a six-month placement with Unicef in Namibia.

She will take up a six-month post in the education and sports development
department, where she will work on a variety of Unicef and Namibian Premier
League (NPL) football initiatives helping to develop the women’s game in
this country.

However, the 28-year-old hasn’t left her passion for squash in Canada, as
she is keen to play and become involved in the grassroots squash development
programme established by the Namibian Squash Association.

National coach Tyc Kakehongo is delighted to point out that Reta’s presence
in Namibia is a major bonus. He said: “She has made it clear that she wants to get involved in all aspects of the game. I’m sure Namibian squash will benefit greatly from her being here.”

Reta brings a wealth of experience to Namibian squash. Not only is she the
current reigning Canadian Open champion, but she has also represented Canada
at junior and senior World Championships, as well as at the Pan-American
Games where she won a team gold, and at the Commonwealth Games, where she
finished ninth in the women’s event.

Having had a world ranking since 2001 and made the move to full-time
professional and then back to part-time professional, Reta is keen to use her Bachelor’s degree in International Relations and recently completed Masters in Political Science from McGill University to good effect during her time in Namibia.

She said: “I played as a pro for four years and travelled the world and really enjoyed
it, but there comes a time when you start to not enjoy what you do and
question it instead. There is more to life than squash and I wanted to do something more and I’m looking forward to the Unicef challenge.”

With the current Namibian number one woman player, Isabelle Schnoor,
recovering from a broken foot, Reta’s arrival in Windhoek is a timely fillip
for the game in general at all levels and Namibian squash will definitely
improve with her input.



10th September

Nick Matthew had a rude awakening just a few hours after beating James Willstrop to win his second British Open title, a knock on his hotel room door by a team of drug testers!

Nick’s posting on his Facebook page said: “Can you believe it – doping control knocked on my door for a random test at 6a.m. this morning?”

Many Facebook friends expressed surprise that he was actually back in his hotel room so early after celebrating his triumph in Manchester after a marathon, late-night two-hour final battle that was decided on a fifth-game tiebreak.

Shame he couldn’t celebrate at the National Centre. Many readers have written to complain that they went for a drink during the Legends match between Ross Norman and Gawain Briars and were very upset that organisers shut the bar in order to hurry them back to their seats!

Power named to Canadian squash team

He just can’t keep away! Jonathon Power will lead the Canadian contingent into the men’s World Team Championships later this month in Odense, Denmark.

The former world No. 1, who will compete in his 10th world team event, is one of four players named to the Canadian foursome that will compete in the event from September 27 to October 3.

Canada’s men’s national head coach Yvon Provencal said: “Jonathon can definitely make a difference for us at the world championships. He has a lot
of experience and still has the ability to beat anybody in the world.”

Also named to the team are Toronto’s Shahier Razik, who is No. 29 in the
world, Shawn DeLierre of Brossard, Quebec, and David Phillips of Pointe-Claire, Quebec. Ottawa’s Robin Clarke was selected as a non-travelling reserve.

The Montreal-based Power, now 35, helped Canada to sixth place at the 2007 team worlds and fourth at the 2005 event.

He retired from the professional circuit in 2006, but he still plays in the national championships and represents Canada at major international events.

He had 32 PSA tour wins and the 1998 world title to his credit. He also won the gold medal at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, beating his great rival Peter Nicol in an epic final.

Provencal added: “He does a really great job helping out the other players. He knows our players and he know the international field. He is a wealth of information for us at that level.”

Razik will be competing in his sixth world team championship, while DeLierre, who is ranked No. 60 on the planet, returns from the 2007 world team. Phillips, who is ranked 68th internationally, will be making his Worlds debut.


Willstrop slams IOC vote

James Willstrop was described as an “ex-squash ace” in the headline that accompanied a story on Yahoo’s sports service revealing his feelings about squash’s failure to gain one of the nominations to go forward for a place in the 2016 Olympics.

The confusion for the headline writer must have been the description of him as “a former world No.2” in the article, which was headlined: Ex-squash ace slams IOC vote.

The article originated on the Eurosport website and was picked up the same day by Yahoo. Here it is in full:

Former squash world number two James Willstrop has accused the IOC's executive board of abandoning the values of the Olympic Games after golf and rugby sevens were recommended for inclusion in 2016.

Squash came agonisingly close to getting the nod for 2012 in July 2005 but, along with karate, failed to achieve the required 50 per cent of votes.

And the sport suffered a similar fate in August after rugby sevens was given a unanimous vote of confidence as the board whittled the original list of seven - rugby sevens, golf, squash, baseball, softball, karate and roller sports - down to two.

But it took a further four ballots of second preference voting for golf to achieve the nine votes needed for recommendation - with the full vote for inclusion taking place at next month's 121st IOC session in Copenhagen.

And Willstrop has slammed the decision as short-sighted, with squash now ruled out until at least 2020.

Willstrop said: “It was a very disappointing decision and don't ask me why they made it. There are no words to explain it. Don’t ask me why they’ve put golf in.

“It’s a decision that has surprised everyone. No-one can believe it - not just squash players but everyone. But if you’ve got Tiger Woods and Padraig Harrington behind the (golf) bid then we’ve got no chance as a minority racket sport.

“It has to come down to the money and that's a sad state of affairs and goes against what the Olympics is all about.

“You can watch football and golf all the time. No-one cares about them in the Olympics - and there's no way that’s the pinnacle of their sport.

“Tiger Woods would not care about a gold medal. He’s going to be more concerned about the US PGA or The Open, but we’d give our left arm for that chance.

“Golf has just come out of nowhere and got the vote straight away. We’ve been making our case for years and karate probably have as much reason to complain as we do.
“A gold medal would be the highlight of any squash player’s career and it’s so tantalising for us because it would give the sport a much higher profile.”

Willstrop stars in vegetarian advert

James Willstrop also featured heavily in publicity last week concerning his support for an advertising campaign aimed at encouraging people to become vegetarians. One article from the Yorkshire community website included comments from Willstrop claiming that switching to a vegetarian diet had actually improved his health and fitness, and with it his performances on court.

A top squash player from Leeds is the star of a new advert encouraging people to go vegetarian.

James Willstrop, who is ranked number nine in the world, unveiled the new Peta ad in Manchester to coincide with the British Open Squash Championships.

In the ad, James holds his racket and prepares to volley an orange next to the tagline Squash Obesity - Go Vegetarian.

James, who lives in Leeds, said: “I first heard about Peta through Morrissey actually. I’m very keen to support animals and I liked what Peta were doing, so I got in touch because I wanted to make it known that meat is totally unnecessary, and detrimental, to a world-class athlete.

“People laugh at me when I tell them, and I can’t for one minute believe that so many people find it perfectly natural to mercilessly slaughter animals and devour them for their own gratification.

“I did it once, but having seen the atrocity that is the battery farm, I want to convey to people to stop and actually think that they are eating dead, slaughtered flesh that has been battered around, tortured and plied with nasty chemicals.”

James said that since that becoming vegetarian has also improved his performance on court.

He added: “It’s made a great difference. I am lighter and can feel it, I’m faster and more alert, and I have won major world events with such a diet. No one can tell me we need to eat meat to function as athletes.”

A spokesperson for Peta said: “James is one of an ever-growing number of athletes who choose vegetarian meals to boost their health and avoid supporting cruelty to animals.

“James sets a great example for his fans by demonstrating the power of a healthy diet - a diet that keeps him fit, doesn’t hurt the environment and combats factory-farming cruelty.

“Athletes and non-athletes alike can join James by giving vegetarian foods a sporting chance to make their bodies and souls feel good. They can begin by ordering Peta's free Vegetarian Starter Kit today from the Peta website.”

James joins a growing list of celebrities, including Sir Paul McCartney, Alicia Silverstone, Bryan Adams and Sadie Frost, who have joined with Peta’s pro-vegetarian campaign.

The print advert will appear on Peta’s website and the charity also said it hopes to pitch it to sports magazines and other publications.

Peta is a charity dedicated to establishing and protecting the rights of all animals through public education, research, legislation, special events, celebrity involvement and protest campaigns.

For more information visit

Squash club closed following noise complaints

A SQUASH Club which has been serving south Northants for 85 years has been closed following complaints over noise.

The Cornhill Squash Club near Pattishall was handed a noise abatement notice by South Northants Council forcing it to close.

The notice was given following complaints from the family who moved into a converted barn next door last year.

The back wall of the squash court is shared with the barn, dividing the court from a kitchen and a bedroom.

Cynthia and Toby Till moved into the barn with their two young children around 16 months ago.

Mr Till said: “My family has significant health and stress issues as a result of noise coming into the house. Whenever my wife or I put our children to bed it was to the sound of squash balls hitting a wall.”

Mr Till said the abatement notice was made to protect his family’s health but added: “I’m really hopeful that with some creativity and a little flexibility, I think we can come up with a solution that will works for everyone.”

Jamie Hayes, chairman of the club said: “I have visited the Till family half a dozen times to try to work out a solution.

“But the bottom line is we don’t feel we should have to pay any money and the family feel the same way.”

Mrs Hayes said the club was valuable community asset serving around 50 members from Bugbrooke to Towcester.

Club committee member Martin Lamb was introduced to the squash club 25 years ago by his father, who had also been a member for the previous 20 years.

Mr Lamb said they were seeking legal advice for an appeal against the abatement notice. He added: “Essentially the environment health department of SNC approved the planning permission and now they are effectively making a decision that has goes against that approval.”

Jean Morgan, chief executive of SNC said she sympathised with both parties and will continue to help them find a solution but added: “The law is very specific in this area and says that where a statutory nuisance has been found to exist, the council is legally obliged to serve a noise abatement notice.”

3rd September


Egyptian superstars Ramy Ashour and Amr Shabana swapped the glass court for the glass observation decks in the Willis Tower in Chicago today as the US Open marketing machine moved into overdrive.
Ramy and Amr posed for pictures and were even allowed to play a quick rally against the walls of the breathtaking glass boxes on the 103rd floor of the building formerly known as the Sears Tower.

The view from the Skydeck Ledge was absolutely breathtaking and not a little scary when you looked down to ground level 1,353 feet beneath your feet.

The Ledge's glass boxes extend several feet out from the side of the building and the players, accompanied by a film crew, were afforded VIP treatment by the Willis Tower management company who kindly arranged for them to take the fast-track elevator and avoid the queues building up for the city's premier tourist attraction.

Ramy and Amr were eager to play their part in helping the tournament to develop and enjoyed the whole experience, although they were not too impressed when I told them we had to take the stairs on the way back down...


To say that Chicago is proving a popular location for the Aon US Open would be a staggering understatement.

The event has been playing to sell-out crowds around the glass court set up in Pioneer Court, just off Michigan Avenue, which is known as the Magnificent Mile.

And magnificent is a tribute heard often at courtside as spectators familiar with the sport and those watching it for the first time gasp in admiration at the speed, skill and athleticism of the world's leading players.

Photographs of the glass court in front of the architectural splenndour of the Chicago skyline provide iconic images of squash's location-driven potential as a money-spinning spectator sport.

Squash enthusiasts unable to secure a seat around the courtside have been able to take advantage of the free view through the front wall. Several hundred passers-by stopped to watch the quarter-finals and organisers were considering the option of installing more seats for the semi-finals and final this weekend.

Following the disappointment of the IOC vote that banished squash into the Olympic wilderness for a further four years, this Chicago success story has given the sport a timely boost.

The players have underscored their entertainment value, which has to be their greatest priority and a path which leads to commercial rewards, and reinforced the view that no further tampering with the rules is necessary.

The package they can deliver is a high-quality product that has attracted significant sponsorship interest from Windy City corporations for this year and future editions of the tournament.

The success of last year's Sweet Home Chicago Open, played at the same open-air location, resulted in the the organisers securing the rights to the US Open. 
The local media are gradually taking an interest, with TV, radio and newspaper coverage gradually taking shape and adding further value to the efforts of US Squash, the sponsors and Imran Nasir's brilliant team of volunteers.

27th August


Sadly, news emerges that the IOC vote to nominate golf and rugby sevens for the 2016 Olympic Games was decided before squash even made its final presentation to the IOC.

WSF Olympic Bid Co-Ordinator Dr George Mieras, writing in his official report on the WSF website, admits that a well-informed insider had let slip that golf and rugby sevens had been agreed on as far back as June.

IOC chief Jacques Rogge subsequently claimed that the sports had been selected in Berlin because “they would bring extra value to the Games.”

Those remarks were discussed in my last column, but one glance at the nations represented by the 15-man IOC Executive Committee responsible for the nominations may also give a clue as to the likely outcome of any voting procedure, whether genuine or otherwise.

As well as the Belgian Dr Rogge, the other officials came from Greece, Japan, Germany, China, Singapore, Italy, South Africa, Norway, Switzerland, Mexico, Namibia, Morocco and Puerto Rico.

Now, squash hardly makes a ripple in any of those countries, and in some, the squash communities, small to start with, are showing signs of decline.

So it hardly needs an Einstein to work out that our sport was never going to make much of an impact on such a collection of individuals, no matter how professional the presentation.

As I mentioned in my last column, we need to find ways to expand our global base in terms of participation numbers, and completely rethink the way the professional game is marketed. Hopefully both ends will meet somewhere in the middle as we seek to raise the profile of squash.

By becoming stronger at all levels, we can dream of becoming a sport that can stand on its own two feet, attract major sponsors, deliver value to those companies by creating fantastic tournaments that generate extensive media coverage and attract newcomers to the game. And not worry overmuch about the Olympics until we can show that squash can provide the kind of commercial value obviously required by the IOC.


I’m currently packing my bags for the Aon US Open and looking forward to my first trip to Chicago. The draw looks phenomenal, with Ramy Ashour and Amr Shabana the top two seeds, followed by David Palmer, Peter Barker, Adrian Grant, Wael El Hindi, James Willstrop, Olli Tuominen, Hisham Ashour, Shahier Razik, Saurav Ghosal and US wild card Gilly Lane.

This PSA Five Star tournament takes place in the open-air, with the glass court in a fantastic city centre location, so let’s hope for some balmy evenings that will help to attract sizeable crowds.

The organisers have worked phenomenally hard, in conjunction with US Squash, to get everything ready in time and they deserve a successful week.

I look forward to filing daily reports from the Windy City.


Former Lambs Club member Sean Hayden, who plays league squash in both Surrey and Middlesex, writes with some interesting points about the choice of scoring systems, plus his views on the double yellow dot ball.

I just wanted to make a few points about the scoring system that has now forced its way into both the Surrey Cup and, from next season, the Middlesex League.

I personally think that squash is a poorer game for it and I completely agree with you that there is no harm and more benefits in having two scoring systems in place.

My biggest argument is this: The PAR scoring system was brought in primarily for the spectators at PSA tournaments. I don’t know about other leagues, but in both the Surrey and Middlesex First Division leagues in which I play the only spectators we get are your team-mates, who are anxious for you to hurry up and finish, and possibly one of the opposition’s bored girlfriends who has been dragged out of the house against her free will.

Another example to show how following the pros has led to a deterioration in the game is the ball. The double yellow dot was introduced for the professionals and the upper levels of squash.

These days, even during the midst of winter, you see the ‘beginners’ in the eighth team, where the average rally is TWO shots, STILL playing with a double yellow dot. It’s ridiculous.

Anyway that's my 2p worth. I must say I do hope this scoring system continues to be debated and is reviewed nationally in a year’s time.

Squash addict racks up 2,000 games in one year

Here’s an amazing story, from the Calgary Herald, about a Canadian squash addict who took his love for the game to extraordinary lengths.

Steve Watson never started the quest in hopes of fame, glory, or even bragging rights.

His journey to play 2,000 squash games in 365 days began when he picked up a racket just over a year ago, and has continued simply because he hasn’t been able to put it down.

“I didn’t pick 2,000 as a number, I just wanted to play as much as possible so it seemed like a nice round number,” said the 43-year-old Calgarian. “My winning percentage has gotten a little better as I go on because I play more than anyone else, which definitely helps.”

Three years ago, Watson joined a local challenge league as a racquetball player but switched over to squash over a year ago, just for fun. But earlier this month, he took his game to another level and managed to hit the 2,000-mark in a 365-day period, which came with an 11-3 thrashing of fellow player Graham Mellof on July 14.

From Monday to Friday during regular working hours, he's a construction surveyor. Yet Watson manages to fit in games four times a week split between Mount Royal College, Oakridge Community Centre and Southland Leisure Centre. On average, Watson will play about two hours per night which usually means between 10 and 15 games a day.

“It adds up pretty quick,” he said with a chuckle. “There's no real limit on it. Before you know it, you’ve played 2,000 games in a year.

“But I don’t think I could do 4,000 (games). I played 300 games in a month one time and that was too many. Basically, the goal for now is to keep it over 2,000.”

It’s quite a feat considering Watson is a recreational player. The league’s previous high was set by Brent Johner, who played 1,200 games in a 365-day period.

Currently, Watson’s record stands at 1,331 wins and 697 losses. And he’s still going strong.


13th August

IOC decision, My Comments

The news that squash was not selected as one of two sports to go forward to the big IOC vote in October was disappointing enough. To learn that the sport failed to register a single vote at the IOC meeting in Berlin yesterday was devastating.

Let’s consider that position.

No votes at all. Zero. Nil points. Nothing. A total blank.

That’s where we are, folks. Not even on the radar when it came to the big IOC vote.

In squash terms, it was like the ultimate humiliation of a triple-bagel scoreline.

After golf and rugby sevens got the nod, ahead of squash and four other sports, IOC President Jacques Rogge said: “In the end, the decision came down to which two sports would add the most value.”

That’s protocol shorthand for “these two sports will make the most money for us”. I have written many times in the past about this subject and perhaps Mr Rogge’s admission proves that the IOC places higher value on commercial success than sporting integrity.

We were always led to believe that the ideals and moral values of the Olympic Games meant that we were watching the purest form of sport in the world. However, by adopting a “variety” of a major sport, as in the case of rugby sevens, it is like having the synchronised swimming and diving but without any actual swimming events.

Lots of raw emotions came tumbling out from squash lovers yesterday as the IOC decision was announced. There were bitter criticisms of the IOC on Facebook and various squash forums, plus one or two minor snipes at the squash governing bodies, but let’s examine Mr Rogge’s statement in depth.

In terms of the IOC’s commercial activities, large American corporations who sponsor the Games, and the TV networks that pay large sums for the broadcasting rights, must surely have some kind of input into the decision-making process. We would be rather naïve to expect otherwise.

The TV broadcasters know they can sell prime-time advertising slots for commercials during the golf and rugby sevens competitions, but squash does not enjoy the same kind of profile.

That’s not surprising.I hope I don’t get lynched at the US Open in Chicago for saying this, but ask any American about squash and 99 per cent of them will tell you it’s a vegetable. Most of the other one per cent think it’s a kind of racketball.

If you don’t believe me, set up a Google Alert to have any article about squash sent to your email inbox. You will soon be inundated with all kinds of recipes about what to do with left-over squash.

So, in terms of product recognition, we are not performing terribly well in the world’s major economy.

This is despite a vibrant governing body, a booming College League and a growing number of professional tournaments in the USA, which is rapidly becoming a major magnet for many of the world’s leading coaches.

All things considered, perhaps it’s not too surprising that an excellent presentation by the WSF for a sport that ticks all of the necessary Olympic boxes failed to make any headway.

So, where do we go from here? Our priorities as a sport must be to raise the profile of squash at all levels, increase participation levels, fight court closures and deliver high-quality TV coverage on a regular basis throughout the world.

I am preparing a dossier for the WSF with a selection of ideas as to how we can achieve this and look forward to reporting back in due course.

I do know that one brave individual is attempting to mount a legal challenge aimed at proving that the IOC’s voting procedure in Singapore four years ago, when squash and karate were voted in at the first stage and then removed by a subsequent second round of voting, was illegal.


6th August


This time next week we will know if squash has made it on to the Olympic shortlist. The IOC meet in Berlin next week and two sports will be nominated to go forward to the crucial vote in Copenhagen in October.

Squash has been lobbying alongside baseball, golf, karate, roller sports, rugby sevens and softball for a place in the 2016 Games.

Having narrowly missed out on a place in London 2012, the World Squash Federation sport launched a highly credible and professional bid, led by president N Ramachandran of India.

A professional bid manager was brought in to supervise the process and Scott Garrett is to be congratulated on delivering a first-class job.

The bid focused on the sport’s international appeal, the absolute commitment of the world’s leading stars to participate, and the low cost of adding squash to the Olympic rota.

Many of the rival sports may have enjoyed bigger marketing budgets, but squash’s presentation certainly made an impact, with Squash 2016 Day helping to raise awareness of the bid all over the globe.

We certainly deserve to be there and here’s hoping the vote goes our way.

Fingers crossed.  


Once again we are forced to revisit the question of scoring systems in squash. Various governing bodies are campaigning for a unified scoring system across the board, and a considerable coating of spin is being applied to some of the lobbying processes.

The PSA has led the way with PAR 11 and the system appears to have bedded in successfully. Many seasoned pros, whose games were based on their ability to withstand the excessive physical demands of the sport, feared that an advantage was being taken away from them when the scoring system was reduced from 15 to 11, and that shorter matches might favour the shot-makers. However, match times have crushed that argument and the game appears just as physically demanding as it was before.

WISPA has followed suit, and at the very top level there are no complaints. However, I have yet to be fully convinced that some of the early round matches in certain events provide full value for money.

The move to impose PAR11 across the board at club and junior level is a matter of grave concern.

Having listened to all the arguments I believe that there is a very solid case for continuing with two scoring systems for one very simple reason: the majority of club players want it that way.

Here in Kent we have two very solid lobbies, with many (not all) of the top players demanding PAR11 and lower league players absolutely rejecting it.

Why not let both camps have their own way? Why not arrange for PAR11 in the top divisions of all county leagues and allow lower league players to continue with their favoured method of traditional scoring?

Would that upset anyone?

As is the case with too many things in squash, we are in danger of pandering to the elite players and ignoring the wishes of the majority of club members.

I recently contributed my thoughts to England Squash on the matter of junior squash, and the unacceptable number of ridiculously short matches, especially in the girls’ game. What is this nonsense of expecting 11-year-old beginners, who can hardly hold a racket, to play the same game as the world’s leading professionals? Where did that come from? Is anybody doing anything about it?

Your thoughts, please, to the usual address.
Contact Alan with your views or opinions

30th July

Willstrop pleased with World Games return

It was great to see James Willstrop back in action after his recent operation. To reach the final of the World Games was a superb achievement and, although he lost in straight games to fellow Englishman Nick Matthew, he will be pleased to have got a run of matches under his belt again as he prepares for the new season.

Nicol David maintained her supremacy in the women's game, beating Natalie Grinham, now playing for The Netherlands, in the final.

With the US Open and British Open arriving back to back at the start of September, players are keen to cement some early-season form and Willstrop was seeded four in this week's Malaysian Open behind Amr Shabana, Matthew and Wael El Hindi.

Willstrop's injury woes caused him to drop out of the world top ten and it will be fascinating to see what plans he has hatched to follow Matthew's example earlier this year of a rapid return up the rankings after a long lay-off.

African Open Cancelled

Promoters of the African Open, which was due to take place in Lagos from

12-15 August, have advised the Professional Squash Association that the event has been cancelled due to sponsorship problems. The 5-star event had attracted a strong field, led by Egypt's world number one Karim Darwish.

Squash can stave off cancer

Strenuous exercise for just half an hour a day can halve the chance of dying from cancer, according to the Daily Express earlier this week.

Health Correspondent Jo Weilley wrote: People who take part in physically demanding sports like jogging, swimming, rowing, squash or football can reduce the risk of developing the killer disease.

But it would take a minimum of 30 minutes of vigorous activity every day to gain any benefit.

The National Health Service recommends a minimum of 30 minutes exercise five times a week.

Junior stars make headlines

Loads of news items have cropped up on the internet this week in a busy week for squash, many of them featuring competitors appearing in the World Junior Championships.

Many of the Indian websites concentrate on top seed Dipika Pallikal and if you type her name into Google you will see more than 20 articles previewing the tornament.

One of the biggest squash interviews I have seen in a long while, plucked from the Wilton Villager website, features American Olivia Blatchford.

The interview, conducted, by Sports Editor John Nash, begins like this:

As the seventh ranked junior squash player in the entire world, Olivia Blatchford dreams big.

She does not just yearn for more victories on her resume or for more trophies to fill the empty spaces inside her family's Wilton home.

Instead, she dreams even bigger than that, imagining a future that is better for her friends, her teammates, and her sport.

On Thursday afternoon, the 16-year-old Blatchford, the eldest daughter of Peter and Elizabeth Blatchford, left for the faraway land of Chennai, India, where she will take part in the 2009 World Junior Squash Championships. But, she'll tell you before she takes flight, this isn't just about her.

It's all about the future.As she speeds through life at 100 miles per hour, bubbly and effervescent, she relishes her todays as she works toward her World Juniors appearance. Yet she also longs for a tomorrow that could very well leave her as the second Wilton resident, following soccer's Kristine Lilly, to take part in the Olympic Games, if not becoming the world's best squash player somewhere down the road.

Organizers of the Olympics could be adding two sports to its roster in 2016 and squash is one of the serious candidates. A decision is expected by August or September.

"What an honor it would be to play in the Olympics," Blatchford said, "to be able to represent your country in the biggest and most honorable event ever. It'd be stellar, it'd be magnificent, it'd be awesome."

Blatchford, the No. 1 ranked Under-19 player in the country, is already an ambassador for her sport as well as one of its best players.

"There are 127 countries that play squash. You'd be surprised,"

Blatchford tells a reporter who knows literally very little about the game. "I really hope and pray we get in (to the Olympics). It's such a deserving sport. It's physical chess. You're trying to anticipate somebody's moves and you're trying to get them to do something all while running. It's such a deserving sport."

And Blatchford, it seems, is as deserving of becoming an Olympian as anyone who has worn the red, white and blue before her.

The full interview can be found here:

The next big thing in Indian squash is here

Another major interview, published on the dnaindia website, features Indian youngster Mahesh Mangaonkar, who admits to travelling to Egypt for coaching to improve his game.

by Mihir Vasavda

Mumbai: Fifteen-year-old Mahesh Mangaonkar believes in love at first sight. It happened to him when he was seven and over these many years, it has just grown deeper. It's a love story that doesn't lack drama. He risks losing his love because of financial constraints but has a strong backing of his parents.

This love story, however, doesn't star a girl. It involves a sport for which he is ready to sacrifice everything. While enjoying playing badminton with his mother Anjali at the Club Aquaria in Borivali, he was intrigued by the sport some of the members were playing inside a glass cubicle. It was the first time he saw someone play squash and that was it - he wanted to play the game. "He was very serious about it (playing squash). We thought, why not give him a chance?" Anjali says.

Since then there has been no looking back. This year, he won the prestigious Junior British Open and on Monday, he left for Chennai to play in the World Junior Championships. A lot has changed for him since he first picked up the squash racquet eight years ago, Mahesh says, except for the love for the game and the excitement when he steps on a court each time.

"It's a cliché but sport does help you to mature as a person. Squash has given me everything in life. I have my own identity because of this sport," the Standard X students says. "The fun part is that everyone in school knows me. It's good to be a celebrity in your school," he added.

Arranging finance has been the biggest hurdle for Mahesh's parents.

"With no sponsors, it becomes difficult to arrange for his trips, kits and other equipments. For the last five years, we have been investing around Rs 15-20 lakh a year," Anjali says.

Mahesh has been having training stints with high profile Egyptian coach Amir Wagih, who also coaches Dipika Pallikal, Aditya Jagtap and former world No.1 Amr Shabana. "I have been travelling to Cairo for last three years. Training in Egypt is completely different as it is the squash powerhouse. In India, I train under Waman Apte," Mahesh says. Wagih feels Mahesh is the next big thing in Indian squash. 

"I love working with him. He has a great attitude on court and always has a smile on his face. When he gets bigger and taller, I am sure he will be the one to watch out for," he said. Mahesh's mother however feels if a source of funding is not found, a promising career will come to a premature halt.


Duncalf backs Olympic bid

And finally, a snippet from Teletext here in the UK, concerning squash's bid for the Olympics.

Jenny Duncalf has added her voice to those calling for squash to be included in the Olympic Games.

The England No 1 from Harrogate admits she has been spurred on by the buzz surrounding the three-year countdown to the 2012 Games in London.

She said: "When I play squash I play for myself, but also for England, and to play for a medal in the Olympics as part of Team GB would be incredible."


16th July


Amr Shabana is the top seed so far entered for the US Open in Chicago in September, and I look forward to going over to the Windy City help out with the event.

A very talented organising team is responsible for staging the tournament in a crucial year for squash as we all wait anxiously to hear if our beloved sport is to be welcomed into the 2016 Olympic Games programme.

The city of Chicago, meanwhile, is also on tenterhooks as it awaits a decision from the IOC on its bid to host the 2016 Games, so there's quite a buzz of anticipation surrounding the whole tournament.

The McWil glass court is being set up in Pioneer Court, between the Tribune Tower and the Chicago River, from September 2-6.

The tournament offers a prize fund of $52,500 and follows the successful open-air staging last year of the Sweet Home Chicago Open, which survived a battering from the tail-end of Hurricane Ike before England's Peter Barker defeated Australia's US-based David Palmer in the final.

Tournament Director Imran Nasir, Head Professional at the Lakeshore Athletic Club, is delighted to see the US Open switch to Chicago and hopes the event will have a long and happy stay there.

He is busy organising community-based events to run alongside the US Open, as well as arranging sponsorship packages and corporate hospitality deals to build long-standing partnerships with the Chicago business community.

He says: "Squash is a spectacular sport to watch and one of our aims is to attract new people to the sport. The open-air setting will give thousands of passers-by the chance to gain their first glimpse of the sport. Luckily for them, they will be seeing is the world's top professionals in action, and we hope that may lead to many of them deciding to take up the sport and join many of the thriving clubs in the city.

"Squash and business go hand in hand and we already have excellent contacts with the Chicago business community. The tournament provides opportunities for local companies to really get involved with the event, and the sponsorship packages offer prime signage locations and corporate hospitality opportunities at courtside which rival any other sporting occasion for sheer value and entertainment."

For full tournament details and ticketing packages, please click on For sponsorship packages, please contact Imran Nasir at (001) 312-616-9000.

Australian Open moves to Canberra

Another major event on the move is the Australian Open. Squash Australia announced this week that Canberra will host the Australian Open Men’s and Women’s Squash Championships for the next four years.

The announcement follows hot on the heels of Canberra's Stewart Boswell beating Cam Pilley to win the final of the Clare Valley Australian Open in South Australia on Sunday, squeezing home 11-9 in the fifth after 98 minutes of brutal squash. The two train together and play doubles together, so it was inevitable that the match would go the distance as they know each other's games so well.

New Zealand's Joelle King (left) beat Annie Au of Hong Kong in the women's final.


Click image for larger view

2nd July

Sorry, folks, but this week's column has been cancelled. I've been far too busy making the most of our mini heatwave and watching those two great British institutions that usually fall foul of the summer rain, namely Wimbledon and Glastonbury, bathed in sunshine (apart from when the new roof was finally unveiled on Court One on Monday).

It's such a difficult choice to make, heading for the beach or slumping in front of the telly to cheer on British hero Andy Murray (he's only Scottish when he loses) or watch some of rock's golden oldies try to remember their chords and choruses at Glasto.

Status Quo don't appear to have too much trouble in that department, probably because they've never used more than four chords in their entire career. 

But I was shocked to learn that Bruce Springsteen is actually older than I am, which prompted a debate at the squash club about fitness, memory, longevity and the secrets of maintaining performance levels at an advanced age.

We'll never know, of course, how Michael Jackson would have performed in his comeback series in London, but one thing's for certain: he would have needed some phenomenal training prior to rehearsals to have recreated his moonwalk and other amazing dance routines at the age of 50.

Maybe it was the stress and strain of rehearsals that resulted in his appetite for a cocktail of painkillers.

Whether in sport or any branch of entertainment, the longer the breaks you take the harder you have to work when you decide to get back on stage or the sporting arena, whatever level you play at.

That's where the discussion focused on Murray and his astonishing fitness levels. Watching him in action at SW19 this year has been a real joy. He's faster, fitter and stronger, all ingredients that have given him a rock-solid confidence.

He clearly has a massive appetite for success, which has been apparent as he been chasing down balls around the Centre Court as though his life depended on every point, even when he has been enjoying a commanding lead. That's the kind of attitude that made Peter Nicol such a dominant performer for so long in squash and it provides a simple lesson for any ambitious player. The first priority is to compete with your opponent on a physical level.

So, after debating the Murray muscles, Bruce "The Boss" Springsteen and Peter "The Boss" Nicol, it was time to get back on court after a two-week holiday and do some squash training, armed with the knowledge that your performance levels drop by a significant percentage in every area, even after just two weeks away from the court.

In typical British style (following the tradition of mad dogs and Englishmen going out in the mid-day sun) my training partner Keith and I hit the court at 12.30pm yesterday as the temperature peaked at 31 degrees.

It felt even hotter an hour later on an oxygen-free court as we followed our drills by finishing up with a match. After three games we were both leaning on our rackets, exhausted, as a couple of rallies sneaked into double figures.

I suddenly felt very old, very fat and very slow.

But there's only one solution.

More training.

Final piece of squash-based Glastonbury trivia: We were all mightily impressed by Natasha Khan of the band called Bat For Lashes.  She just happens to be the daughter of Rahmat Khan, former coach of the mighty Jahangir.

I wonder if she would mind performing alongside Lost For Words (featuring James Willstrop) and the Danny Lee Band? Now that would be a great gig.


25th June



HOT WORK: Aaron Frankcomb prepares to serve to Alan Clyne on a sweat-stained floor at The Mote Picture by Kim Roberts

(click image for larger view)

Our new tournament, The Mote Classic, was a big success down in sunny Kent. We attracted an excellent draw, and our spectators were hugely impressed by the quality of the play on offer.

Once again the pros displayed an incredible mix of determination, hunger, sportsmanship, speed and skill to entertain the crowds at The Mote Squash Club in Maidstone. None more so than in an incredible semi-final battle between Scotland's Alan Clyne and Australia's No.2 seed Aaron Frankcomb.

Clyne held match ball in the fourth game but Frankcomb held on to win the game and take it to the fifth, where he triumphed in one minute under two hours.

It was a phenomenal battle, and, as our picture shows, the floor was absolutely dripping with sweat and had to be wiped several times.

In all my years of playing squash, watching the game and organising tournaments, I don't think I have ever seen a floor in such a condition

- not even during Jahangir's epic win over Gamal Awad which lasted two hours and 46 minutes at Chichester all those years ago.

The picture is a clear illustration of the industry and commitment shown by our leading squash players. And it clearly proves how much they deserve a place to showcase those talents at the highest level, in the Olympic Games.

Sadly for Frankcomb, it was his second five-game marathon of the day, having beaten Malaysia's Jam Adnan earlier in the day, and although he put up a magnificent fight in the final the following day, No.1 seed Chris Ryder of England prevailed 3-1 ... in a mere 82 minutes.

We look forward to welcoming the players back to the Garden of England next year, when we are planning to upgrade the tournament to a PSA ranking event.


It would have been interesting to see how long the Clyne-Frankcomb match would have taken using traditional scoring. Maybe it would have lasted longer than the Khan-Awad marathon.

Once again the question of scoring has come to the fore as counties plan for next season. Already the two Kent competitions, the Outer Kent League and Priory League, plus the Kent Junior League) have voted overwhelmingly to retain traditional scoring.

Although the leading Kent male players were happy to play PAR 11 in the county championships, the women absolutely hated it.

And we are still nowhere near finding a solution for junior girls'

squash, where a large percentage of matches are over in less than ten minutes.

Chris Nutley, Head of Competition and Events at England Squash and Racketball, sent the following note to counties last week.


The last 12 months has seen a real shift in our sport with the World Squash Federation (WSF) voting to adopt Point A Rally (PAR) as the sports standard scoring system at its Annual General Meeting in October last year. All championship squash played under the WSF’s and the European Squash Federation’s jurisdiction is now played PAR 11.

On a national level England Squash and Racketball (ESR) introduced PAR

11 for all its junior squash at the beginning of the 2008-09 season and trialled it at the 2009 senior Inter County Premier Finals. PAR 11 has now also been adopted as the standard scoring for Racketball and is already in use at all major tournaments.

 From the 2009-10 season the following events will be PAR 11:

•National Squash Championships (senior and junior) •British Junior Open •Senior Inter County Championships •Junior Inter County Championships •All junior sanctioned events •National Racketball Championships •ESR sanctioned racketball championships In addition, we are looking at the suitability of PAR 11 for Masters, and are currently engaged in consultation with Over-35 and Over-40 players to gauge opinion. A decision will be made prior to the start of the new season as to whether to move to PAR 11 for these categories. For all other age groups in ESR events, HI-HO (hand-in, hand-out) scoring will remain for 2009 for the 2009-10 season.

We do see this as an evolutionary process. Pretty much the whole of Europe and many parts of the world have already moved completely to PAR

11 for all squash.

As previously recommended, ESR suggests that counties consider the adoption of PAR 11 for county closed and county leagues for the 2009-10 season onwards. A number of counties have looked at this in a different ways. Some have adopted PAR 11 for premier divisions, others across the board.

Some have decided that, for now, they do not want to change.

Furthermore, we do believe that scoring systems at recreational and club level should be entirely discretionary, and are not proposing mandatory change in this area.

18th June

The World Squash Federation's 2016 Bid Team delivered their final presentation to the IOC in Lausanne on Monday.

Former world champion Thierry Lincou described the ordeal as being as mentally challenging and nerve-wracking as any major championship match he has played during a long and distinguished career.

The unexpected star of the show was 13-year-old Hanna Fekede, whose word-perfect delivery of squash's message produced spontaneous applause from the most influential sports officials on the planet.

All seven competing sports bidding for a place in the 2016 Olympics now face a nervous wait until mid-August, when the IOC will nominate two contenders to go forward to the final vote in Copenhagen on October 2.

George Mieras, the WSF Olympic Bid Co-Ordinator, said: "We were all delighted with the way our presentation went on Monday. We spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday rehearsing the presentations, reviewing, changing here and there, getting the timings right and also going over potential questions which we thought might be asked.

"Scott Garrett, our Bid Manager, worked tirelessly to bond and direct the group and get the presentations up to top standard. Come Monday afternoon off we went to find that things were running a bit early, so there was no waiting around, it was into the deeply impressive IOC Conference Room and on with the presentation.

"For those of us sitting downstairs waiting time passed very slowly.

Then we heard applause - amazing - and next our party came round the corner with our Patron, HRH Tunku Imran, wreathed in smiles. All the panel were exhausted with the tension: Thierry Lincou summed it up 'that was pressure of a degree I have never encountered in any match I have played'.

"The presentation format began with our introductions, then our brand new DVD, then two minutes each from the panel members with accompanying photographs on the four-sided central screen, then questions, a total of 30 minutes.

"We had one absolute starlet on our team, 13 year old Hanna Fekede, tiny in stature but with a mixture of poise and utter charm. In a wonderful presentation, which struck an emotional chord with every listener, Hanna stood up and spoke totally from memory. When she finished there was spontaneous applause from the IOC Executive Board.

"The summary followed, then amazingly no questions bar one from the President asking World No.1 Nicol David “how a boyfriend might be fitted into her incredibly busy schedule”, a question fielded with total aplomb

- ask her! President Rogge then said 'an excellent presentation' and there was further applause. We had a long period of press interviews after that, with Rami, Nicol and of course Hanna being much sought after.

"You can see our state of art DVD, which in HD really does prove that the ball can be seen and that squash is TV friendly, and the presentation speeches on our website - do take a look.

"Four months ago we were lagging behind; there is no doubt about it. But since January we have worked tirelessly and made gigantic strides. Our Patron, who is of course an IOC Member, was absolutely delighted with the massive improvement in our presentation and the way we had answered most of the questions posed after the November 2008 presentation.

"Everyone involved really managed this weekend to give it the very best shot possible and the whole squash family can be deeply proud of that panel of presenters: HRH Tunku Imran, President Ramachandran, Nicol David, Thierry Lincou, Siyole Lusasemi (a first year professional from South Africa) and Hanna Fekede.

"Scott Garrett was the IT man and Team Director and has given our bid massive commitment since being invited to become Bid Manager in mid-January. Our PR/Media company, Juniper, has also been doing splendid work especially for the publications which IOC members read.

"We must not forget the many years of preparatory work which went into all of this. Tunku Imran, Susie Simcock, Jahangir Khan all worked so hard during their terms of office as President and thereafter to develop the contacts and get us the opportunity to become serious contenders for a place in the Olympic Games.

"Working on this with all of them of course was our utterly dedicated CEO for these many years, Ted Wallbutton, whose contribution was immense. We have been much helped this past year in particular by Ramona von Ondarza, whose quite amazing knowledge of things Olympic and the IOC people has been invaluable to us.

"We have Jahangir now featured in the Olympic museum in the Sporting Heroes section - if in Lausanne do visit this.

"Many, many others have also helped and supported this bid. Our partners PSA and WISPA are totally committed. Year in, year out our own media Director, Howard Harding, has also kept us in the Olympic eye. We are also deeply appreciative of the literally hundreds of messages wishing us good luck, which we received between us this weekend, from National Federations and individuals - thank you all so much. Many contributions to our fund have been made and we hope that there will be many more yet as we still face a very significant shortage - please do continue to publicise this need and help us.

"We have done all that we can do up to this stage. We must now keep ourselves in front of the IOC Executive Board during the weeks to come and we shall do so. They have an incredibly difficult task ahead in choosing two out of seven excellent contending sports. We just hope and believe that the reasons which we gave them, as in our view compelling in favour of squash, will see us as one of these two sports, turning our long-held dream into a reality and seeing our squash family become part of the much greater Olympic family."

Scott Garrett said: "Our team, led by HRH Prince Imran (WSF Patron), captained by N. Ramachandran (WSF President), with team members Nicol David, Thierry Lincou, Siyoli Lusaseni and Hana Fekede, presented squash's case for Olympic inclusion to the Executive Board of the IOC.

"These are the most powerful people in sport, who have seen and heard it all. Yet the Squash 2016 team was able to make them applaud spontaneously both mid-way through the 30-minute presentation, and again loudly at the end. Several IOC members were also seen to wipe away a tear or two, such was the power of our presentation. You can see our bid film here (

"On a personal note, I should like to thank each and every one of you from the squash community for your contribution to this effort. We could not have put on such a stellar performance on Monday without you and I know the bid team would like you to share their pride in the professional way in which they represented our sport.

"But it ain't over yet. Next steps for the IOC Executive Board are to reconvene in Berlin in mid-August, at which time they will recommend a short list of new sports to be included in 2016. We believe that list will contain only two sports, for the IOC General Congress to vote on, en bloc, at its meeting in Copenhagen in October.

"So we will know if we are still in the race by about August 14, and, if so, we should know for sure if we are in the 2016 Games on October 2.

"Lots to do between now and then, but for now, my thanks to you. We took a big stride towards victory on Monday. Now let's nail it on."


11th June


Hats off to Gary Waite for his incredible efforts to promote doubles squash and take it to a new level in North America.

The Toronto Globe and Mail recently published one of the longest newspaper articles I have ever seen on the game and featured Waite's courageous $25,000 investment into a scheme to televise doubles and develop a new glass court especially for the four-player version of our sport.

The article covers Waite's televised exhibition match, dubbed Tango in Toronto, in which he partnered Ben Gould against Viktor Berg and Damien Mudge before a packed gallery at the Badminton and Racquet Club of Toronto.

The TV production company hired by Waite placed an overhead camera in the ceiling to track the movement of the players below and further cameras were placed along the front wall in unbreakable Perspex boxes, a wise precaution given the potential for damage when a hardball doubles ball is struck at maximum power.

Waite is a true evangelist for doubles, and, as well as canvassing for more courts, he is encouraging younger players to take up the game in contrast to the general perception of doubles being the equivalent of bowls or golf: something you do when you wit playing singles!

The full-sized American hardball doubles courts are 45 feet long, half as much again as a traditional singles court, so you can imagine the fitness required to cover both front and back areas of the court in matches that frequently last two hours or more.

In this case, Waite and Gould lost to Mudge and Berg in a match lasting two hours and 40 minutes. The skill of Waite's production partners will be in editing the highlights to fill a 50-minute TV slot.

Unlike the form of doubles played in the Commonwealth Games, on a court which is marginally bigger than a singles court, the big hardball doubles court produces a totally different style of squash altogether, with far more opportunities for outrageous shot-making.

During the recent Derek Sword Trophy match at Edinburgh Sports Club, it was a pleasure to engage with our American visitors on the doubles court. Edinburgh has the only full-sized hardball doubles court in Europe, and I am keen to develop some new tournaments up there in partnership with ESC to make full use of this amazing facility.

Pat Canavan, Head Pro at New York Athletic Club, is a big doubles fan and as we shared a beer or two on the Edinburgh gallery he spoke in absolute awe of the transition from singles to doubles (and rock star) undertaken by Paul Price, the Aussie who was runner-up to David Evans in the 2000 British Open.

Pat said: "Price hits shots you simply wouldn't believe. He is one of the guys taking the sport to a new level for spectators." 

I must admit I'm a fully paid-up convert to Gary Waite's ideas. I absolutely adore hardball doubles and would love to get some new events going. It's just a shame that the guy who runs the ISDA pro tour in North America did not have the courtesy to respond to my emails when I wrote to suggest bringing over some of the top American players for an International Challenge in Edinburgh. The idea is still coming together, but I guess I'd stand more chance of a reply if I wrote to Mr Waite.

Source: The Globe and Mail

Website link:


Best wishes to popular referee Linda Davie, who is in hospital waiting for an operation. She had been planning to join us at The Mote Classic this weekend but an appointment with the surgeon obviously takes priority! I look forward to buying her a haggis lunch as soon as she is up and about again.

4th June

Good luck to Scott Garrett and his WSF Olympic Bid Team as they prepare for their final presentation to the IOC in Lausanne next week.

Each of the seven sports bidding for a place in the 2016 Olympic Games has just half an hour in front of the IOC panel.

Squash's presentation will include a new film recently commissioned by Garrett, and his team will include women's world champion Nicol David and a number of Squash 2016 ambassadors.

The new IOC election process for new sports means that in August their Executive Board will announce two candidates to go forward to the final vote in Copenhagen in October, when they will face a straight Yes or No verdict.

The success of the recent Squash 2016 Day programme raised the profile of the sport all over the planet and may well have helped to generate extra votes in our favour.

Anyone looking in from outside cannot have failed to notice the global spread of the events, and how most activities were geared towards juniors, who may well be at the peak of their careers in 2016 and, hopefully, bidding for an Olympic medal.


A new tournament emerges this week with the launch of The Mote Classic Pro-Am at my home club, The Mote Squash Club in Maidstone, the county town of Kent.

Sixteen locals play off in a qualifying round on Thursday night with the eight winners gaining the opportunity to tackle eight professionals in Friday's first round.

Kent county coach Ben Ford, the No.4 seed, will be assured of local support as he bids for success in the inaugural tournament. The top two seeds are Chris Ryder (Herts) and Australia's Aaron Frankcomb, ranked 36 and 42 respectively in the latest PSA world rankings.

Third seed is Malaysia's Mohamed Nafizwan Adnan, followed by Ford, Scottish No.1 Alan Clyne, Adnan's brother Nafzahizan, and rising Derbyshire star Joel Hinds and Cambridgeshire's shotmaker extraordinaire Galen Le Cheminant.

Qualifiers who are hoping to impress include Ireland's Rob Staunton, Kent county player Neil Baker (from Sittingbourne) and the immensely promising 13-year-old James Evans, who is now playing for the host club's first team. Evans will be playing fellow Kent youngster Elliot Knight in a Junior Challenge ahead of Sunday's final.

This is the final tournament in a busy season at The Mote, which has hosted the Kent County Closed, the four-tournament Kent Grand Prix Series and a sell-out Prince Roadshow featuring Peter Nicol and Tim Garner.

The tournament is sponsored by Harrow rackets and Britain's oldest brewery, the Faversham-based Shepherd Neame.

The event will feature coaching clinics for women and juniors and we are delighted to have attracted such a quality draw in our first year.

Our ambition is to develop the tournament into an annual ranking event but at the same time we are determined to promote grass-roots squash and give local players the opportunity to rub shoulders with the leading professionals.

Tournament schedule

Thursday: Qualifying competition (6pm)
Friday: First round (6pm)
Saturday: Quarter-finals (11am and 12 noon) and semi-finals (5pm and
6pm) plus Plate competition, doubles and tournament party.
Sunday: Doubles semi-finals and final, Plate Final, Junior Challenge and Main Final.


28th May


Iran and the USA joined forces last week. The two nations came to the fore in a red-letter day for squash. Both countries created high-profile events for Squash 2016 Day during a worldwide festival to promote the sport’s efforts to win a place in the 2016 Olympic Games.

And, what an amazing day it turned out to be, with hundreds of events all over the globe helping to raise the profile of the sport.

 From Bollywood to Hollywood, from Soweto to San Francisco, from China to Chile, from Auckland to Amsterdam, Squash 2016 Day recorded a resounding rallying cry for the Olympic Bid.

Several key messages were obvious to any onlooker from the IOC. First, the images that emerged from all over the world proved that squash is a truly global sport. And, equally important, was the message that we as a sporting family are totally united in our passion to see squash become an Olympic sport. 


Probably the best-attended event in our global programme was in Tehran, where the Iran Squash Federation invited 600 guests to their Squash Day Conference.

Visitors included Dr Ali Abadi, President of the International Olympic Committee of Iran.

Olympic ambassadors Samantha Teran and Siyoli Lusaseni were busy both on and of court. Samantha led a host of events at different clubs all over Mexico City and then invited everyone back to her family’s nightclub to party away to the small hours.

In Cape Town, South Africa, Villager Squash Club hosted a "Last Man Standing" Tournament. It turned out that the tournament should have been titled "Last Person Standing" since a woman, Siyoli, was crowned the Champion after five hours of squash and 24 games with different opponents. 


The event with biggest number of participants was held at the Apawamis Club in Rye, New York, where squash legends Jonathon Power, David Palmer and John White took part in a 100-a-side Battle Of The Border fixture, joined by US number ones Julian Illingworth and Natalie Grainger.

They were joined by fellow pros from around the world including David Palmer, Bernardo Samper, Rafael Alarcon, Raj Nanda, Chris Walker, John Russell, Ryan Cuskelly, Mike Ferreira, Stuart Crawford, Mark Price, Phil Barker, Peter Briggs, Suzie Pierrepont, Kasey Brown, Lisa Camillieri and Narelle Krizek.

World No.2 Grainger, a Squash 2016 Ambassador, said: "It was fantastic to see so many leading players supporting the event and more than 500 people came through the club's doors on the day. The event raised money for the bid, showcased squash in the most positive way and helped to raise the profile of the sport."


I spotted Aussie legends Geoff Hunt and Sarah Fitzgerald in the front row of the group picture taken at the start of the Ninth World Squash Coaching and Development Conference in Hong Kong.

Guests included the Hon. Timothy Fok, IOC Member and President of the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China, who delivered a very encouraging speech to all the participants of the conference in support of World Squash Day (Squash for 2016).

Mr. Gerald DeCourcy, Vice-President of the World Squash Federation and Mr. David Mui, Chairman of Hong Kong Squash accompanied Mr. Fok in a group photo with all the participants from around the world.


As well as a series of open days to showcase the sport and attract new participants, squash lovers took to the streets the world over to honour our request to create a collection of photographic images at some of the world’s most iconic locations.

Pictures were uploaded showing enthusiasts waving their Squash For 2016 banners outside the Taj Mahal, Sydney Opera House, Table Mountain, the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Millennium Park in Chicago, the Angel of Independence in Mexico City, a Japanese castle, plus a variety of London landmarks. 


My favourite set of pictures came from the West Coast of the USA, where a group of youngsters from Surf City Squash, an urban youth programme in San Diego, took to the beach.

The students designed a giant squash racket, Olympic rings, and a ball in the sand on the beach providing the many beachgoers an opportunity to learn about the sport and the effort to make it an Olympic sport.


The day began with Kiwi rock star Phil Buscke of The Datsuns performing a bungee jump live on TV – not once, but twice (!) - off Auckland Harbour Bridge, and then heading for the squash courts for a live TV link alongside Shelley Kitchen and Dame Susan Devoy.

Another mega music star to join the fun was Brazilian Daniela Mercury, who joined the carnival atmosphere at Squash Day in Sao Paulo.


Another pair of musicians, more renowned for their involvement in squash, climbed aboard a red London bus to join a group of squash fans on a tour of the city, stopping off to take pictures at the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral, the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace. We knocked and asked if we could pop in for a game on the palace court, but the very understanding footman was having none of it, despite our explanation that Prince Philip was Patron of England Squash and wouldn’t mind us setting up an impromptu round-robin.

Who were our mystery musicians, I hear you ask? None other than Danny Lee, who plays in a band alongside producing his famed St George’s Hill Academy, and World Squash Media Director Howard Harding, who plays trumpet in a jazz band. Another passenger on the bus has written a musical and is about to start rehearsals, but has asked to remain anonymous until the project’s media launch!


The Malaysians outdid the Londoners with a 16-vehicle motorcade, supported by four police outriders, making its way to seven iconic buildings in Kuala Lumpur (including the Parliament House, National Museum, Sultan Samad Building, City Hall, Royal Selangor Club, KL Tower and Petronas Twin Towers) where group photographs were taken.

The day rounded off in sensational style with a press conference at which CIMB Investment Bank announced a 4 Million Malaysian Ringgit sponsorship deal with the Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia to extend the current agreement by a further two years.

"Never in the history of squash in Malaysia had we witnessed the entire squash fraternity nationwide coming together to support a worthy cause,"

commented K. Sivanesen, Hon. Secretary of SRA Malaysia. "All through the length and breadth of the country, Squash For 2016 Day was a day of squash festivities, fun and joy."

Malaysia’s world champion Nicol David hosted a special day at her Amsterdam training base, along with fellow pros Annelize Naude and Aisling Blake. She then joined a video link back home to her Squash Stars friends in Penang, where an auction of her favourite rackts and clothing raised a tidy sum towards the Olympic Bid Fund.


The Japanese Squash Federation did a great job arranging an extensive programme throughout the country, including a major media conference in Tokyo, which is bidding to be one of the host cities for the 2016 Olympics.


By the far most exhausted supporters of Squash 2016 day were those hardy individuals at the Lenadura Club in Punta Arenas, Chile, and like-minded gluttons for punishment at the Thurles Squash Club in Tipperary, Ireland, led by club No.1 Anthony Maher, who played 24-hour squash marathons.


I have now run out of time and space to mention every event that took place. Well done to everybody for supporting the events and especially those who organised them.

The day generated enormous publicity, much of it in the all-important Olympic media segment, which was always one of our main targets.

We know that our efforts were noticed by several prominent individuals within the IOC, who cannot fail to have absorbed two key messages, namely that squash is a truly global sport and that our leading players have a burning desire to part of the Olympics.

With that kind of commitment to the cause, squash absolutely deserves a place in the Games.

Now we must hope that the energy and passion so evidently on display last week helps to build the momentum as the bid process draws to a climax.

To see all the Squash 2016 Day action, images and TV clips, please log on to:

It will make you proud.


21st May

Squash 2016 Day Unites Players In Support Of Olympic Bid


From the townships of Soweto to many of the world's wealthiest cities, from the southern tip of South America to the edge of the Arctic Circle, squash players all over the globe are uniting to support their sport's bid for a place in the 2016 Olympic Games.


Squash 2016 Day takes place on Saturday (May 23) with a worldwide festival of Olympic-themed events.


Special emphasis is focused on the four cities bidding to host the 2016 Games, with extensive squash programmes scheduled to take place in Chicago, Madrid, Rio and Tokyo.


All four cities will be holding open-air demonstrations and open days at major clubs with top professionals lending a hand.


Squash 2016 fever has caught on all over the world and the day launches in New Zealand with rock star Phil Buscke, guitarist with The Datsuns, wearing his Squash 2016 T-shirt as he does a bungee jump from Auckland Harbour Bridge live on TV.


Clubs big and small are joining forces as the sport aims to raise its profile ahead of the crucial IOC voting process.


Pimville Squash Club in Soweto is holding an open day, with hundreds of local children taking to the courts for a free introduction to the sport.





Women's world champion Nicol David and England No1 Nick Matthew are backing the bid in style.


David, the 25-year-old world No1 from Malaysia, is holding an auction of her prized tournament memorabilia in her home city of Penang.


World No6 Matthew, meanwhile, is heading to Milan for the Five Nations Tournament with his Sheffield Hallamshire team taking Squash 2016 banners, flags and T-shirts to the Polisquash Sports Club.





Squash buses will be taking to the streets in London and the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, where squash enthusiasts will be waving their banners and posing for pictures in front of iconic locations such as Buckingham Palace and the Petronas Towers.


At the end of the day, Squash 2016 Day organisers will have amassed an amazing collection of images from all over the world, which will help to illustrate squash's truly global appeal.





Some Bollywood-style photo opportunities are being planned in India, with squash fans descending on the Taj Mahal, Agra, and also the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, which was attacked by terrorists in November last year.  There are further Squash 2016 activities all over India, with events taking place in Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi and Kolkata.


In America, a host of events are taking place all over the country, with squash fans waving banners and flags in front of the world famous Hollywood sign in Los Angeles.


Elsewhere, squash legends Jonathon Power and John White will be taking part alongside women's world No2 Natalie Grainger in the 100-a-side Battle of The Border match at the Apawamis Club in Connecticut.





Two 24-hour marathons are being held, one at the Leñadura Country Club at the southern Chilean city of Punta Arenas, and the other at Thurles Squash Club in County Tipperary, Ireland.



For further information on Squash 2016 Day activities, please log on to:


For information on the World Squash Federation Olympic bid, please go to:


14th May

Awesome news arrives from New Zealand, where The Datsuns guitarist Phil Buscke is doing a bungee jump off Auckland Harbour Bridge (live on TV) to launch Squash For 2016 Day in style on May 23.

Phil Buscke, a guitarist with New Zealand hard rock band The Datsuns, will be dressed in his Squash For 2016 T-shirt as he does a bungee jump from Auckland Harbour Bridge.

Buscke, who used to play A grade squash in New Zealand and was a member of the Kiwis' high performance squad before The Datsuns gained international fame, says he is determined to help raise the profile of the game in its crucial build-up to the Olympic voting process.

Phil said: "I've been asked to do a lot of things by Squash New Zealand in the past, but I never thought they'd ask me to jump off a bridge."

On the Olympic bid, he added: "All I can say is, if I'm throwing myself off a bridge, squash had better bloody well get in!"

On splitting his time between recording and touring with The Datsuns and playing squash, he said: "I don't get much time to play when I'm overseas, but I'm planning to spend a bit more time at home in future and would like to do a bit of coaching."


Squash 2016 Day on May 23 is a fun-filled worldwide festival of activities to promote the Olympic bid and attract new participants to the sport. Major events are taking place all over the globe with special focus on the four cities bidding to host the 2016 Games, namely Chicago, Madrid, Rio and Tokyo.


In Malaysia, women's world number one Nicol David will be involved in a Squash Open Day at the International Squash Centre in her home town of Penang in a collaboration between Squash Rackets Association of Malaysia and Squash Stars. Nicol will be auctioning off itemsof clothing and equipment she wore and used on her way to to 50 WISPA titles - and event organiser Elaine Tan writes to say she is holding a competition on Facebook to come up with the cleverest idea of how to celebrate if squash wins one of the two coveted places in the 2016 Olympics. Elaine herself has written: "If squash is voted in to the 2016 Olympics, I pledge to jump off the tallest building in my country (the Petronas Towers)." That effort will take some beating!


In the USA, squash legends Jonathon Power and John White will be appearing in the 100-a-side Battle Of The Border match at the Apawamis Club in Connecticut. Also there will be women's world No2 Natalie Grainger, fresh from her appearance in the final of the Cayman Islands Open.

Squash will also be getting the Hollywood treatment in Los Angeles, where the local squash community are planning a massive day of activities.

Jack Farley writes:

There are also many… MANY more events being planned across the states in Los Angeles, Seattle, St. Louis, Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, Boston, and New York City… to name just a few geographically scattered across the 3,000-mile span here stateside. All our Urban city youth groups, our colleges and high schools, our public and private clubs and every US Squash member is focused on making a memorable contribution to the worldwide event… Olympic squash in 2016 being the ultimate goal!!

All will have T-shirt adorned mobs with rackets in hand saluting Squash

2016 Day… with pictures galore posted on

Los Angeles: Banners in front of Hollywood sign and Universal Studios Stefan Casteleyn, former world No.7 PSA player and 14-time Belgian National Champion, now the Head Squash Professional at the prestigious Los Angeles Athletic Club, is planning a FREE full-day of squash activities in support of SQUASH FOR 2016, which includes a one day "wooden racket" tournament, a refereeing seminar and professional squash exhibitions.


New York: Squash 2016 Day gala to be held at the brand new facility in Rye, NY (five glass wall singles and two doubles courts).

CitySquash is thrilled to participate in the festivities of World Squash Day. That weekend, CitySquash will have its Bronx students playing at locations all around the NY area, including StreetSquash, Rye Country Day School, Hackley School and Fordham University.

StreetSquash in New York City will be hosting a middle school squash tourney for Urban Programs at their new 8 court facility. We plan to have press cover this event and have a potential US Congress member be the chief guest. Every kid will be given a Squash for 2016 T-Shirt.

Thank You for the shirts we just received them today.


The Life Time Fitness Group will be supporting World Squash Day, with events at all 23 clubs in the group.

They say: "We will open our doors in 23 centers across the US to members and non-members at 11am and hosting games of skill that players of all ages and skill can enjoy. We will have a World Squash Day register that all will sign in on that will be sent to US Squash for inclusion in the road to the 2016 Olympics."

Go to to see all of the participating centers.


England Squash are supporting the Bid in solid style, and Paul Lynch and his marketing team have created a superb Squash 2016 Day Tool Kit and Media Pack to help any club who wishes to stage an event.

As the crucial Olympic voting process draws near, why miss out on this amazing opportunity to do something special to support the bid and show your passion for our brilliant game at a time when your support is needed most?


Squash fans will be taking to the streets in a number of cities, including London, to wave Squash For 2016 Day banners in front of iconic buildings such as the Tower of London, the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace.

With similar activities taking place at key locations all over the world, we hope to build up a massive bank of images which will clearly illustrate squash's global appeal, which is one of the key messages of the sport's bid for Olympic inclusion."


Special T-shirts will be on sale featuring the Squash 2016 logo, with proceeds from each sale supporting the Bid Fund. Orders can be placed with Kentbridge Sports via - while T-shirt sales in the USA are being co-ordinated by the Harrow brand via their website


In London, Cecily Lewis says: "I'm running an event at X-cel, Elmbridge Leisure Centre, Riverside Drive, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey. An afternoon of demos, tournaments, goody-bags, and lots of fun for beginners, intermediates and the very advanced!

 From Tynemouth SC: "We'll be having a full day of activities, something on every hour from 9am to 9pm for members and non-members of all ages and standards."

 From Strings in Swansea: "We will be getting involved with Lots of fun activities planned! Let's raise some money! Squash at 2016 - Bring it on!"


Please let us know and log on to to upload preview material about your event, and post news and pictures on the day as an amazing day for squash unfolds across all the different time zones.

Clubs can register their Squash 2016 Day events on the World Squash Federation website (or go direct to and will have the opportunity to make instant donations to the Olympic Bid Fund.


7th May
Alan Thatcher trawls the web to find some fascinating features on squash this week.


Fascinating to read an interview with James Willstrop this week on his training methods.

The interview, published in the superb runners' website, featured James's thoughts on running and plyometrics

James Willstrop on plyometrics training

England’s James Willstrop is the world No.5 squash player. The 25-year-old star of the high-energy racket sport chatted to about the importance of plyometrics as part of his overall training.

Squash is a physically demanding sport do you have to carry out a lot of running as part of your training?

JW: I don’t do much running. Perhaps years ago (I would have done a lot of running) but the way training has evolved squash is a very specific sport. I’m not saying running wouldn’t be good, because it can good for general fitness and cardio, but it just lacks specificity. We do a lot of endurance work but more specific to the squash court.

Can you give some examples?

JW: If you want to do a hard endurance session a lot of squash is about running in short bursts and twisting and turning. The most specific thing would be to do ghosting work where you are basically hitting the ball without actually hitting the ball. You can do intervals in a minute or a minute and a half because squash takes in both those areas because it is endurance and explosive. That (session) would be more specific to squash.

Don’t you do any running?

JW: Very rarely. The only time I ever run is when I go trail running in Colorado. I find it much safer in terms of impact. Trail running offers stepping, side-stepping a lot of awareness of your body and stability which is incredibly important for squash because your body is being dragged around the court.

What about plyometric work?

JW: Definitely, it is very, very important. I do plyometrics alongside strength work. I jump onto boxes and jump. This helps me because I do a lot of forward and backward movement trying to go take control of the middle of the court into the T area. I work very hard on plyometrics because it is not very natural to me.

How many times a week?

JW: I do some sort of plyometric training during my warm ups. I often incorporate it into my strength training, so if I do a weight’s session I’ll often do a plyometric exercise. Often it is intermingled into different sessions.

Did you much athletics when you were younger?

JW: It is a sport which really interests me. My physio, Alison Rose (former physio to double Olympic champion Kelly Holmes), is into athletics and I keep informed through her. I really enjoy watching athletics and see a lot of athletes around at the EIS (English Institute of Sport) in Sheffield. I think they are unspoilt and I watch the big meets if I can.

Do you do much athletics when you were younger?

JW: I was never really quick enough to be a sprinter, but I remember doing the 400m, 800m and 1500m and I enjoyed those. I remember coming second at school, I’m a big bloke I’m not really a runners’ build. I was okay, and I was pretty decent at cross country. I had a go at shot put and javelin. I don’t think I stood out but the middle distances were my best events.

Did you have track and field heroes when you were younger?

JW: During the early 1990s I remember watching Liz McColgan and Linford

(Christie) and Sally Gunnell were winning their Olympic gold medals.

I’ve always watched all sports and I remember Carl Lewis being the best in the world.


Great to hear that the lovely Leilani Rorani is planning a comeback to the courts.

The former World Open and British Open champion has whetted her appetite after coaching New Zealander Joelle King and has enjoyed the experience so much that she is keen to start playing again.

The following article by Evan Pegden appeared in the Wakato Times last week.

Seven years after retiring from top squash, former world champion Leilani Rorani will return to the court in the Waikato Squash Open tomorrow night.

But if the unthinkable happens and she reaches the final, the Hamilton mother-of-three will forgo it - her religious beliefs prevent her from playing on Sundays.

Rorani, 35, has been seeded third in the women's open division of the ASB Waikato Open but denies this is a serious comeback at national or international level.

"It's just been about getting back into shape again," Rorani, who also won two British Open titles and two Commonwealth Games gold medals, said today.

"Our youngest is 18 months old now so I'm more able to play in tournaments now. With my goal to get back into shape, I found one of the best ways was to just get back into playing squash again.

"I don't play on a Sunday any more so I'm seeded up against girls who hopefully will be able to beat me on a Saturday night."

Her first match tomorrow at the Hamilton Squash and Tennis Club will be against 14th-seeded Danielle Fourie.

"It's amazing how far experience can get you it can get you through a lot. I've still got some fitness there, certainly not as much speed as before, but we're actually working on that."

With the North Island championships, also to be held in Hamilton in June, along with the Mitchell Cup/Cousins Shield tournament later in the year, Rorani intends to play in all of them, as well as a couple of tournaments in Auckland and the New Zealand masters championships in Whakatane.

"I'm just picking and choosing tournaments as it suits around my family commitments."

Rorani, who retired in 2002, said she had been playing socially since the start of the year, but inspiration to play at tournament level had come from her mentoring of Cambridge's New Zealand No 4 Joelle King.

"Hitting against her has pretty much given me the confidence that I can play in some tournaments and not make a complete fool of myself on court, although we played an exhibition earlier this month and she absolutely thrashed me in three (games).

"It was a really fun experience, I was really happy to be there and it made me feel like I'd like to play some tournaments."

King is top seed in the absence of the injured Kiwi No1 Shelley Kitchin for this weekend's tournament, which starts tonight, while New Zealand

No2 Martin Knight is the men's top seed.


30th April

Shawn DeLierre and Shahier Razik have been involved in another marathon match.

Earlier this season they met in the semi-finals of the Baltimore Cup and De Lierre won 9-11, 8-11, 11-7, 13-11, 11-5 in two hours and 30 minutes, a record match length since the PSA switched their scoring system to PAR-11.

This time the Toronto-based Razik defeated Brossard, Quebec man DeLierre to win the Canadian Squash Circuit men's overall title in Calgary for a fourth consecutive year. Amazingly, it took almost an hour and a half for three games!

Razik, Canada's No. 1 player and ranked 29th in the world, defeated DeLierre 9-11, 14-12, 11-7 in 87 minutes. I would be interested to learn if that's a record for three games.

"We play so much and know each other's game so well that they tend to be long matches, " said Razik. "They are not fun matches, I can tell you. In the first game I was too anxious and trying to attack too early. I settled at about the halfway point of the second game. " Razik is pleased with his game heading into the Canadian Championships in Calgary.

"I'm really happy with where I'm at after all the training, " said Razik. "I feel good and I'm moving well on the court. "

In the third-place match, Robin Clarke of Ottawa defeated David Phillips of Pointe-Claire, Quebec, 12-10, 10-12, 11-5.

In the women's final Runa Reta beat Miranda Ranieri of Waterloo, Ontario.


Bucks Ladies team unbeaten

A LADIES team from Bucks Squash and Racket Club have challenged the misconception that it's a sport for youngster - with an age range of 55 years, they have just gone unbeaten through their season to win their league.

The team, including grannies (including one over 70) as well as schoolgirls, playing in the Buckinghamshire County League Division Two, won every one of their matches during the 2008/9 season and finished top of their League.

The age range of 55 years between the youngest and oldest team member has not stopped the team having a great deal of fun – as well as playing some exciting squash.

The squad of nine players consists of schoolgirl Sarah Wyatt, university student Elisha Walia, therapist Janet Copp, mothers Debbie Hill, Angie Stockwell, and Maria Power (with eight children between them), captain Marian Holmes, and grannies Brenda Ede (with one daughter and two grandchildren) and Hazel Malpass (with two daughters and five grandchildren).

So, ladies – if you fancy joining in this great way of getting exercise while you have fun, get in touch with your nearest squash club. It's a lot cheaper and much more fun than those boring gym clubs.

Source: Bucks Free Press


23rd April
Whole new ball game for Palmer Top of Page

Fascinating news from the NZ Herald – Canary Wharf champion David Palmer has been invited to perform a specialist coaching role – in rugby union!

Palmer, one of the fittest players on the PSA Tour (hence his nickname The Marine), has been approached by the Wallabies’ coach Robbie Deans to undertake a conditioning role with his players.

Hungry for any edge over the All Blacks, Deans is hoping Palmer’s phenomenal experience will help to stop the Wallabies’ second-half fade-outs. Deans, a squash fanatic who plays A grade in Sydney, reckons Palmer is the man to solve the problem.

With the annual trans-Tasman series locked at 1-1 last year, the Wallabies established useful leads over the All Blacks in the third and fourth Bledisloe Cup Tests only to be over-run in the closing quarter of an hour in both games.

Palmer is revered on the world squash tour for his remarkable stamina, a quality Deans is hoping to instil in the Wallabies in his second season in charge.

The idea of calling on his expertise arose when former world No.1 Palmer gave Deans the runaround on court at the Sydney Football Stadium complex.

For training, Palmer has been known to complete the beep test - a torturous multi-phase fitness drill often used by footballers - five times back-to-back with just a three-minute break in between each.

"It's bloody hard, one of the hardest things I've ever done physically and mentally," Palmer said.

"But that's what squash is all about; it's about being pushed to your max and how fast you can recover and how many times you can go to that breaking point and keep coming back."

Deans said some Palmer punishment was just what his Wallabies needed.

"Teach them about perseverance; how do you keep going when your legs are gone. That's what our blokes need to learn," Deans told AAP.

"Staying composed when fatigue strikes. It's a big advantage. The strength is minimising that recovery time.

"No doubt squash is actually one of the better forms of conditioning for rugby because of the footwork and the qualities David alluded to; perseverance, spatial awareness, mental resilience - intimidation is a big part of it.

"There's nothing better. It's actually great for defensive technique as well."

Palmer, who has done some work with NRL heavyweights the Melbourne Storm, said he would love to assist the Wallabies when there was a break in his schedule.

"Definitely," he said. "I follow the Wallabies, the sports are similar: they're non-stop, there's no breaks, it's up and down.

"There's so many different aspects to squash. Its endurance, its speed, there's flexibility, there's tactics, there's the mental side - the tactical intimidation.

"It's like playing chess at a million miles an hour. It's not like other sports where you get time to think about your shot. It's so fast it's such a reflex instinct type of game.

"Using the squash type of training in rugby would be beneficial."

Derek Sword Trophy

The annual Derek Sword Trophy match takes place next weekend with the London and New York teams heading for Edinburgh Sports Club.

This year's fixture takes on a new dimension with an International Hardball Doubles Challenge on the doubles court at ESC. I am reliably informed by squash historian James Zug that this is the only full-sized doubles court in Europe.

Needless to say the London team are looking forward to doing their best against their more experienced opponents from the US, where most clubs seem to have at least one doubles court. My research across the pond reveals that the doubles court is usually the busiest of all the courts at most clubs in North America.

Once again there will be a mixture of abilities in this unique fixture, with the number one face-off likely to be John Russell, now coaching in New York, against his old junior rival Toby Mortimer.


The Views And Opinions Expressed In This Column Are Not Necessarily The Views Of or Squash Player Magazine

Contact Alan with your views or opinions

17th April

Squash For 2016 Day is rapidly approaching, and a dedictate team of volunteers are busy co-ordinating events in cities all over the world to maximise publicity (and help the Bid Team to raise funds) as we approach the crucial vote in Copenhagen later this year.

If any of you don't know what Squash 2016 Day is, it's a special day on May 23rd when squash lovers all over the world can unite in one global festival of fun and activities to raise the profile of our sport and organise all kinds of events to boost the Olympic bid.

The crucial target is to raise awarenesss of squash's Olympic bid in the four cities bidding to host the 2016 Games, namely Chicago, Madrid, Rio and Tokyo.

Elsewhere, we want to see traffic-stopping events taking place in major cities all over the globe, with squash lovers descending on major buildings and iconic locations to have pictures taken of them waving their Squash For 2016 banners.

A dedicated website has been established for event organisers to upload forthcoming news of their events, to share ideas for activities with the global squash community, and then to upload reports and pictures of their events as they happen on the big day.

That way we are able to gather a massive collection of fantastic images which we will then draw to the attention of the world media.

It's so simple yet sadly the hard part is persuading some clubs, associations and even national governing bodies to get involved and back the bid.

Here in the UK, we are planning a day of action in London, meeting in Greenwich Park and then moving upriver to the city to have pictures taken at locations including the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, St Paul's Cathedral, Covent Garden, the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace.

If you would like to bring along a group to join in, then please contact me at

Please feel free to download the banner and logo featured alongside this article to create your own material.


Some amazing events are being planned all over the world to support Squash For 2016 Day, and my old mate Wolfgang Denk from McWil Courts is busy planning a special day in Austria. Every club in Viennna is holding an open day on May 23rd, supported by the city authorities, and Wolfgang is very keen to attract newcomers to the sport.

In Lithuania, Andrius Voisnis is organising the SEB Arena Open for professional and amateur players.

Over in the States, some massive events are being planned in Chicago, Washington, Los Angeles and New York, and we look forward to posting fuller details in next week's column.


If you want to get involved, and can't find out who to talk to, then please drop me a line at the email address listed above. Together we can do something special for our sport.


2nd April

First of all a big thank you to all those squash fans who have called or emailed to say how much they enjoyed this year’s ISS Canary Wharf Squash Classic.

The sixth edition of the tournament was undoubtedly the best, with the quality of squash reaching phenomenal levels for the sell-out crowds who packed the superb East Wintergarden venue each evening.

David Palmer proved in his semi-final against Gregory Gaultier and in the final against James Willstrop that he can still produce squash of the highest calibre at the age of 32. His family move to Boston has clearly given him a new lease of life and a continuing hunger to stay in shape to compete with all the young bucks around him.

At one stage last year, probably during his transitional phase from Europe to the USA, he showed signs of slowing down, but that is clearly no longer the case.

He announced after his Canary Wharf success that he was looking forward to a long summer holiday to rest his body but admitted that he will be keeping his eye in by exploring the delights of hardball doubles at the Boston University club, where he has clearly found a secure, welcoming and comfortable new base.

Another senior citizen of the PSA Tour, Thierry Lincou, demonstrated the same kind of quality and professionalism as Palmer the previous week to reach the final of the ATCO Super Series Finals at Queen’s Club, where he lost to his compatriot Gaultier.

Lincou was 33 on April 2 and he and Palmer share the same demands of juggling family and fatherhood responsibilities with their commitment to the major tournaments.

Lincou lost from 2-0 up at Canary Wharf to the rapidly improving Spaniard Borja Golan and admitted that he was still feeling the effects of a tough week at Queen’s. Golan, amazingly, won the final 10 points in the fifth game from 4-1 down and it was no surprise to see him up to a career-best 12th place in the latest rankings.

Willstrop, meanwhile, left Canary Wharf facing the prospect of an operation to remove a bone spur on an ankle and still wondering how and why he served out at 6-6 in the fourth game, having produced a massive recovery after looking doomed to defeat after narrowly losing the opening two games and trailing 6-1 in the third.

It was the first time that a Canary Wharf final had not gone to five games but the crowd were fully appreciative of the efforts of both players, and their ability to deliver such high quality entertainment at the end of a tough week.

Both men had staged phenomenal recoveries to win their semi-finals, Willstrop playing brilliantly to beat top seed Amr Shabana from 2-1 down and Palmer fighting back from 2-0 down against Gaultier. With the Frenchman winning the second game 11-1, you would have bet your house on Gaultier winning the match.

Good job I’m no gambler, as I recently proved by wagering that Aston Villa would finish above Arsenal in the Premier League table this season, with the wager foolishly struck when Villa enjoyed an eight-point advantage over the Gunners!


I am delighted to report some amazing efforts being made to stage massive events all over the planet on May 23rd as squash enthusiasts unite to support Squash For 2016 Day.

I can sense a genuine belief that some squash sceptics now believe our sport has a real chance of being voted into the 2016 Olympic Games, and events are taking place all over the world to support the bid and raise funds for the process.

News reaches me of massive events being planned for Chicago, Washington, London, Madrid and Manchester, with many more cities still to finalise their plans.

It is imperative that squash puts on a good show in the four cities battling to stage the 2016 Games, namely Chicago, Madrid, Rio and Tokyo, and I look forward to helping the latter two cities formulate their plans to capture some valuable headlines.

Two Facebook groups have attracted more than 3,000 members, so please log on to the World Squash Movement, where you can make an online donation, and the Squash For 2016 Day group, where you can share ideas for staging a spectacular day of action.

You can choose whether to host an exhibition day at your local club, or take to the streets to organise traffic-stopping events and have the Squash For 2016 banners photographed in front of iconic locations all over the world.

Here in London, we are planning to meet near the Royal Greenwich Observatory, and then head for the Dome and Canary Wharf, before moving up-river to the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, City Hall, the Globe Theatre, Tate Modern, St Paul’s Cathedral, then carry on up my old stamping ground in Fleet Street and on up the Strand to Covent Garden, the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace.

We would love to have a collection of images unfolding throughout the day, from the mountains of New Zealand, on to Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, the Taj Mahal, The Burj El Arab Hotel in Dubai, Sugar Loaf Mountain, the Great Pyramids, the Kremlin, St Peter’s Square in Rome, the Eiffel Tower, Buckingham Palace, the White House, and Niagara Falls – and every other major location in between.


With Canary Wharf following the PSA Super Series Finals in a bonanza of squash for London fans, I was asked to contribute an article on squash to the website. Permission was granted for us to reproduce the article here.


As squash rallies hard for a place in the 2016 Olympic Games, the sport is punching above its weight as it seeks to outdo heavyweights like golf, rugby and baseball in the build-up to the crucial IOC vote in Copenhagen in October.

Sports Illustrated ran a poll in its last issue and rated squash as second favourite behind golf to get the nod.

Squash may be viewed by many as a minority sport, but the World Squash Federation claims that the sport is played by more than 20 million players in 175 countries. This is one of the seven Key Points at the heart of their Olympic bid.

Having sacked their Chief Executive last year, the WSF surprised the squash fraternity by making an ambitious appointment with an experienced marketing man, Scott Garrett, being given the task to head up the Olympic bid.

To support the bid, a massive global squash festival is taking place when Squash 2016 Day is held on May 23 as clubs all over the world open their doors to promote the sport and push the Olympic message.

Squash is still smarting at missing out on the 2012 Olympics in London, where the sport originated at Harrow School.

This week saw the culmination of the PSA Super Series at Queen’s Club, followed by the ISS Canary Wharf Classic, which takes place next week from March 23-27 and is attracting sell-out crowds each night to the stylish East Wintergarden venue.

This year’s Canary Wharf tournament has attracted eight of the world top ten to one of the game’s premier venues, which boats a jumbo screen above the front wall of the glass court. A gallery restaurant and VIP Bar overlooking the glass court make it an excellent model for corporate hospitality.

All of this paints a rosy picture for professional squash, with major world ranking events taking place on glass-courts in similarly stunning locations which include New York’s Grand Central Station, Boston Symphony Hall, Hong Kong Harbour, the historic St George’s Hall in Liverpool, and a breathtaking open-air amphitheatre at the foot of the Great Pyramids in Egypt. Plans have also been mooted to hold new events at Sydney Opera House and Niagara Falls.

Sadly, all this is against a backdrop of court closures and a resultant reduction in participation numbers here in the UK.

A number of entrepreneurs who helped to fashion the squash boom in the 70s and 80s by building a wave of new clubs very quickly shut them down and sold them off when rising property prices gave them a sound return on their investments.

Another major problem for squash has been the behaviour of predatory gym clubs. I went on to BBC South-East TV a couple of years ago to complain about the “rape” of our sport by the health and fitness chains who buy squash clubs and fill the courts with treadmills or demolish them altogether to make room for swimming pools.

London has been hit particularly hard, with iconic clubs disappearing one by one. The old Wembley Squash Centre, scene of so many epic battles in the Jonah Barrington era, was first to go, followed by the City Squash club off Commercial Road.

Cannons Club, which launched underneath the arches of Cannon Street Station with ten courts and later added its own glass showcourt, has only three courts left. Bromley Town, which once boasted 17 courts and a superb show court which hosted two British Opens, has also had its heart ripped out by the Cannons business machine and is left with five courts.

Last year saw the disappearance of Lambs Club, described by squash legend Jahangir Khan as the best club in the world. Despite the club’s 700 squash members mounting a fierce campaign and lodging numerous protests against the planning application, Islington Council finally swept them aside and voted through plans to build a block of flats on the site.

Another fight rages as the squash members at the nearby Sobell Centre battle with the same local authority to prevent their courts disappearing. And so it goes on as local councils chant the same mantra as the health chains in demanding revenue per square metre instead of serving the needs of their members.

I fully understand the business logic that tells me half a dozen gym machines might generate more revenue per hour than two squash players occupying the same floor space, but many other factors are overlooked by the number crunchers.

First of all, solitary gym work is probably the most boring of any exercise activity known to man and explains why so many members give up after a few weeks, meaning that clubs have to employ a large sales team to pester local residents to sign up.

Squash players, by contrast, are extremely loyal and the average annual drop-off in membership at many clubs is often less than 10 per cent.

Most importantly, squash members demand that the club becomes their social hub, so they will spend more money over the bar than all your gym members combined. Add a decent club shop and they will also buy their rackets, shoes and squash clothing in-house.

As chairman of the Kent SRA, I am mounting campaigns to build more courts all over the county to replace a long list of defunct clubs, including Henwood at Ashford (10 courts), Dreamland at Margate (6), Howdens in Beckenham (10), Harveys (6) and the Y Centre (5) both in Maidstone.

The biggest scandal is the Fitness First chain banning juniors from their premises. This has resulted in a national under-13 champion from the Medway Towns being banned from the local club where he learnt to play the game.

We are lobbying hard with developers and local authorities to build new courts to counter this corporate madness.

It would help if we had someone in the UK like our friend Ziad Al Turki, the new PSA chairman from Saudi Arabia, who has bankrolled a number of major events and is playing a key role in the Olympic bid. We need a figurehead like him who would be prepared to invest in a chain of fitness clubs where squash was the primary sport, or was at least encouraged to flourish alongside others without the constant threat of court closures.

I have seen them in Canada and the USA, and a few still survive here in the UK. Just look at clubs like Abbeydale and Hallamshire in Sheffield. And the business model works, as long as the management teams are not overcome with the corporate greed that has brought the Western world to its knees in the past few months.

Top of Page

Squash's bid for a place in the 2016 Olympic Games continues to gather momentum. This week the Bid Team appointed the London-based Juniper PR team to design and implement a global media campaign to support the bidding process.

Five agencies were invited to pitch for the business and Juniper clearly won the vote because of their experience in the Beijing Olympic Bid and their involvement with the event itself.

Their initial contract is for eight months leading up the crucial IOC vote in Copenhagen in October, when squash will be fighting for an Olympic place alongside six other sports.

The key messages of the Olympic media campaign will the fact that squash is a truly global sport, played by more than 20 million people in more than 175 countries, and that the inclusion of the sport will be a low-cost addition to the Olympic programme.

We wish Juniper well and look forward to seeing them in action.


We will be delighted to welcome the Juniper team to London's Docklands in March, where eight of the world's top ten players will be competing in the ISS Canary Wharf Classic.

Each year there is a certain air of nervousness around this time as the closing date for entries comes round and you wonder which players will actually be pitching up.

This year we have struck lucky, with Amr Shabana and Gregory Gaultier as the top two seeds in a superb 16-man draw brimming with quality.

The draw includes three former world champions in Shabana, David Palmer (Australia) and Thierry Lincou (France). If the seeding goes according to plan, the quarter-final line-up reads as follows: Shabana v Nick Matthew; James Willstrop v Lincou; Palmer v Wael El Hindi; Gaultier v Peter Barker.

As always, the quarter-final tickets for the Wednesday night session are selling fast and just a handful are still available at the time of writing.

My co-promoter Peter Nicol is positively drooling at the quality of the draw and we are all looking forward to a fantastic week of top-class squash in the superb surroundings of the East Wintergarden at Canary Wharf, which is firmly established as one of the sport's leading venues.

The Ticket Hotline is 0844 847 2419.


Congratulations are extended across the pond to the Trinity College squad and their coach Paul Assaiante, who has again masterminded another unbeaten season in a record which now stands at more than 200 matches.

Fending off the annual challenge from the major Ivy League opponents such as Yale, Harvard and Princeton is no mean feat, and to maintain such a staggering record has helped to promote the image of squash not only within the college sports fraternity but to a much wider audience as well.

Coach Assaiante has been at the Trinity helm for 14 years and I was most impressed with his remarks to the Hartford Courant when asked about the changes he had seen durting his tenure.

"I have changed in that my chest is now my waist and my legs are more bowed," he said. "In all seriousness, I am profoundly humbled by the opportunity to be around the best, the brightest, the hungriest and the most selfless group of athletes in the college sport."

He added: "The college game is the most dynamic entity in squash. Ten years ago, about 25 teams participated in the College Nationals. This year, 56 will play. The bar has been raised in profound ways and it has always been my goal to make sure that when we lose, we do not slide back to the pack but rather that the new champion overtakes us. The game of college squash has never been healthier."

Congratulations also to my old mate Martin Heath, who is clearly doing a brilliant job with the students at Rochester, hoisting them from 10th in 2008 to third in the rankings following a 7-2 victory over Harvard.

It would be gratifying to see the Trinity squad on tour over here in the UK. There is a clear message here for many of our British universities, where excellent sports facilities are often squandered or under-used because of the different priorities in student lifestyles, and where squash courts are often empty and unused. Top of Page

12th March 2009

What a feast we have in store for squash fans in London during the next fortnight, with the PSA Super Series Finals breaking new ground at Queen’s Club, followed by the ISS Canary Wharf Classic with eight of the world’s top ten players in action at the East Wintergarden.

I am looking forward to seeing the developments being planned for the Super Series by Ziad Al Turki in terms of staging the event and showcasing squash.

He is having a very positive effect on the game right now with his involvement in the PSA and the Squash 2016 Bid.

The campaign to make squash an Olympic sport continues to attract support, much of it via the internet. Almost 1,000 fans have signed up to support the Squash 2016 Day page on Facebook and the World Squash Movement has just launched its own page, with the opportunity for squash fans all over the world to pledge financial support to the Bid Fund.

These are exciting times for squash as we seek to raise the profile of the sport and take it into new and ambitious territories.

Natalie Grainger and Josh Schwartz are spearheading the fund-raising campaign in the States and Josh told me last week that the celebrated Sports Illustrated magazine had run a feature which rated squash as second favourite to gain the vote for the Olympics.

Meanwhile, it was good to see Natalie able to take her mind off the number-crunching and concentrate on her own squash last week in Malaysia, as she registered a major upset to beat Nicol David in the final of the KL Open.

Peter Barker also warmed up nicely for Canary Wharf by winning the men’s final, beating fellow Londoner and fellow left-hander Adrian Grant.

The straight-games scoreline might suggest a one-sided affair, but the time of the match, 52 minutes, proves otherwise.  Adrian is certainly playing well and recorded a magnificent victory over David Palmer in the National League on Tuesday night.

Canary Wharf is a much closer venue for Mr Barker, as he lives just down the road in Limehouse. Let’s hope he brings plenty of friends along to cheer him on, but he’d better hurry as tickets are going fast.


Still on the subject of Facebook, the Virtual Squash game is becoming something of an online phenomenon, with almost 6,000 registered players. I have noticed plenty of PSA and WISPA members among the regular gamers, too, so if you fancy challenging some of the world’s best players to a game in the comfort of your own home, then go online and check it out. 


Good luck to Surrey star Phil Nightingale, who is appearing on stage in Wimbledon next week, taking the role of Judas in the Christian rock musical Godspell.

5th Mar 2009

With a high-profile team of Squash 2016 Ambassadors, we look forward to a busy programme of Olympic-related events both at Canary Wharf and leading up to World Squash Day, which is being rebranded as Squash 2016 Day and will be held on May 23.
Squash 2016 Day gives every national federation on the planet the opportunity to join together in a worldwide festival of squash, and to encourage their clubs to stage special events on one special day for the sport. The aim is for every squash club on the planet to open its doors to a wider public, show off our sport, involve the media to create headlines all over the world, and encourage newcomers to participate and join the fun.
An added bonus would be for events to raise revenue for the Squash 2016 Bid Fund as the process gathers momentum.
So why are some national federations slow to react and get involved?

Top of Page
In Kuala Lumpur this week, Nicol David announced that she is to become an ambassador for Squash 2016. Nicol, who has been ranked No1 for three years, highlighted how important the Olympic Games are to her, saying: “For an athlete there is no higher pinnacle of sporting achievement than an Olympic medal. No Malaysian has ever won a gold medal, and I would like to be the first. Squash is really strong in Asia, and making it an Olympic sport would give all Asian women something incredible to aim for.”

The other new ambassadors for Squash 2016 are: Rebecca Chiu, Hong Kong’s top female player; Siyoli Lusaseni, the South African star; Saurav Ghosal, Indian No1; and Englishman Alister Walker, the African-born winner of three PSA World Tour titles.

They are joining the initial three ambassadors: former world champion Thierry Lincou (FRA); world number three and current World Open Champion Ramy Ashour (EGY); and Samantha Teran, the first Mexican woman to earn a world top 20 ranking.

Natalie Grainger, Squash 2016 Bid Team member and World No4, also spoke at the press conference, saying: “Squash is a sport with worldwide appeal, and the fact that the two top players in the world come from Malaysia and Egypt mean that as a sport we can help take the Olympic Games into countries that don’t typically produce Olympians."


Tickets are selling out fast for the ISS Canary Wharf Classic. With eight of the world's top ten on board it's sure to provide a feast of fantastic squash. The one disappointment is that the brilliantly entertaining but now-retired John White will be missing. However, we can all console ourselves by looking at some amazing highlights clips on YouTube from the final two years ago, when he played four five-setters in consecutive days and was still hurling himself around like a maniac as he went down to James Willstrop in an amazing final.


I was intrigued to read in the latest WISPA Bulletin some fascinating facts about squash's calorie-burning potential.

If we need any more evidence about how healthy squash is as a sport (take note IOC and sponsors!) according to WISPA we head the calorie-burning league table for indoor sports (per hour) by a distance:

1 Squash (816)
2 Kick Boxing (680)
3 Basketball (544)
4 Volleyball (544)
5 Indoor Rowing (476)
6 Fencing (408)
7 Badminton (306)
8 Table Tennis (272)


Patricia Lyons has emerged as another gifted professional in the niche market of squash photography. Her pictures from last week's North American Open in Richmond, Virginia, were superb examples of the genre. Now you can see her favourite images from the tournament, set to music, by clicking on the following link:

5th February 2009

Few things in squash cause more controversy, consternation and grief than the big debate over whether to pay your players to represent the club in your local county league.

Bringing in professional guests, otherwise known as ringers, is a common occurrence throughout the world of squash.

At county league level, clubs often scramble around to find the necessary cash to strengthen their first teams in the hunt for success.

In the old days it was called boot money, a phrase borrowed from football when the better so-called amateur players found their boots stuffed with fivers after a match. In squash, players were often paid on the quiet by a club owner who wanted to attract more spectators to watch the team matches and spend more money over the bar during the process. Let's call them Club A. If the bar revenue was higher than the player's "expenses" then everyone at Club A was happy.

Often the arrival of a professional player at number one produces a "banker" result and, with everyone in the side moving down a notch as a result of his arrival, Club A will often be stronger at every string..

However, things can get complicated once other clubs try the same thing. If Club B suddenly brings in two guest players the following season, then Club A will have to respond in kind to try to hang on to their title.

A year later, Club C and D might scratch around to find the cash for a ringer or two of their own, so it's game-on at the top of the league. However, not every club wishes to engage in the process and friction often develops between the payers and non-payers.

In extreme circumstances, some clubs have been so desperate for success that they have brought in a whole team of ringers. They might well "buy" their local league title, but many of the results will have been hollow victories with professionals easily brushing aside genuine club players in the process.

Most squash enthusiasts enjoy the prospect of watching the best quality squash available to them, and the prospect of watching two well-matches pros will usually attract a bigger audience than normal.

However, having been on the receiving end of some monstrous thumpings when up against sides fielding pros in clearly mismatched fixtures, and also played in teams boosted by the often surprise inclusion of occasional guests, I wish to offer one or two observations on the matter.

First of all, most leagues are run by county associations whose constitutions will often state that teams are made up of genuine, bona fide, fee-paying club members.

We can get round that one by finding a generous benefactor to pay their membership fees, but not all clubs bother to observe such niceties.

Legacy is a word often associated with the London Olympics and the long-term benefits of pouring billions of pounds into a large hole in the ground in East London.

On a slightly smaller scale, you often wonder what the benefits are, or legacy, of bringing in a group of pros to play in what is essentially a club competition. If they attract spectators, increase bar revenues, get on court with the club juniors, and prove an inspiring presence in the fabric of the club, then clearly they are justifying their fees

If, however, there is no interaction with the juniors and no long-term "legacy" then you might question the wisdom of a club's investment.

I have seen it happen countless times all over the country when clubs find they can no longer afford to pay the pros to turn out. The players usually walk out en masse, leaving an enormous vacuum behind.

There is one final point I wish to make. There is already a competition in existence for clubs fielding teams of five professionals playing against other teams of five professionals. It's called the National League. England Squash will happily supply you with further details.


22nd January 2009

Last weekend I had to reluctantly turn down an invitation to play for the Kent Over-50s as illness depleted the squad ahead of the National Inter-County age-group finals at the Hunts County Club. Fortunately various members of the squad clambered off their sickbeds to make the journey to Hunts and retain their national title.

I couldn't play last weekend, and still can't, because of a bizarre neck injury. I must be one of the few sportsmen to injure himself while falling asleep, but it's true. Nodding off in front of the telly, my head suddenly lolloped backwards and I suffered what can only be termed as severe whiplash injuries (I can guarantee that no Miss Whiplash was involved in the proceedings, unlike some our friends in the world of Formula One).

I tried playing on with the injury, and was OK until my opponent lobbed me, which caused me to twist my neck with extremely painful consequences.

It does seem odd that the older we get, we succumb to the most ridiculous and embarrassing injuries.

Generally speaking, age-group competitions keep squash players fit, healthy and active beyond the age-range of many other sports.

Therefore I was interested to read an article from the States about senior athletes now using Viagra to boost their sporting performances.

I am sure most of are aware of the primary uses for Viagra, in delivering a blood supply to parts of the body where it is most needed, but it has other life-enhancing uses, which apparently give athletes an unfair advantage over other competitors. Hence a group of lacrosse students in Philadelphia have been recruited by a major anti-doping organisation for a series of tests.

The article, in the New York Times, states: "The Marywood study does not involve the bedroom, but the playing field. It is being financed by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which is investigating whether the diamond-shaped blue pills create an unfair competitive advantage in dilating an athlete's blood vessels and unduly increasing oxygen-carrying capacity. If so, the agency will consider banning the drug."

Viagra, or sildenafil citrate, was devised to treat pulmonary hypertension, or high blood pressure in arteries of the lungs. The drug works by suppressing an enzyme that controls blood flow, allowing the vessels to relax and widen. The same mechanism facilitates blood flow into a certain part of the anatomy to help cure male impotence. In the case of athletes, increased cardiac output and more efficient transport of oxygenated fuel to the muscles can enhance endurance.

"Basically, it allows you to compete with a sea level, or near-sea level, aerobic capacity at altitude," said Kenneth W. Rundell, the director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Marywood, where the tests are being conducted.

Before Viagra is banned by the anti-doping agencies, it might be worth asking the Kent-based Pfizer company, which manufactures the drug and claims that nine Viagra pills are dispensed every second worldwide, if it might consider sponsoring our Over-50s team. A logo of the blue pill would stand out nicely on the team's light blue shirts.

However, I wonder if this might lead to compulsory drug testing one day for all of our age-group competitors.

The side effects might be interesting, though.

15th January 2009

The world of squash bade farewell yesterday to Ian Wright, one of the most respected administrators in the history of the sport.

More than 300 mourners packed into the Hither Green Crematorium in South London for a service of thanksgiving, and then reconvened just a few miles away afterwards at Ian's beloved Bexley Tennis, Squash and Racketball Club.

Friends from far and wide gathered to pay their tributes and last respects to a man who served as Kent county secretary for more than 40 years, and who invented the British version of racketball.

Tears and laughter were in equal measure during the service of thanksgiving, presided over with grace and humour by the Rev Steve Browning. Club president Neil Badger delivered a word-perfect reading before welcoming everyone back to the Bexley club.

Ian's daughter Dee courageously spoke with love, warmth and humour about the man who was a beloved Dad to her and sister Sally. Dee regaled the gathering with tales of Ian's little idiosyncrasies, and especially a dress sense that had little in common with the family's tailoring business.

Neil Badger spoke again, as a lifelong friend and club colleague who worked with Ian on transforming the Bexley club with a superb new pavilion that

included two extra squash courts. Sadly, it was on one of those courts that Ian passed away, suffering a heart attack on January 4 as he played the game he loved and surrounded by friends.

Yesterday that same court was filled with photographs and memorabilia from Ian's life, including his travels (he was in the Guinness Book of Records for being one of a handful of people to have visited 192 countries in the world), his RAF career and his achievements in sports.

Ian's life story was contained within the four walls of that court (walls that he insisted the builders remove at first when he discovered that they had used the wrong breeze blocks) and fittingly a book of condolence was placed in the centre of the court for visitors to add their personal messages.

Club manager Nick Eagles was almost overcome with emotion as he thanked the group of members who had worked so hard to prepare the club for such a moving but joyous occasion.

I was delighted to speak on behalf of the Kent SRA and to announce that England Squash will be naming the National Racketball Championship trophies for men and women in his honour. The Kent SRA plans to do inaugurate a similar honour for the county championships in both squash and racketball.

Out of such gatherings great things can emerge as friends swap stories and hatch plans to remember someone who gave so much to the sports he loved.

One such conversation resulted in the launch of an annual fixture in Ian's honour between the Veterans' Club of Great Britain and the Kent Vets, the fixture including, of course, both squash and racketball.

As daughters Sally and Dee both remarked, Ian would have thoroughly enjoyed himself yesterday, laughing and smiling with so many friends.

It's such a shame he couldn't be there. He would have loved it.


Ian Wright was secretary of the Kent Squash and Racketball Association for more than 40 years.

I first met Ian almost 30 years ago during an inter-county weekend tournament at Winchester.

Ian was managing the Kent team and they were a man short against Yorkshire, I believe, and so Ian donned his kit (probably wearing the same pair of shorts that Dee referred to) and duly suffered a 9-0, 9-0, 9-0 defeat.

But the result was not the important thing. The important thing was Ian’s sense of duty, respect and fair play.

He would have hated the idea of a senior Kent team under his management being a man short and knew it would have seemed disrespectful to the opposition.

Respect is a quality that Ian attracted in abundance.

For the past two weeks the Kent SRA has been inundated with tributes to Ian from throughout the world of squash.

Messages have poured in from so many of Ian’s friends and colleagues at the national governing body, England Squash, from neighbouring counties, far-flung counties, and from many other national and international federations. All of them have been published on the Kent website, where we are planning to host a special section dedicated to Ian.

Each message has spoken movingly of Ian’s loyalty and dedication to squash and racketball, his encyclopaedic knowledge of the sports he loved, and his willingness to help other officials, from other counties and federations, whenever he could.

England Squash have decided upon a fitting tribute to Ian by naming the national men’s and women’s racketball trophies in Ian’s honour. Here in Kent, we are doing the same with both the county squash and racketball championships to honour Ian’s enormous contribution as county secretary.

However, he wasn’t just secretary. Ian also took on the treasurer’s role two years ago. He was also treasurer for the Kent Junior League. He organised tournaments, he compiled the county handbook, and produced similar publications for various other federations. He organised coaching courses. He held refereeing courses. He invented the British version of racketball and would be delighted to see the moves currently being made by England Squash to encourage clubs and counties to promote racketball on a massive scale. But most of all he was always at the end of a telephone if you needed help or advice.

One of the least glamorous roles in sports administration is the collection of subscriptions, and especially the annual subs from the clubs.

Each year the same handful of clubs were always the last to pay, and sadly Maidstone was always one of them.

Since becoming Kent chairman, this became something of a personal issue because Ian would always try to enlist my support, as a Maidstone member, to elicit an earlier payment.

Each year I would be copied in on letters and emails as Ian doggedly pursued the Maidstone club for payment.

However, in Mike Sofianos, the Maidstone treasurer, Ian met someone as equally determined to run a tight ship and manage his affairs in his own unique style. The cheque always arrived, but it was nearly always the last to come in.

Today, I know that Ian would be greatly amused to hear the news that our new Kent county treasurer is none other than Mike Sofianos, from Maidstone.

I am sure that Ian, of all people, would hope that Mike continues in the same stubborn, frugal style of financial management as he handles the county’s coffers.

Since Ian’s passing, on these courts, playing the game he loved, we at Kent Squash and Racketball have had to begin the process of recruiting a whole new team of volunteers to do the many tasks Ian carried out so diligently, so enthusiastically and so professionally – and sometimes rather grumpily - for so many years.

To Judy and Pat, Sally and Dee, and all other family members, go our profound sympathies.

May God bless you and take care of you.

Ian, we salute you and thank you.

8th January 2009

The phone has not stopped ringing all week as squash friends from all over the world have made contact to express their sadness at the passing of squash administrator Ian Wright.

Ian was Kent county secretary for more than 40 years and his contribution to squash in general was nothing short of phenomenal.

In a recent email, after he and his wife Judy had returned from a holiday in Australia, Ian remarked that the dates of their trip meant that he had been forced to miss the AGM of England Squash for the first time since 1962!

During the squash boom in the 1970s and 1980s Ian was extremely busy helping to promote squash as a genuine sport and not just another trendy fitness fad. He held courses all over Europe in coaching, refereeing and marking, and also advised clubs and associations on court design, how to organise competitions and what equipment to buy.

He was a walking squash encyclopedia and so many people have described him as "indestructible".

He was hugely influential in the development of racketball and it was a bitter-sweet irony that he suffered a heart attack on Sunday while competing in the Bexley club's racketball championships at the age of 74. He was national over 70s racketball champion two years ago and it is heartening to learn that England Squash have pledged to provide a lasting memorial to Ian in the sport.

Ian's funeral will be held at Hither Green on Thursday, January 22 at 11.30 a.m. and a host of friends from Kent Squash, England Squash, neighbouring counties and overseas nations are expected to attend.

A minute's silence will be held during the Kent County Closed Championships at The Mote Squash Club next weekend (January 16-18) and I know that my colleagues on the Kent committee, who are all devastated by Ian's sudden and dramatic departure from our lives, are intent on providing fitting memorials in both squash and racketball.

As Kent SRA chairman, I am in the process of finding a team of volunteers to take over the many roles Ian undertook on behalf of Kent squash and racketball, and I wonder if we will ever see his like again.

Tribute to Ian D Wright (1933-2009)

The European Squash Federation was shocked and deeply saddened to hear of the sudden death of Ian Wright on Sunday, 4 January.

Ian had a long association with the European Squash Federation, acting as Custodian of Records from 1977 (shortly after the European Squash Rackets Federation, as it was at that time, was founded in 1973), combining this with the role of Secretary from 1979 to 1997 and the role of Treasurer from 1993 to 1996.  In 1997, in recognition of his valued contributions and commitment to the organisation and also in recognition of his contribution to squash generally, Ian was awarded the status of Honorary Member of the European Squash Federation.

No-one could fail to be impressed by his dedication to squash and he will be missed by us all.

Signature - H Hannes.jpgOur thoughts are with his family.

Hugo Hannes
European Squash Federation


I would like to thank all the people who are writing so beautifully about Ian Wright.

I was married to Ian for twenty years and am the mother of Sally and Dee.  We are so sad and so proud.  We hope to meet some of you at the funeral.
With grateful thanks

Pat Wright


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