an incredible sport
ok, so perhaps I am a little biased, but last week at the Canary Wharf Classic Squash Tournament there was an awesome display of athleticism and sporting ability that can seldom be seen on such an intimate and small scale. It really begs the question why squash isn’t an Olympic sport, as for 4 hours each evening from the 22nd to the 26th March people were amazed and thrilled by displays of extraordinary skill and endurance, that has even had the great Roger Federer admit to his admiration for the sport (he played squash as a junior, as did Andy Murray and Raphael Nadal has recently taken it up). Federer quite often uses a squash style shot whilst playing which, in part, has resulted in squash being credited for the source of a new shot in tennis called the ‘wrist hinge’.
England is also a very strong nation at squash, with 4 players in the top 10 in the world and many more in top 50. The fact that it wasn’t made an Olympic sport for the 2012 games was a little short sighted when a considerable medal haul by Great Britain would have been pretty likely. Squash also fits the Olympic ethos perfectly, as a gold medal would have been the ultimate achievement in the sport and I’m not sure the same could be said for golf, rugby 7′s or tennis for that matter. Also I’d question whether there are many sports that require an equal level of strength, fitness, flexibility and skill.. but sadly there is not enough money in the sport and the public at large know little about it, which is odd given that English players regularly win titles… could this be down to a lack of objective journalism?
anyhow, back to Canary Wharf… I could wax lyrical about squash for hours
the tournament continues to be run by Eventis, fronted by squash legend Peter Nicol and was a sell-out for the duration of the tournament – it was very well organised, a great venue with a 360 degree glass court (check out photos at the official site) and the coverage with the live web feed exceptional (squash tv)… the sport in this respect has come on in leaps and bounds, as the live internet feed is attracting large numbers of viewers globally; this coverage is comparable to any coverage I have seen of badminton and table tennis, so hopefully it’ll launch the sport into the mainstream. Sadly there is not enough money in the sport for proper, high-end imagery, but perhaps in time that will improve too.
Nick Matthew was pre-tournament favorite (as world number 2), but I was there initially to watch my brother take on Alister Walker (world number 14) in the first round, which I felt Tom had a very good chance of winning. The first game didn’t go so well, but in the second Tom began to relax and dominated, followed by an equally impressive third game, which was closely fought before Tom went down 12-10 in the tie-break. In the fourth he looked a little deflated, possibly through a close referee’s call during the tie-break on game point, which left Tom shaking his head for a few seconds after Ali had left the court. The match went to Ali 3-1, but Tom certainly stepped up to the occasion, after playing David Palmer last year and personally I believe he looked capable of winning for two of the games, but then I am a little one sided (photo below courtesy and copyright squash site, Tom on the left, Ali on the right)
thanks to Tom’s connections I also got a ticket for the quarter finals, a whole evening of very high-end squash, but the highlight of the tournament in the semi-finals was Nick Matthew vs James Willstrop, a two hour, 5 game marathon of winning shots, extraordinary pick-ups and long rallys, which Nick eventually went on to win. Possibly one of the greatest matches I’ve ever seen. Nick finally went on to win the entire tournament, against Gregory Gaultier, a real character, in the final.
with this tournament I really believe squash has turned a corner. If Eventis continue to organise tournaments of this caliber it won’t be long before some of the players become household names and squash grows into an even more popular sport, deservedly so…
this tournament is now being televised on Sky Sports 4 on the 3rd and 4th April – take a look!