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New World
… TOC, College Title, more …

Global Gallery, March
1, 2004

Martin Bronstein, writes this month from New
York, where he traveled to cover the Tourney of Champs.

© 2004 All rights
reserved. photos © 2004, Suashtalk, D. Tessier,

NEW
ENGLAND, NEW SQUASH BOOM

There
was a lot of activity around New England in the last week of February.
Apart from the Tournament of Champions attracting sell-out crowds (and
even the attention of the Wall Street Journal) there was a teaching pro’s
tournament won by local hero Preston Quick, a major doubles tournament,
and 70 miles away in New Haven, Yale University hosted the college championships
which involved dozens of nine-man teams. Something like 350 squash players
milling around, proudly wearing their university colours.

THE
CHURCH OF ST HASHIM

Yale’s Payne Whitney
Gymnasium
photo: (© 2004 Debra Tessier)

Why Yale University?
It’s simply the best facility I have ever seen. Firstly, it is in a building
that looks like a church. The Payne Whitney Gymnasium, which houses the Brady
Squash Centre, reminded me more of the great church in Rennes than a gym, with
its immense vaulted entrance. (Well I suppose for some, squash is a religion.
Altogether now: “In the name of The Volley, The Lob and The Back-Wall
Boast…”)

At one point the gym
had 22 American singles and doubles courts, but when the switch to soft
ball made the courts redundant, Dave Talbott set about updating the facility.
Amazingly he raised $7 million from former squash playing graduates. One
man wrote a cheque for $3.5. And so in 2000, the new facility was opened:
15 brand new courts including the only permanent four-wall glass court
in the world. There are also two courts with three glass walls (solid
front walls). All other courts have glass backs and a balcony runs around
the entire facility allowing viewing on two levels.

THE
YALE CLASSIC?

It is no wonder that so many squash tournaments take place at Yale, not
only university events, but nationals and Squashbusters challenges and
so on. Dave Talbott told me he has had talks with John Nimick about hosting
a major pro tournament.

“But there
has been so much going on this year, we’ll think about it for next
year,” Talbott told me. His brother, the great Mark Talbott (still
considered one of the greatest squash players ever produced by the US)
is the coach of Yale’s women’s team which won the college
title last week
.


Harvard’s
Siddharth Suchde and Trinity’s Michael Ferreira
photo:
(© 2004 Debra Tessier)

SIX
IN A ROW FOR TRINITY

Dave was not as successful as Mark this year as Trinity took the college
title for the sixth year running. I was in Yale for the final and my ears
are still ringing from the noise made by hundreds of whooping, cheering,
screaming students as they urged – implored – their team-mates
on. Trinity, under former US national coach Paul Assaiante, faced Harvard,
coached by our old mate Satinder Bajwa. Surprisingly, Baj’s men
won at one, two and three, while Trinity showed strength in depth, but
only just scraped
the 5-4 win for their sixth title.

A UNITED
NATIONS OF SQUASH

The teams had players from all over the world – at least a dozen
different nations were represented on the teams. I particularly enjoyed
the match between Trinity number two Michael Ferreira of South Africa
and Harvard’s Siddharth Suchde from India. They played at a standard
that would surprise many. I was particularly impressed with the all-round
game and maturity of Suchde, who I’m sure will be an important member
of Indian’s national team for many years to come.

TOC
– GREAT COFFEE AND RED SHOES

The Tournament of Champions was deemed a success and new sponsor Bears
Stern will be happy with the exposure. In the ‘trade centre’
Melitta were showing their new coffee machine which works on hot water
being pressured through ‘coffee bags’. So we got free coffee
all week, which was a good thing because the journalists were otherwise
left to their own devices.

Martin Bronstein
admires the "object of desire for 2004" at the Hi-Tec booth.

photo: (© 2004 Debra Tessier)

Hi-Tec had a stand
there and I finally met the American distributor Arnie Berman who now sells
a whole mountain load of squash shoes every year. How did he get into squash
shoe sales?

“Well a few years ago I had closed down my financial company and I
was a loose end. One day I picked up the Squash Player magazine (I was the
editor of that magazine back in the 80’s) and saw a review of squash
shoes. So I wondered why we couldn’t get a proper squash shoe in the
US. So I made few calls and found myself speaking to Frank van Wezel, the
founder of Hi-Tec. The next thing I know, I had the franchise for Hi-Tec
squash shoes in the US,” said Berman, a very relaxed, affable man.

How did he go about marketing them having had no wholesaling/retailing experience?
I wondered. “I just get them on as many people’s feet as possible,
working through the clubs and giving the pros a pair to try out.”
He makes it sound so simple.

What is the
next big shoe, the object of desire for 2004 I wanted to know. Arnie picked
up a bright red shoe. “This is what all the kids will want when
they come out later in the year,” he assured me. I handled the Viper
400 and looked hard at the brilliant red colour. Would I wear them? Only
if I could find a matching jockstrap.

LOOKING
FOR A NICE SQUASHY JOB?

Ted Wallbutton, chief exec of the World Squash Federation has announced
his retirement at the end of this year. We all knew it was in the wind
but it still came as a surprise. He’s been there for 14 years, and
you sort of get used to him. Under Ted the WSF has seen a lot of growth
and become an efficient organization. If ever I needed information or
a view, Ted would have it for me by return email. He ran the WSF quietly,
without any major hysterics and I am quite sure that the board and the
150 member countries will be concerned that they can find a replacement
to measure up to Ted. The job is up for grabs. Any one can apply, but
I won’t be putting my hat in the ring. I have found that very hard
work is not good for my mental health.

IS THIS
THE NEW VOICE OF SQUASH?

Grand Central was the chosen site for a new departure in squash –
webstreaming.
What this meant was that you could log on to the PSA website and watch
live matches from the Tournament of Champions. The semis and final were
covered in their entirety with me as the commentator. What I didn’t
know was that the number of loggers on was finite – 300 and for
that the picture quality had to be reduced, which resulted in emails saying,
‘crap picture, great commentary”. This didn’t worry
Adrian Battersby of Horizon who was delighted at their ‘first’
and is already planning to webstream more events and he is certain it
will get better.

The point I
really want to make is that I was stuck in the back room with a tiny nine
inch, black and white monitor, and I could see the ball and cover the
play quite easily. So, if anyone, anywhere in the world tells you that
squash doesn’t televise, tell them they are talking though a hole
in their foot. If I had a 21” colour set, I would have been in heaven.
Squash televises, it’s only the blinkered view of sport that pervades
television sports bosses that prevents squash becoming a TV sport.

PETER
NICOL…AN APOLOGY

I keep writing Peter Nicol off, saying he’s too old, that he’s
always ill and his body is finally breaking down. Peter ignores mys expert
opinion and keeps winning. As you know by now he did it again in New York
winning without losing a single game. Alright Pete, I was wrong. And if
it’s any consolation, when you won the Tournament of Champions,
I lost money, having put my dollars on John White.

Mind you, it
was Steven Line’s money. We had a $5 bet on the Willstrop/ Palmer
match. Willstrop went two down and I was dejected: I have never won a
bet with Line in 20 year of wagering. But Ho HO!! That lovely player Willstrop
came back to beat Palmer 3/2 and Line had to give me a crisp five dollar
bill. He refused to pose for a picture actually giving it to me, the WIMP.

But he got his
revenge; when an article in the Wall Street Journal described me as “the
dean of squash journalism” Line started calling me Mr. Deanstein.

Jealousy of
course.