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’07 Global Gallery

…Slippery Squash
… Bermuda … Players Cup in USA and Palmer in Boston … more

Global Gallery,
Dec 10, 2007

The Monthly Round-up of the Interesting and
Inane of Squash this month from
Martin Bronstein, dean of the Squash Press

© 2007 All
rights reserved.
all photos© 2007, Debra Tessier and Fritz Borchert


The big topic at the World Open in Bermuda was the glass floor on the
ASB court. As those Squashtalk readers who followed my reports know,
this silly innovation caused dozens of spills, slides and spoilt rallies
as well as a few upsets. I wrote something to the effect that the people
running world should smash the glass floor and ban it from all future
championships. The World Squash Federation was having its AGM and conference
in Bermuda during the Open and by the end of the week they had done
just that – banned the glass floor and it will not be used in
Chenai for the Men’s Team Champs next week. For once they listened
to me.

But I should make one point to be fair to Horst Babinsky, the man behind
ASB Courts. He told the delegates that the slipping was due to wrong
weather and venue, or words to that effect. He may have a had a point
because by the final at the end of the week, there may have been one
instance of a player slipping and the 3-game final was interrupted by
just one floor wiping. When I spoke to the winner, Amr Shabana afterwards,
he said the glass floor was much better because the weather was cooler
and there was less humidity.

One WSF delegate, late one night in the bar, said: “We are doing
it all wrong as far as the Olympic bid. Squash is a winter sport, so
we should try to get in to the Winter Olympics, not the summer Olympics.”

considering that, Dave Carr, from McWil Courts, said “Winter
sports must take place on ice or snow.” So that ruled out squash
unless we replaced the glass floor with an ice floor and got the players
to use skates.
Alright, now we’re really getting silly.

I did advise Carr to start advertising that McWil make wood replacement
floors for ASB courts, but he said that would be unethical. Picky, picky.

You have give Ross Triffit and the people of Bermuda a lot of credit
for putting on this world class event. Bermuda is just 65,000 on six
small islands joined by bridges (although Bermuda contains 360 islands).
The tournament budget was $1.2 million and was run with great efficiency.
But there is another benefit: I met Dan Kneipp who has left his club
in Holland to take a job in a squash club in the Cayman Islands. He
tells me that country, despite its minute size, has the fifth largest
economy in the world. Which means there is a lot of money around which
is why Dan, encouraged by the Bermudian success, is also trying to
stage a major squash event in 2008.
Furthermore, PSA president Mark Chaloner is based in the Cayman Islands.

I met my dear old mate Gordy Anderson at the Fairmont Hotel, a five star
establishment where players, press and refs were all put up in style.
Gordy is a native Torontonian, was a co-owner, with Bill McDonell,
of the Squash Academy, the first club I ever joined. It is still considered
to be the best club that ever was (It no longer exits), because of
its huge social scene. We still talk about it with lumps in our throats.

was a champion at both hard and soft ball and still winning doubles
titles in the Over 55 category. He also runs his court building business
out of Buffalo, New York with great success (over 1,000 court installations
in 15 years) and his latest client is The Courthouse, a new 3-court club
that will be open for business next September in Hamilton, Bermuda.

I don’t want to be unkind, but the only other club in Bermuda,
the BSR club, is to put it nicely, aging. It’s a bit tatty and
badly in need of an overhaul. Perhaps the presence of a brand new club
will give the BSRA the needed impetus to spruce it up.

The PSA also had their AGM in Bermuda and for many players it was a
failure on two counts. Firstly they wanted to change the rule that
top twenty players must play in all but two Super Series Events.

this rule the promoters are not encouraged to move from silver
to gold,” said Amr Shabana, one of the prime people behind the
rebellion. By the end of the meeting, the players had lost the
argument and the rule stays.

The other failure was more worrying. Before the meeting, four people
had told me that Jack Harrick would be voted off the board and Lee
Beachill would be voted on. “It’s a done deal,” said
one player.
Except it never happened. The players were told that Lee Beachill did
not get enough votes to get on the board. (The vote had been taken
before the AGM) . When asked to look at the vote, they were told that
the papers were still in Cardiff…. Lee Beachill was very circumspect
in talking to me but I could see he was not happy with the way things
had been done. “We had been very thorough,” he said referring
getting the required number of votes.

asked another player why they wanted Harrick off the board. “Because
he is Gawain Briars main supporter. Without him Briars would be
stranded.” Oh dear…what did that mean?

did the players fail? “Because they are not organized,” said
man who has been around squash as coach, promoter and club owner for
20 years or more. “They all go in and speak at once on different
beefs instead of getting one man to act as spokesman.”

There were two huge laughs in Bermuda, both unintended. Robert
Edwards, The Ego of Squash, was auctioning squash racquets. “ These
racquets have been autographed by four world champion…..and me”.
people may have thought that I was unkind in describing Edwards’ huge
ego, but adding his signature to put himself up there with world
champions speaks volumes. All people who heard it were convulsed
with laughter.

second big laugh came when Jack Harrick got up to pay tribute to
Edwards on his alleged farewall. “ Robert Edwards is the finest
sportscaster in the history of sport,” said Hereck in his summation
of Edwards’ style which is redolent of the show biz schtick of
Lancashire working men’s club of the ‘50s. Jack, my dear friend,
which planet have you been living on?

The World Team Champs start in Chenai in a couple of days and Egypt,
the firm favourites, were looking a little shakey a week ago with
three of their designated five players injured. Ramy Ashour (world
number two) will not be playing until the new year, Karim Darwish
(world number eight) withdrew from the World Open with injury and
Wael el Hindi (world number nine) pulled a muscle in his buttock.
Even so, Egypt still had Amr Shabana (world number one), Mohammed
Abass, (world number 14), Hisham Ashour (world number 22) and yet
another promising star, 19 year old Omar Masaad (world number 32).
Embarrassment of riches? I’ll say.

it looks as though El Hindi will be fit and Darwish could
also be ready. But with Abass playing so well (he almost beat james
Willstrop in Bermuda) he makes a fantastic number three.

Sadly for Australia, Anthony Ricketts has now given up hope on his
knee and has announced his retirement from the world circuit. This is
a great shame: an Australian team of David Palmer, Ricketts and
Stewart Boswell would put up a terrific challenge to the Egyptians.
Ricketts’ retirement now puts Cameron Pilley at number three and
Scott Arnold as backup.

We should not count out Frances with Gregory Gaultier and Thierry
Lincou at one and two with Renan Lavigne at three. And in a three
man team you only need two great players to win. England are up
there in the top seeds with James Willstrop, Nick Matthews, Peter
Barker and Lee Beachill. It will be an interesting tournament. Sorry
that I won’t be able to cover it for Squashtalk.

One of the concerns expressed during the WSF AGM was that not one
professional journalist was signed up to cover the Men’s World
Championships in Chenai this month. There is a very good reason why:
the WSF, or at least, the present chief excecutive of the WSF doesn’t
think that press coverage is that important. Seven years ago when
Susie Simcock was president of the WSF and Ted Wallbutton was the
chief exec. I told them that I would like to cover the Women’s
Junior Champs in Penang, but it would not be a viable trip for me if
I had to pay my own air fare. Two days later Ted let me know that
they would supply my ticket and my hotel would be provided. For two
weeks I wrote for two websites (Squashtalk and SquashNow) and at the
end did comprehensive reports on the individual and team
championships for both Squash Player magazine and the US Squash
magazine. Susie and Ted were delighted at their investment.

the Men’s Junior champs was held in New Zealand last year,
contacted Christian Leighton, the present Chief Exec. about a
similar deal. At first he told me the WSF had no funds for that and
then came up with an offer that was less than a third of the air
fare. Needless to say I never went. This year the women’s junior
champs were in Hong Kong and again I contacted Leighton. His offer
of of financial help was ludicrous, but for which he also expected
me to supply Howard Harding with reports and help with photos. I was
so angry that I never even bothered to reply.

By contrast while I was in Bermuda two promoters asked me what it
would take to get me to cover their tournaments. I said airfare and
hotel. They both responded instantly in the affirmative. (They also
understood that despite their financial help, I would still be free
to write whatever I thought was true).

If the WSF were really serious about press coverage by international
journalists, they should have been talking to us months ago. And
making sure we could get to Chenai and not lose out financially.
Perhaps instead of four WSF officers being at these championships,
they should cut down to two and send two journalists instead.


Let us salute Andrew Shelley, who runs WISPA: He has expanded the
women’s circuit this year to include China and Iran, firsts for
countries. Iran is interesting because of no previous participation
in squash and also the fundamentalist attitude to women and
strictures on clothing. This is indeed a breakthrough and we wish
Shelley good luck on his further endeavours.

When US Squash took the US Open away from John Nimick, it could have
been the best thing they ever did. Nimick came up with the Players
Cup a five-tournament circuit ending with playoffs in Boston in
March. Total prize money is around $375,000 in its first year.
There were a few hiccups on the way. First he was told that
Vanderbilt Hall in Grand Central station would be closed. He
persuaded them to stay up during January, so they relented and said
he had until Jan 26. Well the middle of January was the Windy City
Open date, one of the important tournaments in the Players Cup. So
Nimick put the Tournament of Champions on Jan 10 to 16, normally the
Canadian Classic dates, so he had to move the Canadian Classic to
February. Then Chicago lost its sponsor and cancelled, leaving John
without the richest tournament and also a blank middle of January.
Despite all this Nimick is still smiling.

David Palmer now moving to Boston (at the University Club) to join
John White and about 50 other Australian and British players who coaching
and playing in the doubles circuit, the Players circuit could rapidly
grow into a
major North American circuit which could entice top plays to spend a
couple of months on that continent at a time when not a lot is
happening elsewhere.