MR SQUASH FROM BOSTON
If you were a Martian arriving on Earth in November for a three month
stay you could be forgiven for thinking that John Nimick is the only squash
promoter in the world. In November he staged YMG Classic in Toronto, in
early January he’s putting on the US Open in Boston and two weeks later
the Tournament of Champions in New York. In that entire three month period
there is no other squash tournament of interest for the top players. Indeed,
I feel sorry for the players because 2002 looks decidedly bleak.
British Open is in some doubt after the stand-off over money between England
Squash and The Eye Group. There is even talk of Mike Corby underwriting
it again and staging it at his club with reduced prize money. The Irish
and Scottish Opens have disappeared from the schedule and the Esso Open
in Antwerp, a major tournament usually held in the spring, is now the
World Open in December. In fact the next major tournament after the Tournament
of Champions at the end of the January, is the re-scheduled Pakistan Open
in mid-March, a long time between drinks.
SHOW THEM THE MONEY
There is growing frustration among the managers of European league teams,
who pay big money for the top 20 players to play for them. They try to
schedule their matches around the PSA tournaments, but with the shifting
of dates and cancellations, the league fixtures are being affected big
time. They are demanding that tournament dates be kept as printed, so
that they can give their members the pleasure of seeing the world’s best
in action. The players too are affected; with tournaments being cancelled
and leagues being called off, they are losing money both ways. I hope
that this is just a temporary thing caused by 9/11 and the economic repercussions
of that dreadful day.
Twenty six teams have entered for the world junior men’s championships,
which was to have been staged in July 2002 in Chenai, India, but because
of the Commonwealth Games, has been shifted to August 13-24. From this
distance it looks like another fight between Egypt and England for the
team title but the individual title is almost certainly going to Englishman
James Willstrop, who played so magnificently in Milan in July 2000, getting
to the semis, when he was just 15 years of age. And then in the team tournament,
he had match ball against Karim Darwish, the winner of the individual
title. Darwish is now not only the top Egyptian player, but is up to 17
in the world rankings. (Forgive me for being smug, but after Milan I forecast
that this shy young Cairo native would go right to the top.)
The entry has now closed but for any country that is desperate to participate,
the WSF might make exceptions. I have never been to India before, so it
looks like a virgin trip for me to give Squashtalk followers on the spot
OF A GRIND
At the last meeting of the WSF they voted unanimously to cut down the
duration of all junior championships from 15 to 12 days. Now they will
play two rounds per day in the early rounds of the individual and two
rounds per day at stage one of the team. Now while that may be a relief
for the journalists who worked 15 days without a break, try reporting
on 13 matches in the morning and 13 matches in the afternoonÂ
I can see
smoke coming out of my laptop even now.
Ted Wallbutton of the WSF quibbled with one word in my report on rulings
of eye protection for juniors playing in senior tournaments. He wrote:
“Please don’t fall into the trap constructed by Malcolm Willstrop of calling
them ‘goggles’. Nothing could be less uncool for kids than wearing something
likened to bottle ends. They are eyeguards or eye protectors, please.”
Sorry about that, but that’s the term I heard the kids use when they complained
about them. From now on I shall use ‘eyeguards’.
APOLOGY NUMBER TWO
In the last Gallery I said Susie Simcock’s husband was ailing. Well, I
got that wrong. Far from ailing, the retired Mr. Simcock is hail and hearty
and running around New Zealand shooting poor defenceless ducks with a
12-bore shotgun. And him a retired neuro-surgeon. Why would a neuro-surgeon
want to murder ducks?
While in Toronto for the YMG Classic (sold out almost every night) a friend
did a search on the web with my name and came up with the fact that I
had been one of the first inductees into the Canada Comedy Hall of Fame.
Nobody told me or even asked me whether I was willing to have my name
put forward. Not so much a case of an ‘inductee’ more an abductee. If
anybody out there knows exactly where this Hall of Ha Ha is located and
the name of the man who is in charge, please drop me an email.
LOOK OUT BOSTON, HERE I COME
I shall be in Boston for on-the-spot coverage of the US Open in early
January Missing will be Aussies David Palmer and Stewart Boswell who have
gone home for Christmas, and Thierry Lincou who also missed the YMG Classic.
Maybe he has worked out that those points won’t affect his number five
ranking. This is the tournament that was booked into Boston’s magnificent
Symphony Hall but was postponed by 9/11. Now it will take place in the
Grand Ballroom of the Sheraton Hotel. Twenty years ago, the $500,000 Fleischmanns
hardball tournament was held in the ballroom of the Sheraton in Toronto.
That must have been the height of the hardball era; ten years later, hardball
was almost dead.
PARKE AS QUALIFYER?
Former world number four Simon Parke will be making his comeback in Boston
after four months off because of surgery. But because of his slide down
the rankings – to 18, the tough Yorkshireman will have to enter through
qualifying. You would probably have to back well over a decade to find
out the last time Simon had to qualify. I got him on his cellphone and
he said that his recovery was on target. He’s played three league matches,
winning two and losing to the tough South African Rodney Durbach last
night (December 11) “But I had a bit of a cold over the last few days
so I could have felt a little better. I lack full match fitness, but I
should get that back in qualifying,” he said. Welcome back, Simon. Always
a pleasure to watch you in action. Durbach is also in the qualifying draw
so Parke may yet have a chance at a little revenge.