Cayman Islands Go Gold For WISPA

An increase in the prize fund has led to the 2010 Women’s Cayman Islands Squash Open going Gold, according to an announcement today by the Women’s International Squash Players’ Association.

The $55,300 WISPA World Tour event – the third Gold event of the year, from 11-17 April – will be staged for the first time on an all-glass court erected at Camana Bay, a 500-acre shopping, entertainment, office and residential complex stretching from the Caribbean sea to the North Sound in Grand Cayman.

Launched in 2009, the Cayman Islands Open has again attracted the world’s top players, led by Malaysia’s world number one Nicol David, with Natalie Grainger, in-form Jenny Duncalf, and contenders Rachael Grinham and Alison Waters all in the mix. Grainger will be making her return to the WISPA Tour in Grand Cayman after a seven-month layoff with a foot injury.

Indeed, the draw predicts a quarter-final meeting between David and Grainger – a repeat of last year’s final, won by the Malaysian!

Meanwhile, Cayman number one Marlene West, the main draw wild card, faces the daunting prospect of meeting 2007 world champion Rachael Grinham in the opening round.

Tournament Director Dan Kneipp is delighted to be welcoming back the sport’s top women: “The Cayman Islands National Squash Association is extremely excited to host the world’s best players to our Caribbean Island.

“We are very pleased to be able to increase our WISPA World Tour championship to the Gold level. Cayman has never seen a pro tournament played on a glass show court, so we know that there will be a lot of enthusiasm and public interest as this is set up on the waterfront at Camana Bay.

“Having eight of the world’s top 10 squash players is creating an enormous buzz in Cayman as we prepare to watch the world’s best competing for our international title.

“The WISPA pros were a huge asset to our junior squash last year, helping hundreds of kids experience the sport for the first time,” Kneipp added. “We again have 14 schools that will be doing workshops and watching the pro matches and we expect this to be an invaluable tool in helping us get more Caymanian juniors into squash.

“The Cayman Islands National Squash Association also sees this as an incredible experience for our Commonwealth Games team as we prepare for Delhi 2010. For a young, amateur team to be playing alongside the world’s best professional will only add to our team’s experience and ability to compete at an international level.

“We welcome the world’s best players and the international squash media to the Cayman Islands in April.”

WISPA CEO Andrew Shelley added: “It is always very satisfying to see an event build, and that is certainly the case with the Cayman Islands Open. The debut last year was memorable for being awash with local school children trying squash at the South Sound Squash Club every day.

“This year juniors will doubtless be a major feature again, but bringing in a glass show court too in the superb outside setting of Camana Bay will be yet another great step forward in raising the profile of squash on the Island and pushing the delights of the Cayman Islands to squash enthusiasts worldwide.”

An all-glass court to be erected at Camana Bay

1st round draw:

[1] Nicol David (MAS) v Qualifier

[6] Natalie Grainger (USA) v Qualifier

[3] Rachael Grinham (AUS) v Marlene West (CAY)

[5] Madeline Perry (IRL) v Jaclyn Hawkes (NZL)

[8] Kasey Brown (AUS) v Samantha Teran (MEX)

[4] Alison Waters (ENG) v Qualifier

[7] Laura Massaro (ENG) v Qualifier

[2] Jenny Duncalf (ENG) v Camille Serme (FRA)

Qatar Classic Comeback

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Sport for life!

It’s almost 8 years that I’ve been playing in Doha for the Qatar Classic Challenge but every year, it seems like I’m coming back to a brand new city. The change and development of the city’s infrastructure are among the most rapid I’ve ever seen first hand. However, the familiar faces and friendly volunteers always make this event something to remember.

The players settled in at the Grand Regency Hotel where some of the staff knew the squash players by name. Somehow, it feels like they’ve been part of the squash family too. The tournament venue at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex have kept on improving their facilities for both, tennis and squash, specifically to boost the media interest showing that Doha is creating a name in the sporting world.

Round 1 with Emma

Emma Beddoes and I rarely play but I’ve seen her push some of the top players in the circuit. I brought my best game forward and she was keeping with it in the first. She did make a few errors in the second to give me a 2-0 lead. In the third, she stepped up and played more consistently with the rallies and had a 9-4 lead. I had to regain my ground and fight for each rally to level the score and eventually win the match 12-10.

Round 2 with Donna

Donna Urquhart is a player I haven’t met in the circuit before and I had to be ready for a lefty style of play too. I was flowing well and she got a little frustrated with a couple of long rallies. She didn’t get into her groove and she made a couple of mistakes that kept me at the top of my form. In the third game, there were some tough rallies but in the end I got to win it in 3 games.

Quarter Finals with Kasey

After seeing the progress Kasey Brown has had since we played in the Commonwealth Games, I was sure that she was raring to step on court again to play this quarter final match. The many intense rallies and tight drives down the wall made this match very clinical overall. No one was giving anything easy and every point was hard work out there. A close second game that could have gone either way but a stroke went my way to win the tie breaker. The third game was still close but the 3-0 win doesn’t justify the high paced match we played.

Semi Finals with Nour

My first time playing the 17 year old Egyptian talent, Nour El Tayeb and she had beaten Omneya Abdel Kawy in the first round and other top ranked players to get to this semis. Full of adrenaline, she got onto the court using the corners well and kept her drives tight when she had the chance. Of course I was working hard to keep her off her comfort zone but in the third game, she just fired some amazing shots to take a big lead. She kept that going to win that game but in the fourth, I regrouped and took a step up on everything and kept consistent. It still didn’t stop her from wanting it badly but I got hold of the fourth game to win the match.

Finals with Rachael

It was Rachael Grinham in our second WISPA finals in a row and I played her on this court one too many times. The court conditions and her style of play were things to look out for here. She took her chances every time it was there. The Malaysian crowd was ready to cheer me on at every possible chance, sometimes even during the rallies. I had to stay firm with my shots and keep the intensity up right through. In the third game, I was down 9-5 but I didn’t want to stop just yet. I pushed my way through and she made some unusual errors, giving me 6 straight points to win the match.

It’s a fantastic feeling to win my last WISPA title of the year in front of such an enthusiastic Malaysian crowd in Doha. Thanks for the continuous support from everyone!

Pix with thanks to Nazmi Md Sheriff!