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)

Salute Mexico!

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Samantha and I, in our ponchos.

Mexico is one of my favourite countries—so you can imagine my excitement when I was told a big WISPA tournament was to be held there this year. I was thrilled to be able to compete in this tournament. Samantha Teran, Mexico’s most successful squash player and our Squash Stars Ambassador, played a major role in increasing the interest of squash in Mexico.

The brand new glass court in Plaza Civica de Toluca.

The Torneo Bicentenario Mexico Open was held in Toluca, Mexico. The glass court was beautifully placed in the middle of a square at the Plaza Civica de Toluca. All of us stayed at the Del Rey Inn Hotel where everything was catered to the squash players. A very nice bonus for us!

There were many events lined up for the squash tournament including a lovely welcome cocktail at a landmark in Toluca at the Cosmovitral building on the day of the first round and a private concert by a Mexican artist—Reyli, after the quarter finals. The Mexicans certainly made an impression for their first major tournament in Mexico.

Round 1 with Ivonne

This picture was submitted for a Squash Stars photo contest. Click to view more.

Played a Mexican player, Ivonne Diaz and I was expecting the crowd to go wild—they sure did! Everyone did mention that the altitude could be a factor during the matches. I had to be ready for a seasoned Mexican player on home turf so it helped being in Mexico a few days earlier to get used to the altitude. There were some nice shot plays from Ivonne but my game came together better being on the glass court. I won it 3-0 but the crowd still gave a good cheer at the end.

Quarter finals with Jaclyn

This picture was submitted for a Squash Stars photo contest. Click to view more.

After Jaclyn Hawkes won the Gold Medal in the Women’s Doubles at the Commonwealth Games, I was expecting her to come out strong. I made sure I stepped up my game and kept her from gaining confidence in her game. I had a good feeling with the ball and was moving it well around the court. She made a few mistakes at times and I got a few points lead each game to get the win 3-0.

Semi finals with Raneem

At the courtside with Raneem.

Raneem El Weleily is always someone to watch out for on court. I definitely had to fight hard to gain some control in the first game. She was on the ball each time and I knew this game would take a while. I managed to come back to win that game and I went into the next one, looking out for more shots that she was going to pull out from her bag. My lengths got a bit tighter and a couple of errors from her gave me a slight head start in the second and the third games. Even with those errors, there were some high-paced rallies because both of us were taking everything as early as possible. I was glad to close the match in 3 games.

Finals with Rachael

This picture was submitted for a Squash Stars photo contest. Click to view more.

An enthusiastic crowd filled the stands, all ready to cheer as loudly as they could. The five-setter that Rachael Grinham had with Kasey Brown the night before didn’t stop her from what she had to do in the finals. The first game was close and Rachael was placing the ball to the front really well. However, I played consistently and found myself leading at game ball in the first. She gained some winners and it was deuce all of a sudden. I didn’t want to let it slip and fought back to win that game 12-10. Much better games in the second and third as many shots went my way. The rallies were long; some ending with Rachael’s mistakes. I kept going for it and finally won 3-0.

It was a great tournament. Kudos to the organizers!

This tournament has been a true Mexican experience with warm welcomes from the moment we got to Mexico. I could go on raving about their friendliness, hospitality, happy nature and not forgetting the amazing food! A beautiful country to explore and wonderful people to meet. I completely enjoyed my stay in Mexico and I can’t wait to be back for the next one!

On to Doha next week for the Qatar Classic!