Friday 31 October 2008

Butler serves up rugby's Olympic crudentials

Olympic ringsRugby columnist Eddie Butler - writing in Sunday's Observer - has made a couple of compelling points for rugby sevens' inclusion in the Olympics.

Squash administrators take note ...

The commentator and former captain of Wales notes as part of a longer article:

"If there are selling points, one would be that rugby would use - and fill - the Olympic stadium between the opening ceremony and the start of the athletics programme. Another would be that rugby is prepared to take itself to new places and excite new audiences.

If rugby were to be selected it would do wonders at junior levels in a whole new raft of countries where state funding is dependent on a sport's inclusion in the Olympic programme. Rugby could be going truly global."

The point made in the first paragraph about filling the stadium is something that squash cannot compete with, but the portability of the sport gives it other advantages where scheduling and location are concerned.

Is squash equally prepared to "take itself to new places and excite new audiences"?

Read more ...

Thursday 30 October 2008

Islington courts update

Sobell CentreWith uncertainty hanging over the future of squash court provision at the Sobell and Finsbury Leisure Centres in Islignton, communication with Islington Council has brought a promising update ...

Howard Barnes, Assistant Director of Cultural Services at the Council, informs me that outline schemes for the re-development of both the Sobell and Finsbury Centres propose the provision of four courts at each site (which would retain current provision at Finsbury but cut the number of courts at Sobell from the current six).

The projects are in their very early stages of this project, and design briefs are yet to be worked-up.

The current timetable for the design briefs is early 2009 with further public consultation timetabled during the first three months of the year.

Watch this space ...
Court watch: Sobell Leisure Centre
Court watch: Finsbury Leisure Centre

Read more ...

Wednesday 29 October 2008

Golan hits new heights in Qatar

Borja Golan pushed Amr Shabana hard but eventually lost in straight games 11-9, 11-5, 9-11, 11- 9 in the second round of the Qatar Classic Squash Tournament, yesterday.

It was a strong showing by the Spanish number one, whose recent performances suggest that a rise up the rankings may be imminent ...

The surprise recent runner-up of the Internationaux de France - where he lost to Gaultier, beating Thierry Lincou and James Willstrop on the way - had also caused Shabana some trouble in the second round of the recent World Championships in Manchester.

The 25 year-old from Santiago has ranked as high as 19 (October 2007). According to Shabana he has "... been studying the top players ... he now knows how to play them and mixes it up. Before he was waiting for us to attack and he just retrieved."

The top ten will be watching his progress with interest.

Next up for Shabana is an intriguing clash against Peter Barker, who came off a run of good form to perhaps have a slightly disappointing Worlds (though in fairness he was unlucky enough to run into the subsequent Champion Ramy Ashour in the third round).

Read more ...

Saturday 25 October 2008

Have your say with easier commenting

Comments boxIt's now even simpler for you to have your say about the future of squash at squashblog.

Each article now has a free comment box under it (rather than taking you to another page), so you can respond immediately to whatever is written. Click on 'Read more ...' to see a full article and you will see the comment box beneath.

You can comment anonymously, leave your name if you like, or log-in via a Google or other blogging accounts (each comment is post-moderated).

Have your say about the state and future of squash.

PS - Did you know that there is a squashblog Twitter community?

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Wednesday 22 October 2008

Countdown to Copenhagen

The World Squash Federation launched its 'Countdown to Copenhagen' during the Hi-Tec World Squash Championships 2008.

Click right to see a video of the launch event, provided by

There is almost exactly a year to go before the IOC votes on which sports will be included in the 2016 Olympics.

The World Squash Federation will outline make the case for the sport's inclusion in the IOC Session in Copenhagen in October 2009.

the second half of the press conference.

Read more ...

Monday 20 October 2008

Squashsite closes

The popular squash website Squashsite has closed.

However, the site claims that since shutting down at the end of the Hi-Tec World Championships in Manchester that the owners have already been deluged with 'reactions, suggestions and offers' ...

It remains to be seen whether the shutting down of the site brings the support from the governing bodies that they had been trying to negotiate before they chose to close.

Squashsite had provided a comprehensive daily news service for squash around the world for a number of years, and its loss will leave squash fans with few online alteratives other than the governing body sites when looking for news on professional and amateur/recreational squash.

The producers of the site claim a multitude of reasons for deciding to stop updating its pages and shutting down - all of which are explained here ...

Read more ...

Sunday 19 October 2008

Ashour defeats Darwish to take first title

Ramy Ashour v Karim DarwishEgyptian Ramy Ashour lost the first game to fellow countryman Karim Darwish, but came through to take the next three to become World Champion in Manchester today.

His 5/11, 11/8. 11/4, 11/5 victory was characterised by wristy shot making that was matched for much of the game by Darwish ...

Mistakes from Ashour gave Darwish an early 3-0 lead in the first. A couple of lets followed, which briefly halted Darwish's progress, and it struck me how few interruptions I had seen during their matches this week. There are far fewer lets than there used to be (how much of this due to the PAR scoring I am unsure), but it is far better for the game and the spectator to see the match uninterrupted.

Ashour v DarwishDarwish took some risks during the long rallies, with low, skiddy, cross-court drops stretching Ramy and mostly paying off. At 9-4 up, Darwish's confidence was evident as he pounced early on the ball (his speed was not something I'd noted in the past), and a tin from Ashour followed by a stroke gave Karim the game 11-5.

The second started off rather scrappily with a number of strokes given away. Darwish was persisting with a percentage game interspersed with deceptive attacks, but Ramy was beginning to loosen up and attack more frequently. At 7-6 to Ashour there was a let called after he tried to run around Darwish who was in the process of hitting a drop in the front-court. This seemed hard on Karim (who - half-jokingly - protested that the shot was "the best (he'd) ever done").

A high cross-court backhand kill that nicked seemed to sap the remainder of Darwish's enthusiasm for the rest of the game, and Ashour opened his account 11-8.

Ashour at the moment of victoryRamy obviously had decided that he was in no mood to be constrained by Dawish's more patient game in the third, and began to hit more audacious shots. His impish pleading for a let at 3-1 amused the crowd, and it was evident that Ramy's character was to endear him as much as his style of play (is it just me or does Ashour look a bit like Pete Sampras when he delivers the innocent shrug?).

Darwish was beginning to run out of attacking ideas, as Ashour second-guessed almost everything thrown at him. Ramy was by now chucking in attacking boasts from very deep that had Darwish wrong-footed, and his greater variety told in taking the game 11-4.

At the start of what was to be in the final game, Darwish was visibly frustrated, staring down the barrel as he was. He stuck in the game to 4-4, before Ashour began to give an exhibition in how to turn defence into attack, turning seemingly lost causes into instant attacking positions.

From this point Ramy ran away with it, and quickly raced to his first (or what are likely to be many) World Championship titles. After the winning point he fell to his knees, racket above his head (see photo above) before being congratulated by Darwish.

In the post-match interview he spoke of the great spirit that exists amongst the Egyptian players, and that he "tried not to express emotion too much" as he was playing a friend and compatriot.

His comment that is was "always important to keep a good spirit on court" will have gone down well with the IOC representative who was watching both finals - as will the absorbing display highest class sport, professionalism good behaviour that many have witnessed this week.

Read more ...

David wins third World title; Botwright retires

Nicol David v Vicky BotwrightNicol David claimed her third World Championship with a 5/11, 11/1, 11/6, 11/9 victory over England's Vicky Botwright this afternoon.

The partisan crown rooting for Botwright had something to cheer about right from the start of the first game, as she took the game to the Malaysian World number one ...

Botwright had particular success dropping on her backhand, often taking the ball high to force David to unsuccessfully counter-drop. Botwright seemed relaxed and composed, and stuck at her tactics to take the first 11-5.

At the start of the second David started immediately to control longer rallies, volleying wherever possible to push Botwright to the back of the court. The increasing variety in her game seemed to affect Botwright's confidence when attacking, and the Malaysian took the second easily 11/1.

The third game was tighter as both players started to rely on their ability to achieve a platform to attack from longer rallies up the side wall. Botwright was still working her backhand drops, but failed to impose herself at the T when she was given chances to put the ball away. 11-6 to David.

The fourth was neck-and-neck all the way, both players retrieving well under pressure, both perhaps hesitant to force the issue. At 8-9 down, Botwright hit a superb, flat, backhand kill that brought it to 9-9, and the crown volume suddenly rose.

A drop from David and a slightly lucky stroke (never the way you want a tournament to end) gave the champion her third title.

Nicol was undoubtedly thrilled. She was a worthy champion this week, but in the two matches I saw (the semi against Madeleine Perry and the Final) she didn't look as infallible as her long run of success would have one believe. Once she has established her rhythm she is very difficult to break down, but there were glimpses in both games that this rhythm might be cracked if early pressure is sustained.

I sense that the gap at the top of the WISPA rankings is narrowing given some of the upsets this week.

An emotional Botwright giving her final interviewBotwright departed the professional squash arena with a tearful farewell to the crowd, thanking those that had helped her sustain a career at the top of the game, including the 'England girls', England Squash, her parents and fiance.

An emotional Vicky Botwright gives her final post-match interview

She now takes up a position as Head Coach at the Manchester squash centre.

I had written earlier in the week that Botwright had under-achieved on the court at the National Squash Centre, and it is a shame that her career finished without her ever becoming National champion there.

The script that had been written for the 'fairytale' ending that was not to be had a Henman-esque feel about it, which might equally apply to Botwright's career: a very respectable stretch at the top (she was ranked as high as five in December 2005), a firm crowd favourite and particularly successful when representing her country in team events.

Henman - now also retired - polarises opinion between those who think that being one of the world's top tennis players for so long (and a great ambassador for the sport to boot) is a tremendous achievement in itself, and those who dismiss him as a very British kind of failure: lacking killer instinct, never won anything of note etc.

It would be a shame if writers of Botwright's biog in the annuls are similarly split between those who followed her career and witnessed her dedication, highlighting her individual and team successes and (very late!) Indian summer in reaching the final of the Worlds, and those who will only remember her for a certain clothing-related incident that made the tabloids in 2001.

Most followers of squash will hope that she is remembered for the former, particularly because that one incident that some see as a blemish on a great professional career (including service to her country through the National squad) was a result of misguidance rather than lack of commitment on the squash court.

Read more ...

Saturday 18 October 2008

Semis bring more upsets

Vicky BotwrightA fairytale ending to Vicky Botwright's playing career remained a possibility tonight after coming through her semi-final against Jenny Duncalf.

However, the match that would guarantee a British woman finalist for the first time since 2003 didn't end in the way either would probably have wished it, with Duncalf retiring due to injury at the end of the second game ...

Jenny had taken an injury break early in the first game, and it was clear that she was not moving freely after resuming. Botwright took advantage to take the game 11-3.

Though Duncalf briefly rallied in the second, where she appeared to be surviving on pure instinct to nullify her England team mate's attacks, it was not enough, and Botwright took the second 11-6 with a backhand cross-court kill. A few moments later player colleagues in Duncalf's corner waved to the officials that she would be playing no further part, and it was all over.

It was a sad end to the week for Duncalf, who had achieved one of the best wins of her career earlier in the week when she defeated Natalie Grinham for the first time in 13 attempts. She has now beaten both Grinham sisters in major tournaments in 2008, after putting Rachael out of the British Open in Liverpool earlier in the year, and surely is now due a top tour title.

Botwright admitted in the post-match interview that she had “always failed miserably at the Nationals”, but today she appeared to play unencumbered by memories of under-achievement on this same court.

David v Perry

In the final Botwright will meet defending champion Nicol David, who safely navigated her way around the upsets that had littered both draws this week. Her semi-final was the first time that I had seen David play – a rather sad fact that belies that dearth of WISPA events in the UK over the past few years (as I've said in these pages before, how about a Super Series-type event in London for the women?).

Her opponent, Northern Ireland's Madeleine Perry, took an early lead, attacking to deny the Malaysian length, and was quickly 4-1 up. David's drops also seemed easily readable by the Irishwoman, but just as she was gaining momentum her own short game began to be exposed, with balls chipped far too high above the tin,

Nicol David v Madeleine PerryThe World Champion was quick to exploit the time this bought her, and started to work her opponent, increasingly finding a rhythm that had been disrupted earlier in the game. A couple of strokes and a tinned ball by Perry handed David the game 11-6.

At the start of the second Perry had chances that she was unable to take. Apparently having worked out where David was fallible, she was increasingly frustrated at her mistakes when preparing to exploit them. 9-6 down, Perry started to move David about the court more, varying her game and causing the world number one to commit the same errors that were plaguing her game.

In many ways this was as frustrating game for the spectator as it probably was for Perry. David finally wrapped up the match in a third game which was again notable by the frequency of Perry's mistakes. The 11-6, 11-8, 11-6 win will suggest a routine victory when this draw is looked back on in years to come, but Perry's obvious talent meant that on the day it was far more closer than it will appear in the scoring books.

It's a shame I haven't had the opportunity to see that talent more over the years.

After the game the winner spoke of “sticking to what you have to do” when asked how she would approach her (surprise?) opponent in the final. If Botwright is to make the fairytale come true she has to prevent David sticking to what she does best – as Madeleine did, albeit briefly, today.

Shabana v Ashour

It was not just the top woman player I had never managed to catch on these shores; I had also been waiting a long time to see Ramy Ashour (whose title of 'hottest young prospect' now appears to have transferred to Mohammed El Shorbagy).

Ashour came on to court for his semi against defending champion Shabana looking like he had wandered in from the beach. Relaxed in a floppy purple ATCO t-shirt, it was if he had been asked to stand in for a knock-up while Shabana waited for his real opponent to arrive.

What struck me on seeing Ramy for the first time was his size; a lot bigger in the upper body than he appears in photos (or even on video), he reminded me of Christiano Ronaldo – another athlete who at first appears rather lanky, but is far bigger and imposing when seen against and opponent.

Shabana still has the swagger that I first witnessed years back in Nottingham when he faced David Palmer in the final of the British Open. On that day he appeared to spend most of the time on the floor, the swagger apparently more about posturing to the officials and the crowd more than an indication of nonchalant self-belief.

You don't win three world titles without mental toughness in squash, however, and this he has obviously developed in the intervening years. But I have a nagging suspicion that playing in Britain – for whatever reason (Amr has voiced opinions about the organisation of competitions recently)– brings out a frustration in him that arises at crucial times. It was evident in the Liverpool British Open against Palmer, and I detected it in the final of the Super Series against Gaultier

The guy sitting next to me watching the match reckoned that Shabana had never won a tournament in Britain, and that he was out to prove something to himself this week.

These two clearly know each other's game inside and out, and the first four games were a exhibition in attacking squash, and a great demonstration of the advantages that the WSF feel that PAR scoring – voted on in the AGM this week – can bring to the sport.

Shabana tried repeatedly to mix it up and get Ashour (almost literally) off his back. The younger man's anticipation is remarkable for such a big player playing off his opponent's shoulder in the front court, and his access to such a range of shots with those long limbs was akin to a Victorian-era signalman, casting his eyes over an array of shiny levers before selecting which one to pull. He simply has every shot in the book.

At 2-1 up and 8-7 in the fourth, Shabana appeared to have regained control, but a couple of reckless points brought it back to 9-9, and an attempt at a kill off Ashour's serve which flew back into his body gave game ball to Ashour, which he converted. It seemed a strange lack of concentration within sight of victory, and the younger man's 7-0 almost instant lead in the fifth suggested that Shabana had given up. A number of mistakes, mainly tins, by Ashour saw Shabana take seven points of his own in losing 7-11.

What is it about Shabana in Britain? This was the third match (see above) that he had seemed to have become upset by something, but I didn't expect it it happen the World Championship semi-final.

He didn't comment at the end, but maybe his thoughts will come out in the future. Shabana is one of the most articulate players, and is not afraid to voice his opinions.

Darwish v Palmer

One player who always seems to hold it together mentally when it really matters is Palmer. And he kept it right together here, even though he appeared to be treated rather harshly on a number of occassions by the officials.

Darwish was dogged in his receiving and deceptive at the front wall. He took the first 11-6.

Darwish v PalmerI don't think I've ever seen Palmer lose a match 3-0, and the game got physical in the second as Darwish come out the better on a number of contentious decisions. The end of the game was particularly dramatic, with Palmer diving to retrieve at 8-9 before springing up to stay in the rally, before Darwish killed the ball cross-court, which brought a fist-pump from the Egyptian.

A couple of outsanding rallies followed, before Darwish again deciding that enough was enough and killed the ball to take the game 11-9. It was telling that he stayed on court for much of the between-game break, and clearly he saw the finish line before him.

The third saw another couple of questionable lets go in Darwish's favour, but the Egyptian kept his nerve to win 11-8. At the end he told master of ceremonies Andy Nikeas that the felt “fresh for the final”. It will be his – and Ashour's – first.

Read more ...

Friday 17 October 2008

Shabana in little mood to follow upsets

Amr Shabana in an earlier eventReigning Champion Amr Shabana took care of business in just 20 minutes in his quarter final against Mohamed El Shorbagy this afternoon.

His easy 11/2, 11/3, 11/6 victory made sure that there would be no upset in a week that has so far been chock-full of them ...

El Shorbagy had burst on to the scene earlier in the week with a shock win over Thierry Lincou, but his Egyptian team mate Shabana was not hanging around to become another scalp for the youngster, losing only 11 points in the match.

Earlier in the day Nick Matthew managed to take a game from second seed Ramy Ashour (is he still the hottest prospect in men's squash?!), who started the match slowly before gathering momentum.

Vicky Botwright continued her amazing final attempt in the world's premier squash event with a four-game win over Alison Waters. She now faces Jenny Duncalf in the semis, which guarantees an English woman in the final for the first time since Cassie Jackman lost to Carol Owens in Hong Kong in 2003.

Duncalf earlier beat Natalie Grinham for the first time in 13 attempts.

More news, comments videos and more ...

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Grant claims greatest win to overcome Gaultier

Adrian GrantAdrian Grant saved three match balls to score the greatest win of his career to date yesterday, beating Frenchman Greg Gaultier 9-11, 12-10, 14-12, 1-11, 13-11 (98m).

"This is a massive step for me - definitely my best result by far," said the 14th seed from Lewisham ...

He now meets Egyptian Karim Darwish in his quarter final, who defeated Alister Walker 9-11, 11-8, 11-5, 11-8.

Other results from yesterday:

Men's 3rd round (lower half of draw):

[5] David Palmer (AUS) bt Daryl Selby (ENG) 11-5, 11-13, 11-3, 12-10 (83m)

[3] James Willstrop (ENG) bt Davide Bianchetti (ITA) 11-7, 13-11, 11-8 (48m)

Women's 2nd round (top half of draw):

[1] Nicol David (MAS) bt [13] Rebecca Chiu (HKG) 11-3, 11-8, 11-7 (24m)

[9] Omneya Abdel Kawy (EGY) bt [8] Laura Lengthorn-Massaro (ENG) 21-23, 19-17, 12-14, 11-6, 11-7 (85m)

Jaclyn Hawkes (NZL) bt [4] Natalie Grainger (USA) 11-5, 5-11, 11-8, 6-11, 11-8 (41m)

[14] Madeline Perry (IRL) bt [6] Shelley Kitchen (NZL) 11-5, 11-6, 11-2 (34m)

More World Championships coverage

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Thursday 16 October 2008

World Open: Day 3 and 4 video highlights

Click left to see highlights of days 3 and 4 of the World Squash Championships 2008, provided by

Great footage in there of the El Shorbagy/Lincou upset, including Lincou's reaction ...

Read more ...

Hi-Tec World Squash Championships Manchester 2008 coverage

World Open logoNews and comment

13/11/09 - The Verdict
19/10/08 - Ashour defeats Darwish to take first title
19/10/08 - David wins third World title; Botwright retires
18/10/08 - Semis bring more upsets
17/10/08 - Shabana in little mood to follow upsets
17/10/08 - Grant claims greatest win
16/10/08 - Botwright dethrones Grinham
16/10/08 - El Shorbagy beats former champion to come of age


Paul Waters interview
Day 3 and 4 highlights
Welcome to Manchester

Coverage elsewhere

Daily Telegraph news reports

WSF coverage
Squashsite reports

squashblog @ Twitter

Read more ...

Paul Waters interview

Click left to see a interview with Paul Walters, CEO of the internationalSPORTgroup and Tournament Director of the Hi-Tec World Squash Championships - Manchester 2008, provided by

More news, comment, videos and more ...

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Botwright dethrones Grinham

Vicky Botwright at an earlier tournamentManchester squash star Vicky Botwright pulled off a sensational upset yesterday when she beat defending champion Rachael Grinham in the second round of the women's event in the Hi-Tec World Open Squash Championships in Manchester ...

Also: Botwright v R. Grinham - head-to-head

It was only Botwright's third win over the elder of the Grinham sisters, in what could have been her last match at a World Open.

Botwright previously beat Grinham in the quarter final of the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Open 2007, and she'll finish her professional career in singles squash with a 50% win record against the Aussie - a statistic that many of her top ten colleagues would envy against the World and British Open champion.

The 31-year-old former world No5 recently announced her decision to retire at the World Championships after accepting the role as Head Coach at the prestigious National Squash Centre.

She now faces England team mate Alison Waters in her quarter final.

Botwright v R. Grinham head-to-head

Vicky Botwright bt. Rachael Grinham 3 - 1 ( 5 - 11, 13 - 11, 11 - 8, 11 - 8 )


Vicky Botwright bt. Rachael Grinham 3 - 1 ( 5 - 9 , 9 - 6 , 10 - 9 , 9 - 4 )

Rachael Grinham bt. Vicky Botwright 3 - 1 ( 1 - 9 , 9 - 5 , 9 - 3 , 9 - 5 )

Rachael Grinham bt. Vicky Botwright 3 - 0 ( 9 - 2 , 9 - 1 , 9 - 0 )

Rachael Grinham bt. Vicky Botwright 3 - 1 ( 9 - 3 , 9 - 3 , 3 - 9 , 10 - 9 )

Vicky Botwright bt. Rachael Grinham 3 - 2 ( 9 - 7 , 1 - 9 , 0 - 9 , 9 - 5 , 9 - 0 )

Hi-Tec World Open Squash Championships

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Wednesday 15 October 2008

El Shorbagy beats former Champion to come of age

Mohamed El Shorbagy at this year's World Junior ChampionshipsMohamed El Shorbagy shocked Manchester yesterday with 12-10, 11-6, 7-11, 10-12, 13-11 (81m) victory over French sixth seed Thierry Lincou.

In the first big upset of the Hi-Tec World Squash Championships, the Egyptian junior World Champion appears to have made an immediate transition into the top tier of the senior game ...

Those who have been following El Shorbagy's rapid progress of the past year will perhaps not be surprised that he has claimed his biggest win to date at the Worlds, but even they would not have foreseen him beating former World Champion and world number one Lincou.

The 17 year-old from Alexandria is coached at Millfield School by legend of the game Jonah Barrington. He now faces compatriate Hisham Ashour in the third round, before a potential quarter-final tie against top seed Amr Shabana.

Elsewhere, other upsets - though perhaps less earth-shattering than El Shorbagy's win - included Samantha Teran, the 16th seed, crashing out to Annie Au, a 19-year-old qualifier from Hong Kong 11-5, 11-4, 3-11, 11-5.

New Zealander Jaclyn Hawkes also defeated higher seeded former Champion Vanessa Atkinson, despite a fightback from the Dutch player, to win 11-9, 11-7, 8-11, 10-12, 11-5.

Hi-Tec World Squash Championships

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Welcome to Manchester

Click right to see a video preview of the World Squash Championships 2008, provided by

The Championships are this year held at the National Squash Centre, part of the Sportcity complex of buildings in Manchester, England. The complex was built for the 2002 Commonwealth Games held in the city.

Like the music ... anyone know who it is?

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Friday 10 October 2008

Best week ever for squashblog!

Web statsSquashblog has just enjoyed its best week for visitor figures since launch, with readers coming to the site in increasingly larger numbers ahead of the Hi-Tec World Squash Championships ...

The past week has seen the highest number of unique visitors and the highest number of page impressions on the site to date, with readers from as far afield as Buenos Aires, Mölndal (Sweden), Kuwait, Oklahoma and the Dutch Antilles!

Since its launch in January 2007, squashblog has sought to raise the profile of squash through dialogue with the squash community, the media and other agencies - so please comment on each article (you can do it anonymously!) and have your say about the future of the sport.

RSS and squashblog @Twitter

Did you also know that you can read each article post without visiting the site? If you use an RSS reader, type the following code in and you will automatically receive articles as soon as they are posted:

We also recently launched the first squash community offering on Twitter, the "micro-blogging" site (you can also see updates from the squashblog Twitter page to the right of the squashblog main site).

Find out more here

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Wednesday 8 October 2008

Hi-Tec World Squash Championships finals day already a sell-out

Sarah KippaxDemand for tickets to the Championships, which get underway this Saturday with the qualifying rounds (which are free to the public), have also resulted in all hospitality packages for the finals being sold out.

With both the men’s and women’s World Opens running concurrently at the National Squash Centre in Manchester’s Sportcity, the nine day tournament will see the leading 64 men and top 32 women in action in what promises to be the biggest squash tournament staged ...

Amr Shabana of Egypt and Nicol David of Malaysia will be favourites to retain their titles, but there will be no shortage of home grown players on show with 17 British players guaranteed to line up for the knock-out stages. Tickets are still available to see all the action up to and including the semi-finals, but fans are advised to purchase soon as numbers are becoming limited.

There will also be a strong presence of players from the north west, including National Squash Centre coach and world number 12 Vicky Botwright, who will be retiring from the elite level after the Championships, and Cheshire’s Sarah Kippax (above), the official ambassador of the Hi-Tec World Squash Championships.

Purchase tickets here

Read more ...

World Champions gallery

The Telegraph's squash page continues to beef up its content ahead of the Hi-Tec World Squash Championships, with a nice gallery of men's World Open past winners up on the site.

Have a browse back down the years and see such great champions as Nicol and Power (right) here.

Now how about the women?

Read more ...

Monday 6 October 2008

Not Strictly about squash ...

Andrew Castle and his partner on Strictly Come DancingThe man who brought headbanging to the tango apparently taught Stefan Edberg to play squash.

If you never thought you'd read that sentence ... read on ...

Andrew Castle, the former British tennis number one, GMTV presenter, current contestant and all-round housewives' favourite on Strictly Come Dancing introduced the former Swedish tennis star to the great game when Edberg was living in London.

It appears that the Swede is also actually pretty good at it, competing regularly for his home town of Växjö.

Castle himself plays squash for Surrey, and occasionally has a hit against Tim Henman. I can't find any reference to it, but I seem to remember him also commentating on squash for the BBC some years ago.

It was last Saturday night that Castle's tango had the judges reaching for the rule book, after introducing a headbanging move that would have been more appropriate at a Metallica concert (right) ...

Squash traditions given the chop

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Saturday 4 October 2008

Telegraph increases coverage

Daily Telegraph squash pageWith squash coverage in the mainstream press often relegated to the small print of the sports results section, it was promising to see that the Telegraph appears to be bucking the trend - at least online.

The squash page on its website has started to carry regular updates, written by journalist Rod Gilmour ...

The page appears to be carrying features and interviews - as well as news updates - and will hopefully boost interest amongst the readership in the run-up to the World Squash Championships in Manchester later this month.

Daily Telegraph squash page

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Wednesday 1 October 2008

Re-structuring, re-branding, re-launching

Jahangir Khan at the 2007 Women's World OpenThe coming season marks a crucial period for squash, as it races to get its house in order and put on its best frock before next year's vote on Olympic inclusion.

With that in mind, the three main governing bodies are all working behind the scenes on, variously, restructuring their leadership, increasing their media presence, and strengthening their brand ...

Leighton leaves WSF: finally official

The worst kept secret in squash has finally been confirmed on the World Squash Federation website: Chief Executive Christian Leighton has left the organisation.

A news article dated 22/09/08 states that a "re-structuring" of the organisation is taking place, with Leighton being "a casualty of the new setup" ...

Why the re-structuring necessitated the departure of the Chief Exec is not explained, but the next paragraph of the article does its best to talk-up his contribution:

"Christian has made a significant contribution since joining the Federation in January 2005, particularly in squash's bid to join the Olympic programme," added (Jahangir) Khan. "We wish him well in his future pursuits."

What the re-structuring might entail when complete is not expanded on, though during the process of its implementation the administration the Federation will be overseen by its Management Committee, led by Khan and featuring Vice Presidents Heather Deayton (Hong Kong), Gerard DeCourcy (New Zealand) and Frank van Loon (Netherlands).

As previously commented on this site and others, the departure of senior management during a crucial year for squash's Olympic hopes does not bode well.

Sources tell me that a promo video is hastily being compiled in order to showcase the sport at its best; here's hoping that a professional media production company who are experienced in putting together such pitches have been commissioned.

The WSF is due to meet IOC President Jacques Rogge on 13 November.

Textbook graphic illustrating how to create brand identityRe-launch or re-brand?

Leighton's departure coincides with what appears to be an unnanounced re-launch (and re-branding?) of the WSF website (and the organisation itself?). At first I took the new logo for one of those 'rabbit or duck?'-style optical illusions, where you are not quite sure what you are seeing, before realising that it is actually a racket-hitting-a-ball-through-an-acronym ...

In keeping with those optical illusions where the trick only works first time, when I now look at the logo I can't help but see only the racket and ball, which is a success of some kind.

It was also brought to my attention that the International Rugby Board's website (one of the WSF main rivals in the race to become an Olympic sport) looks very similar ...

I've asked the WSF to clarify whether the website is a relaunch/rebrand/redevelopment but as yet have had no reply.

WISPA issues directive to players

As noted recently on, WISPA is leading the way in promoting the virtues of the sport and the professionalism of its players in support of the Olympic campaign.

A recent WISPA Bulletin from Chief Executive Andrew Shelley issued a call to arms:


"When the Olympics began a few weeks ago all WISPA members were reminded that this was the time that they may be asked about why squash wasn’t included and whether we can get into them in the future. The notes are worth repeating now as the focus must remain strong as squash continues to press its claim for inclusion.

We missed out on selection for the 2012 Games in London, but next year (October 2009) at the next IOC meeting which will be held in Copenhagen there will be decisions made about the venue selected for 2016 and the sports played.

As a result of baseball & softball being voted out of London but not being replaced there are 26 sports to be played there, and thus places for two more in 2016 (the Olympic Charter stipulates a maximum of 28).

So, we are in a fight with baseball and softball who want to get back in, along with the other shortlisted sports of karate, golf, rugby sevens & roller sports.


- We are a truly worldwide sport, and compete in every other Major Games, including the Commonwealth, Pan American, Asian and All African Games.

- Squash is different to all other sports in the Games, and rates as one of the most gruelling and skilled sports.

- Our top players are serious professionals.

- All our players are serious sports people.

- The Olympics would be our greatest event by far and the ultimate goal for our players would be to win a gold medal. (This is important to stress as this differentiates us from golf, tennis, soccer and some other sports where there are other great, highly coveted 'major’ championships such as Wimbledon, The Masters or the World Cup.)

- We have become a really good spectator and TV sport because of the all-glass court. The glass court can be erected in any spectacular location and does not require an expensive stadium to be built, cutting costs for the host city/nation.

- The top players in the world are a diverse group of people that come from many nations that are not the 'super powers' in the Olympics - creating opportunities for different nations to have a lead on winning medals.

The Olympic bid is of paramount importance as we use the year in conjunction with WSF & PSA to promote ourselves in any way that we can. Creating a bigger profile and reaching out to key people and contacts is a main thrust of the strategy."

Great point about the portability of the court as an asset: I don't think I've seen this in any squash-and-the-Olympics articles to date.

England Squash to rebrand

While we're on the subject of changes and interventions being made by governing bodies, I read recently that England Squash is also undergoing a rebranding.

Ben Taylor, Marketing Co-Ordinator at ES, responded to my query about their work in this area:

"We are working with a branding agency, Fudge Studios, to create a new brand that represents the organisation as a forward thinking, modern organisation, but that also shows that squash and racketball are vibrant, exciting, relevant sports that are worthy of more interest, participation, and media coverage."

Sounds promising - I look forward to seeing the result of the collaboration.

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