‘I keep coming back because the Weymuller embodies everything good about women’s squash’
By PAULINA ROJEK – Squash Mad Correspondent
Brooklyn-born Olivia Blatchford Clyne (note the new hyphen and double-barreled surname) is looking forward with extra anticipation to next week’s Carol Weymuller Open at the Heights Casino in her home patch of New York City.
The 45th annual Carol Weymuller Open begins on Wednesday (October 17). This year, the format will be different from previous years following changes to the format of major PSA tournaments implemented in August.
During her sensational run to the quarter-finals of the FS Investments US Open Squash Championships in Philadelphia, we sat down with Brooklyn-born and American #1 Olivia Blatchford-Clyne and talked about squash, changes in the women’s game, and playing in her hometown tournament at the Heights Casino in Brooklyn, NY. Here are some of the highlights.
You are playing the Carol Weymuller Open for the first time as the US #1 at the club that you grew up at. How inspirational was this tournament for you as a kid?
It was incredibly inspirational. I honestly looked forward to the Carol Weymuller from the moment that the previous Weymuller ended. It gave me an appreciation for clinics because I was that kid who was in awe about the person who was on court with me. I now volunteer for clinics at tournaments to try and give that to another kid. My family also used to billet many former players.
This is the first time that there are three American women in the main draw (you, Amanda Sobhy and Haley Mendez). What does this say about American women’s squash and American squash in general?
This just shows the rise of American squash and the fact that there is a broadening of the base of squash. Squash is no longer just for the wealthy or the privileged. You are starting to see the middle class come into it, which is very exciting. Kids are no longer just playing squash to get into college.
What is your opinion on the new PSA World Tour format which got rid of the qualifying rounds?
In all honesty, things need to change and change is good. This format is good for the top 24 in the world and it solidifies their place in the world rankings.
It is very nice to receive hotel bonus from the beginning, as well as play from the beginning, but you still feel as though you have to “qualify,” since there are either 8 or 16 seeds who are getting a bye into the next round.
In order for a format like this to make sense, you would need to have more events on the PSA World Tour. I know the PSA is working very hard to achieve this, but it doesn’t seem as though they have enough, quite yet.
You got married to your boyfriend of six years, Alan Clyne this summer. How helpful has it been to have Alan by your side while you play?
Well, when I met Alan I wasn’t even playing professionally. I was coaching at Chelsea Piers, mostly juniors. What was nice was that we bonded over things that had nothing to do with squash.
As I went to see him at a few more events, it made that fire burn in my belly again which got me thinking that maybe I could do this [play professionally]. It is also really nice to have someone who understands what you are going through on a daily basis, even if sometimes I wish he wouldn’t try to reason with me.
What keeps you coming back to the Carol Weymuller Open at the Heights Casino?
I keep coming back, because honestly it feels like home. The people who run the tournament, you, Linda, Cristian, give so much to make us players feel at home. That is what keeps people [and me] coming back.
I think that the Carol Weymuller Open embodies women’s squash, especially with the fact that it is much more intimate than any public-facing tournament.
I love the fact that the Weymuller always gets a strong draw and that is such a testament to the work that the club [and the Weymuller committee] put into taking care of the players and making sure it goes well.
Thank you, Olivia, and god luck next week.
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Interview by PAULINA ROJEK. Edited by ALAN THATCHER
Pictures courtesy of PSA World Tour