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January 06-12: The Grapevine

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The budding relationship between Matthew and Clegg, a roof collapsing in Malaysia and why Selby’s loyalty could come back to haunt him

  • Egyptian duo set to capatilise on Daryl Selby’s Motor City Open absence
  • Swedish Open organisers hastily await news on Ramy Ashour’s injury
  • Nick Clegg – the walking PR machine for squash
  • Australian and New Zealand juniors set for grudge match
  • Squash’s Olympic campaign needs to be put on the back-burner

By MICHAEL CATLING – Squash Mad Reporter

Talking point – Selby bucking the trend:

In an era where ‘money talks’ and players target the tournaments offering the biggest ‘pay-day’, it is refreshing to see world number 10 Daryl Selby competing in the BSPA Edinburgh Open, rather than the Motor City Open, later this month.

But while the 31-year-old, who beat Tom Richards to win the event last year, deserves praise for his continued support of the Scottish event, the England number four may live to regret his goodwill when the February world rankings are released.

Egyptian duo Omar Mosaad and Tarek Momen currently lurk just outside the top 10 and could leapfrog Selby if they perform strongly at the $70,000 PSA International tournament in Detroit.

Not to mention it also makes the upcoming Tournament of Champions of even greater importance to the aforementioned trio.

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Swedish Open organisers set for anxious wait over Ramy:

Ashour-painRamy Ashour’s withdrawal from the Tournament of Champions has left organisers of the Swedish Open sweating on his fitness after using the former world number one as the figurehead to help publicise the event. 

The 26-year-old is set to make his first appearance of the year at the $70,000 PSA International event in February but sources close to the Egyptian suggest doctors are perplexed by the root of his re-occurring hamstring injury.

If he fails to recover from his latest setback in time, the organisers may need to rely heavily on Nick Matthew and Gregory Gaultier to keep the Linköping-based tournament in the spotlight and their sponsors happy.

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Nick Clegg gives squash a boost:

While MP’s often (and deservedly so on many occasions) receive bad press, it was refreshing to see Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg support Nick Matthew’s latest initiative to help get more children involved in sport.

It seems unlikely Clegg is targeting the squash community to help drive his 2015 election campaign, but the WSF will be encouraged by such a high profile figurehead acting as a walking PR machine for squash. 

This is not the first-time Clegg has given his backing to the new world number one as well, after sending a letter to the BBC to lobby for Matthew’s inclusion in the list of nominees for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2013.

View image on Twitter

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Juniors set for bragging rights battle:

The next generation of Australian and New Zealand squash stars will compete in the annual Trans-Tasman Test Match next week. 

Squash Australia has recently undergone a major overhaul and has set itself the target of providing more competition and more opportunities for Australian junior players to help unearth the next Rodney Martin or Heather McKay.

The junior event will be held at Palm Beach Aquatic and Squash Centre on January 15 and 16 with players competing in a singles format.

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Perry in contention for end of year gong:

Irish number one Madeline Perry has been named The Irish Times / Irish Sports Council ‘Sportswoman of the Month’ for December 2013.

The new world number seven beat Laura Mylotte to win her 14th women’s title at the National Squash Championships in Dublin.

The accolade means the 36-year-old will be the first of 12 sportswomen to be in contention for the ‘Sportswoman of the Year’ title at an awards ceremony in December 2014.

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Malaysian National Squash Centre damaged by latest storms:

Part of the roof at the Malaysian National Squash Centre in Bukit Jalil collapsed earlier this week, following torrential rain and flooding in Kuala Lumpur.

The roof of the centre, which underwent maintenance work two years ago, has yet to undergo any major refurbishment since it was opened for the Commonwealth Games in 1998.

The venue had also been touted as a potential location for the World Championship but instead the delayed 2013 women’s event will be held at the Nicol David International Squash Centre and the 10,000-seater Penang International Sports Arena.

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 Don’t miss…

The Tournament of Champions at the Grand Central Station in New York live on Squash TV next week.

Ramy Ashour’s withdrawal has thrown the men’s tournament wide open and many players will be hoping to capitalise on their higher seedings and boost their ranking points in the first World Series event of 2014.

The women’s event will also feature Nicol David for the first-time with the world number one gunning for her seventh successive title. 

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One to watch: Chris Simpson

The world number 26 is starting to feature regularly in the major PSA World Series events and it seems only a matter of time before the 26-year-old scalps a big-name seed. 

Simpson, who finished runner-up to Adrian Grant at the London Open in December, pushed Spain’s Borja Golan and world number four Mohamed Elshorbagy to five games at the World Championship and Qatar Classic in November and could face eighth seed and world number 10 Daryl Selby in the last 16.

Selby recently suffered early exits at the Hong Kong Open and Alwatan & Asnan International which could give Simpson a psychological advantage; provided both Englishman negotiate their first-round matches against qualifiers.

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Final thought:

The quest goes on : As part of the continuing squash effort to secure a place on the Olympic Games programme in the future, WSF President N Ramachandran has met Sheikh Ahmad Al-Sabah, President ANOC (Association of National Olympic Committees) in Kuwait to update him on the added value that squash would bring if added.Despite being continually overlooked for Olympic inclusion over the past decade, the news that WSF President N Ramachandran met the President of the Olympic Council of Asia and member of the International Olympic Committee, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Sabah, in Kuwait earlier this week once again highlighted the unbridled energy still being expelled on Squash’s Olympic Campaign.

But while I agreed with Peter Barker’s assertion last year that the sport needs the Olympics to survive and progress in the future, there are more pressing issues which require more urgent attention at the moment.

The news that the Women’s World Championship 2013 will go ahead is a welcome relief but one which merely masks the disorganisation and lack of communication which is plaguing the women’s governing body.

Sponsorship issues have also seen the World Series Finals moved to the United States and while the PSA deserve some credit for finding a quick solution, such uncertainty continues to jeopardise the clean-cut image that the sport is trying to present.

It would seem prudent, then, for the WSF to help address the recent shortcomings of the two governing bodies and prevent the sport from detracting new investors and sponsors in the future.

Pictures by Steve Cubbins (SquashSite), Michael Catling et al

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