By ALAN THATCHER
Un-noticed, a long way from Manchester, a great squash champion has been fighting a massive battle every bit as important as a World Open.
Australia, once a dominant nation in the sport, has suffered enormously in the past decade from court demolitions and falling participation numbers .
Former world champion Michelle Martin has devoted a large part of her life, following the end of an illustrious playing career, to fighting court closures in her home town of Sydney.
This week she and her loyal band of supporters celebrated a success as they halted the closure of some leisure centre courts owned by the local authority.
In the grand scheme of global squash, that might not mean much. But, in a sports-mad country like Australia, where squash enthusiasts are battling to keep the sport alive, it represents a landmark victory.
Here’s how the local paper reported the news:
FORMER world champion squash player Michelle Martin will join the new sporting set-up at Warringah Recreation Centre at North Manly.
Ms Martin, a coach since retiring from playing, unsuccessfully applied for a lease at the North Manly venue when Warringah Council issued requests for tender in the past few years.
The council took over running the District Park complex in September and has contracted futsal, squash and tennis coaches to run sports there.
Ms Martin was determined to retain squash facilities at District Park by improving player numbers.
“I’ve always been proactive in getting squash revitalised,” she said.
“I don’t know how many centres we had on private land, but this facility is on council land and we need it as a full facility.
“We don’t have any other courts on the beaches except for those at Elanora Heights.”
There are three courts at the Recreation Centre, which has been refurbished.
The centre is holding tournaments that Ms Martin said was as important as finding newcomers in order to provide further opportunities.
“We need to create competition players and junior development for the growth of the sport.,” she said.
Ms Martin will work with coaches Jason McLauchlan and Tim Wyres.