Why are we not playing on the show court says world number one
World number one Nicol David of Malaysia has heavily criticised the British Open organisers’ attitudes to the women’s game after being made to play her opening match on conventional plaster courts a mile from the main arena.
David played well enough in a 11-8, 12-10, 11-8 win over the talented Heba El Torky of Egypt but today, along with all the women, she must make radical adjustments to play the second round on an all-glass show-court where the men have been playing from the beginning.
Arguably the world’s highest profile squash player after topping the rankings for nearly eight years, David has special reasons for speaking out now against discrimination which she appeared to accept without comment last year.
“Now you have a women’s world champion,” she said, referring to her rival Laura Massaro, who has become the first English woman ever to hold both the World and British Open titles after succeeding the Malaysian as world champion last month.
“That has to be special. There are also so many English players in the top ten or top twelve and they are all here – surely you want to display them?” David asked.
“Why not put them all on the glass court? It’s the showcase and that’s what makes sense.”
David’s point is that besides gender equality as a principle there are also commercial reasons to put women’s matches on the show court side by side with the men’s from the start.
Previous promoters of the British Open have been worried about the lack of ticket sales generated by the women’s game, and England Squash and Racketball, the governing body which currently stages the famous 92-year-old event, clearly has concerns about that too, particularly as in the current economic climate the tournament is not a money maker.
However it now seems likely that David and Massaro, and perhaps some of the other leading women too, would attract more attention than many of the men. It is a point of view which was underlined by the US Open upgrading the women’s prize money to equal the men’s in October.
David’s coach Liz Irving had more emphatic views.
“This has always been the attitude, and I can’t see it changing,” she said.
“If you don’t want the tournament to take longer the best way to do it would be to have two glass courts in the arena and play the women’s and the men’s matches side by side.”
Nicol David’s outburst follows the criticism by England’s top three players, Laura Massaro, Jenny Duncalf and Alison Waters, of the failure to stage the Women’s World Championship alongside the men’s in Manchester last year.
Five women’s seeds were beaten on the warmer, bouncier plaster courts in Hull – Madeline Perry (left) , the number eight from Ireland, Jenny Duncalf, the number ten from England, Dipika Pallikal, the number 12 from India, Nour El Sherbini, the number 13 from Egypt, and Rachael Grinham, the number 15 from Australia.
By far the biggest shock was the defeat of El Sherbini, the 18-year-old Egyptian squash prodigy who came within a couple of points of becoming world champion last month in Penang, after beating David in the semi-finals.
Sherbini lost 11-5, 7-11, 11-6, 11-9 to Emma Beddoes, an English player who reached the world’s top 20 for the first time only last month at the age of 28.
By contrast there were no seeding upsets in the men’s event, with Ramy Ashour, the titleholder from Egypt, winning his opener by 12-10, 11-4, 11-8 against Marwan El Shorbagy, the former world junior champion from Egypt.