From JONATHON BRODIE at www.londoncommunitynews.com
The world’s No. 1 ranked squash player Ramy Ashour will be taking on Alister Walker (No. 15) Jan. 30 at the London Squash and Fitness Club in Albert Street, London, Ontario, for an exhibition match.
Just because the match doesn’t count for any points in the standings, it doesn’t mean the two are going to take it easy on each other.
“Walker has played Ramy five times in competition and lost all five, so he’s not going to back off on an exhibition match,” said Jay Nash, past-president of the London Squash and Fitness Club and co-organizer of the event.
The 46-year-old squash club brought in its best field of competition for the recent Nash Cup held in September with the highest ranking being Julian Illingworth at No. 28 in the world.
In London, England bringing in the international best might be a common sight with tournaments like the World Series Final or the Canary Wharf Classic, but for London, Ontario, it’s something of a rarity.
“About 10 or 12 years ago, I don’t remember the exact time, we had Jonathan Power when he was No. 1 … he played Graham Ryding who at that time was No. 2 in Canada,” Nash said. “In September (Illingworth’s) comment was, ‘When you get into the top 20 it’s a different world’.”
Before confirming the Professional Squash Association’s 2011 and 2012 Player of the Year coming to London, Nash and co-organizer David Morrish had to make sure the area’s squash community wanted it.
London responded quicker than Ashour’s overhead smash.
“I put an email out to all the members and, kind of a long story short, within 24 hours every potential seat was sold,” Morrish said, with about 100 people eligible to buy tickets to watch the match. “I think people thought I was joking at first, one or two did, because its not something you just write to the club members, ‘Oh by the way, we’re about to get the world No. 1 here’.”
With the local Nash Cup putting up a $15,000 purse in the next edition of the tournament to tie the largest squash prize in Ontario it puts the Forest City on the map in Ontario, but bringing the best player on the planet takes the Forest City to a whole new level.
“The No. 1 thing we can do is keep drawing attention to the sport at just how athletic and competitive this sport is,” Nash said. “Bringing in No. 1 and No. 15 does great things for squash in London.”
The appetite for the sport has grown at the London Squash and Fitness Club since a $500,000 renovation, going from 260 members to 320. Nowadays, it’s tough just getting into the club, but on Jan. 30 it might be the toughest.
There are seven squash facilities in the Forest City and more than 25 single courts across London.