Joe Kneipp deserves credit for unearthing a ‘dream venue’ on the British Virgin Island of Tortola
By SATYA SESHADRI – Squash Mad Columnist
Looking for a dream venue for a squash tournament? Well, last weekend was a special one on the British Virgin Island of Tortola as about 60 squash players gathered from neighboring Caribbean islands and major cities including Vancouver, Toronto and New York City to participate in the 2013 Meridian Squash Masters tournament. It proved to be an amazing event filled with squash, socialising and fun.
I had the privilege to travel with a group of seven New Yorkers as their “coach-manager” to The Tortola Sports Club, which is located in Road Town, Tortola. Surrounded by beautiful islands and scenery, this was one of the best settings for a squash event.
If you are true squash enthusiast the name Joe Kneipp might be familiar. Kneipp is a former top 10 player in the world from Australia who now resides in Tortola and is the head squash pro at The Tortola Sports Club after settling in Tortola with his wife six years ago.
Joe plays an instrumental role in organising this great event every year. Special thanks should also be given to the Meridian Construction Company for its pivotal role in supporting the Masters Tournament.
The Meridian Masters is an age group event that consists of four Main Draws: Ladies’ main draw, Men’s 35 to 44 draw, Men’s 45 to 54 draw, Men’s 55 to 65 draw.
The Ladies’ draw of 16 players featured some intense matches over the course of 2 days, with each player guaranteed a minimum of 3 matches. The finals paired Musonda Prince of Tortola against Carol Valle of Vancouver, who now resides and works in Tortola.
Musonda beat the top-seeded Carol Valle 3-0 in a match displaying countless deceptive shots and thrilling long rallies. In the third place match, Sheila Proteau (Toronto) overcame Helen Newsome (Tortola) 3-1.
The Ladies draw on the whole consisted of several local players who showed a ton of promise, many of whom were tennis converts who had played competitive squash only a few times.
The Men’s 55 to 65 draw consisted of 16 players from various parts of the world. In my opinion this was clearly one of the most competitive draws I have seen. New Yorker Harry Gordon beat St. Vincent ace Keith Boyea in a tight 3 games to 0 margin in the final.
Keith was the defending champion of this draw and was disappointed to lose to a new entrant, however, the two finalists played a fantastic match displaying good hands and creative talent throughout the match.
Perhaps it was all the rum he consumed this weekend that caught up with last year’s champ. In the 3/4 position local star Winston Findlay (Tortola) beat Neal Ramasra (Trinidad) by a score of 3 games to 1. Other notables in the draw included Orson Simpson (Trinidad), Jen Adamson (Tortola), and Donald (Barbados).
Throughout the weekend these men showed a lot of class by rooting for one another and giving it all when they entered the squash court. I hope I can stay as fit as these gentleman when I reach their age!
The Men’s 45 to 54 draw consisted of 16 players as well, and had several players from different parts of the Caribbean and New York City.
The final was between Mark Sealy (Barbados) and John Holley (Trinidad). This was the closest final of the tournament with Mark eventually edging out John 3 games to 1. In the Caribbean the courts are quite bouncy due to the heat and humidity, so this match was a battle of the fittest.
Mark seemed to know his opponents game well and was able to control the “T”, however John managed to stay in there for a while and hassle his opponent with some fine retrieving.
The Men’s 35 to 44 draw consisted of eight people but promised to be the most deadly in terms of the level of squash play.
Local hero Joe Kneipp was slated to meet Richard Chin, former Caribbean National Champion and current New York City resident. As the seedings predicted Joe and Richard met in the final.
Each cruised to the finals with 3-0 victories over their opponents in the earlier rounds. Joe played Eddie Kapur (New York City) in the semifinals and won his match 3-0, but there were some long and hard fought rallies in the third game.
Richard Chin (New York City) beat local Mike Adamson in the other semi-final 3-0. All the players and spectators were looking forward to the Kneipp – Chin final, but unfortunately Joe injured his leg in the semi-final tie and had to concede his match due to injury default.
In the 3/4 position Eddie Kapur (a New York City World Squash Day legend) won 3-0 against local Mike Adamson, with each game going the distance and Adamson putting on a spirited performance against his more experienced opponent from New York City.
This tournament would not be successful without the support of the Meridian Construction Company run by partners Percy Rhoden and Richard Starsky. They made sure that everyone enjoyed the event and had a fantastic time; everything was taken care of for the players from hotel accommodations, transportation, food, drinks and entertainment.
A bingo night was organised for all players on Friday night (with the proceeds going towards the recent floods in the Philippines) with tons of food and drinks, a special barbecue on Saturday night for all players followed by a bar night at a local watering hole, and finally an all-day boat cruise around the island with music, food and drinks on Sunday.
The people of the island and the members of the Tortola Sports Club welcomed all outsiders with open arms and have taken excellent care of all of us.
While I sit here in New York City writing this article I can only think of all the friendships that were built over the course of this past weekend. Rumour has it that next year they are working on a Men’s and Women’s Open draw.
If you are interested make sure to contact Joe Kneipp for an invitation. Once again thanks to all the sponsors and Joe Kneipp for hosting an excellent event. I am still recovering from all the rum consumed over the weekend.