By ALAN THATCHER – Squash Mad Editor
On the day that the dates for next year’s J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions were announced, squash fans have the chance to connect online with some of the game’s greatest stars of the past three decades.
The event, widely regarded as one of the jewels of the PSA World Tour, will return to the Vanderbilt Waiting Hall inside New York’s iconic Grand Central Terminal between January 13-21, 2022.
Today, the tournament organisers are holding a virtual ToC: Unstrung event at 5pm UK time. Guests will include three decades of ToC winners, including Jonathon Power, Raneem El Welily, and the incomparable Ramy Ashour.
This year’s Tournament of Champions was cancelled because of Covid. But squash fans can immerse themselves in the Big Apple buzz by watching today’s event on the PSA World Tour and ToC Facebook channels or the PSA SQUASHTV YouTube channel.
The announcement of next year’s ToC dates follows the news that top-class tournament action will return in Egypt in March and Manchester in April.
The PSA World Tour will return in just under a month when the world’s best male and female squash players line up at the Black Ball Sporting Club in Cairo to compete for the 2021 CIB PSA Black Ball Open between March 12 – 25, 2020.
This PSA Platinum event will feature 48 men and 48 women competing for $350,000 in equal prize money split across both divisions.
It will be the opening PSA World Tour event of 2021 and the first since December’s edition of the CIB Black Ball PSA Open, which was a PSA Gold tournament. The women’s tournament will be held between Friday March 12 to Thursday March 18, with the men’s following from Friday March 19 to Thursday March 25.
England’s Sarah-Jane Perry and Egypt’s Fares Dessouky are the defending champions after they both achieved incredible comebacks from 2-0 down against World No.5 Hania El Hammamy and World No.1 Ali Farag, respectively, in December’s finals.
PSA Chief Executive Alex Gough said: “We are delighted to kick off our PSA World Tour calendar for 2021 in Egypt and I look forward to watching all of our athletes during what promises to be two exciting and unpredictable weeks in Cairo. I’d like to thank Mohamed Raef, Ahmed El Abd and their team at the Black Ball Sporting Club for their hard work in making this tournament possible.
“Thanks to CIB’s incredible support of squash – which has been integral to our relaunch of the tour against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic – we are pleased to see that this instalment of the CIB PSA Black Ball Squash Open will be a Platinum event, which means an increase in prize money, while the increased draw size will result in more playing opportunities for our players.
“Given the inability to stage events in the United States at the moment due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related travel restrictions, we are starting 2021 differently than in previous years. However, we are glad to report that the CIB PSA Black Ball Squash Open will be the precursor to a regular schedule of PSA World Tour events and I look forward to sharing our full calendar in the coming weeks.”
CEO of Black Ball Sporting Club and Tournament Director, Mohamed Raef, said: “It’s our pleasure at the Black Ball Sporting Club to continue our success story with our valued partners, CIB and PSA. I’m so happy to bring the tournament up to Platinum level.
“Thank you to CIB for the incredible support as usual, especially within the pandemic situation. We are looking forward to have another amazing event.”
Commercial International Bank (CIB) Chief Executive and Board Member, Hussein Abaza, said: “CIB is proud to sponsor such an esteemed sporting event that includes the best squash players in the world.
“We remain committed to continuing our support of sports in Egypt given its positive effect on the Egyptian youth. This includes our encouragement and support of Egypt’s young squash champions who have become a source of national pride for their achievements and their international rankings.
“We recognise the importance of this tournament in reinforcing Egypt’s position as an international squash hub.”
The second PSA World Tour event of 2021 will see the world’s best male and female squash players head to Manchester’s National Squash Centre between April 19-25 to compete for the Manchester Open.
These PSA Silver events will see 32 men and 32 women compete in the first PSA World Tour event in Europe since the 2020 edition of the Manchester Open last September.
Men’s World No.2 Mohamed ElShorbagy and women’s World No.4 Nour El Tayeb – who announced her pregnancy in December – took the titles on that occasion.
Delivered in partnership with Manchester City Council, the Manchester Open will feature a prize purse of $170,000 which will be split equally across the men’s and women’s draws.
The Manchester Open will be held in accordance with strict COVID-19 protocols. All players and staff will operate in a bubble environment and are required to provide a negative PCR-RT COVID-19 test prior to travelling to the tournament and a subsequent negative test upon arrival.
After the coronavirus pandemic struck New York in particularly devastating fashion, ToC promoter John Nimick is both relieved and excited to have agreed the renewal of a new three-year title sponsorship with J.P. Morgan, which will commence at the 2022 edition of the PSA World Tour Platinum tournament.
He said: “I’d like to thank J.P. Morgan for their unwavering support and commitment to the Tournament of Champions during these unprecedented times, and I look forward to welcoming these world-class athletes back to Grand Central Terminal for what promises to be an enthralling week of action.
“The decision not to hold the 2021 edition of our tournament was a difficult one, but rendered necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic, which made holding a top tier event in a commuter station untenable.
“However, I’m sure the 2022 instalment of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions will be the most captivating yet, and I hope the 24th edition of the ToC at Grand Central plays a part in the return of New York City as the greatest city in the world.”
Pictures courtesy of PSA