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Egypt's 2015 champions Raneem El Welily and Mohamed Elshorbagy
Egypt’s 2015 champions Raneem El Welily and Mohamed Elshorbagy

Equal pay and draw sizes make grand gender statement at Grand Central
By NATHAN CLARKE

 

The world’s leading professional squash players will return to New York to compete for one of the sport’s most prestigious titles, the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions, in Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall from January 7-14, 2016.

The only world-class sporting event held annually in Grand Central Terminal and billed as the largest squash spectator event in the world, claiming to draw more than 200,000 viewers annually, the ToC is celebrating its 19th year in Grand Central in what will be a record-setting year in the tournament’s history.

For the first time in ToC history equal prize money and equal size draws will be offered for the men and women, representative of the sport’s progressive stance on gender equality.

A record 46 of the top 50 ranking players have confirmed their entries and a record 112 athletes will compete. The athletes hail from a record-setting 25 nations and six continents, with an exciting mix of several returning ToC titleholders and younger players who have been challenging the top-ranking players in every major tournament so far this season.

Defending champions, Egyptians Mohamed Elshorbagy and Raneem El Welily, will be the top seeds in the men’s and women’s draws, respectively.

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Reigning World Champions Nicol David of Malaysia and Gregory Gaultier of France will be looking to garner their second ToC trophies.

Home court advantage will belong to 22-year-old Amanda Sobhy  (right) of Long Island, the highest-ranking American ever in the PSA international rankings, having reached the top ten for the first time in September 2014.

“The J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions sets the stage for dramatic action unlike any other venue, giving players the opportunity to showcase their talents in majestic Vanderbilt Hall in front of the largest and most enthusiastic crowds in our sport,” said John Nimick, President of Squash Engine, Inc., the tournament promoter.

“Players always bring their A-game to the ToC, which has long been the players’ favorite venue. Rising stars will often make their first mark here as a contender for one of top ranking spots and the player who wins the title often dominates the no. 1 ranking for the rest of the season.”

The J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions is one of eight PSA sanctioned World Series events, which sees players striving to earn enough points on the ‘Road To Dubai’ to qualify for the season-ending tournament. Featuring a 32-player main draw and a 32-player qualifying draw for the men and women, the 2016 ToC will offer total prize money of $300,000, the largest in the tournament’s history.

Grand Central: what a venue!
Grand Central: what a venue!

The sport’s most advanced all-glass squash court, the NetSuite Challenge Court, will be constructed under the iconic chandeliers in Grand Central’s Vanderbilt Hall (right) during the four days preceding the start of play.

The NetSuite Challenge Court provides a significantly enhanced experience for players and spectators, with its state-of-the-art blue walls allowing one-way viewing and integrated LED and on-screen technology offering video review, shot accuracy and player trends.

Free standing-room at the front of the court provides passersby, commuters and visitors the opportunity to witness the strength and finesse of professional squash at the highest level. Surrounding the court is stadium seating for 500 for which tickets start at just $8 for early round matches, going up to $170 for the sought-after Men’s and Women’s Finals on the evening of Thursday, January 14th.

On Sunday, January 10th, ToC will host Dunlop Kid’s Day, giving families and children a chance to partake in the action with Dunlop goodie bags, snacks, autographs from star players, and a fun Beat-the-Pro challenge.

Participants from ToC’s official charities, StreetSquash and CitySquash, will partake in clinics with professional players and be courtside as ball kids throughout the competition.

These New York City urban youth enrichment programs help students from economically disadvantaged households reach their academic, athletic and personal potential by providing tutoring, squash instruction, community service, college preparation, leadership development and mentoring.

In addition to title sponsor J.P. Morgan, returning for an eighth year, the ToC’s gold sponsor, Lexington Partners, is returning for its 17th year of sponsorship. Comcast NBC Universal and S&P Capital IQ are returning as silver sponsors.

Ranked the world’s healthiest sport by Forbes magazine, squash is lightning fast with balls traveling up to 177 mph. Players can burn up to 1500 calories per hour and the sport delivers significant health benefits including cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular strength and flexibility.

First played in England more than 140 years ago, the sport is growing worldwide, played by 20 million people in more than 185 countries, including 1.2 million in the United States.

Tickets are available online at ToCSquash.com or by calling (718) 569-0594.

 

Pictures from Squash Mad archive 

 

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