By MIKE DALE
As men’s squash gathers its breath after a staggeringly successful World Championship in Manchester, the women’s tour remains in a state of agonising stasis.
The intense drama of last Sunday’s men’s final capped a sensational week of shocks, injuries, great matches, compelling stories, a book launch and even a new baby – all of it showcased live on national TV (well, apart from the birth).
While the PSA and its players bathe in the warm glow of positive publicity, as things stand on the WSA tour there won’t even be a female 2013 world squash champion.
There is, officially at least, still no WSA World Open on the calendar. Talks about staging an event in Egypt in mid-December are ongoing, but facts are as yet scarce. Pulling such a major tournament out of the bag in just six weeks would be a herculean logistical feat.
England captain Jenny Duncalf was at Manchester Central on Sunday to roar her friend and fellow Yorkshireman Nick Matthew to victory. She admitted to squashmad.com the event left her feeling a mixture of pride, jealousy and frustration.
“In general I’m a massive squash fan so I’m never going to be bitter about the guys having a massive tournament and us not, but… seeing an event like the men’s World Open it only makes you wish you were playing on a similar stage,” said Duncalf.
“I think Manchester, the PSA and [director] Paul Walters did a great job of showcasing it. The World Open is absolutely massive. It is the pinnacle of the year, which is why as WSA players we are disappointed that we don’t have one as it stands right now.
“That does make you a tad jealous but we are in talks, albeit massively late in the day, to have a tournament just before Christmas.
“Nothing has been confirmed yet. It is all up in the air. I can’t really say too much. Obviously we’d rather have known in advance what we’re training for and trying to peak for.
“It’s hard as a player to prepare for that or to make any arrangements in terms of where you’re going to be at Christmas. We’re already in November and we don’t know if we’ve got a World Open in December yet.
“It will be hard to put on such a big event with a month and a half’s notice. It’s not easy, but fingers crossed we’ll have one. If not, it will be a huge disappointment.”
Duncalf was a World Open finalist in 2011 in Rotterdam, losing to Nicol David, and also lost to the all-conquering Malaysian in the Cayman Islands in last year’s semis. Having also lost in a British Open final (in 2008, also to David) she’d love another crack at one of the sport’s biggest prizes next month.
“As a player the World Open is everything. You dream of it as a kid and that’s where you want to be, just to have a chance to win that title. It’s absolutely massive,” said the current world No.8.
With Alex Gough last week revealing initial talks over uniting the PSA and WSA, and recent wranglings over equal prize money, it’s certainly a pivotal period for women’s squash.
Duncalf, for one, is in favour of a closer union with the PSA: “I think it’s really good news. It’s not going to be a joint association straight away, it won’t be as easy as that. But as long as we’re working together, and everyone’s got the sport’s best interests at heart, I think that’s brilliant.
“I don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t want to work with the PSA. It’s more a case of why they’d want to work with us. They’ve got a great tour. Ours is ok, but could be better. I don’t think we’ve got anything to lose from a WSA point of view.”
As for the prize money debate, the Delaware Investments US Open stuck its flag in the sand in October by giving male and female players equal remuneration.
Duncalf revealed that she and other WSA members have approached England Squash to ask whether the British Open will follow Philadelphia’s example. Talks are planned soon.
“I thought that was great from the US Open, such a big event putting themselves out there and stating their intention of equal prize money,” said the 30-year-old. “They do it for the majors in tennis and they don’t even play the same amount of games. We do, and we have the same size draw, so why not?”