Squash: Big Apple keeps that rosy appeal - Willstrop

James Willstrop.

James Willstrop.

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I no doubt run the risk of repeating myself around this time of year, but after arriving back from the Tournament of Champions in New York I just grow fonder and fonder of the event every time.

It’s the ringleader of all events on tour and my personal favourite and I find myself wondering how many chances I have left to play in the most iconic venue in squash at Grand Central Station, and how much more I will be able to enjoy playing in front of the most exuberant fans in the world.

I travelled to the Big Apple well before the start with my manager, Mick Todd, to visit three very contrasting clubs in the area. First we headed for the Heights Casino squash institution in Brooklyn – where former world number 3 woman player Linda Elriani and husband Laurent are resident professionals – to give a talk and book signing.

The following evening we visited the HQ of the urban youth squash programme “Streetsquash”, where I practiced with the students and talked about my life as a professional and then travelled to the third club, the Tennis and Racquet Club situated on Park Avenue.

It’s a silkily-opulent male-only club, a world away from my Pontefract home, literally and figuratively.

Back at Grand Central, eventual champion Ramy Ashour beat me in five sets in the semis and I was disappointed not to push on having had a 1-0 and 7-4 lead. Natalie Grinham beat Kasey Brown 3-0 in the women’s event in New York.