Pontefract’s world number one James Willstrop gives the inside track on the competitive world of sport.
Playing squash for a living is not bad I have to admit. There are some difficulties, as with anything: airports and travel can occasionally be harrowing, the training at its hardest can be back-breaking and the injuries are a nightmare. But other than that, it’s a glamorous life.
Or maybe not. I have seen a few places in my time, but the trouble is these “places” amount only to squash clubs and hotels. We travel thousands of miles but see very little. It often feels like a lost chance.
Some destinations make me want to get home as quickly as possible while some make me never want to leave after the business of the squash has finished.
One such example came last weekend in Boston in the US. I couldn’t stay to enjoy the glorious autumnal climes for an extra day or two as there is a day job to see to.
John Nimick, a former US player, is the world’s standard bearer in terms of directing and staging squash events. The Tournament of Champions in New York is one of his and is the most beguiling, spectacular squash event on earth.
The crowds are consistently brilliant, the setting out of this world and the organisation runs like a dream. It has become a wondrous institution of world squash.
Last weekend John invited Ramy Ashour, Nick Matthew, pictured, Amr Shabana and myself to play in a stand-alone, non-ranking event billed as “Showdown at Symphony”, played on Saturday evening in the silky-sumptuous confines of the Boston Symphony Hall.
The format was an England v Egypt clash in which both Nick and myself played one match against Amr and another against Ramy. The auditorium was packed: at floor level with VIPs on jazz club tables receiving dinner service – quite an unique idea in squash events – and in the balconies with the ticket-buying public.
A cross section of Boston society was catered for and happily bucket-loads of youngsters from Squashbusters, an urban youth squash and education programme, came to watch. The four of us were thrilled to be signing autographs after the matches for young, keen squash players.
We players took part in clinics all day at various clubs on Friday and the energy and enthusiasm for the game was appreciable.
The weekend was an absolute triumph in every sense of the word and I was thrilled to be a part of a magical night on Saturday. Well done to everybody involved, but I must find a way of staying longer next time.