Squash: Canberra is putting Australia on the map - Willstrop

James Willstrop.

James Willstrop.

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The somewhat unlikely capital city, Canberra, was the location in which a new season of professional squash got well and truly underway at the Australian Open last week.

I say unlikely, with Canberra being more understated and less glamourous than other more obvious Aussie cities.

Sydney or Melbourne it is not, and the story goes that historically the two obvious choices in the country wrangled politically over which was to secure capital status, eventually resulting in Canberra, the eighth biggest city in Australia, being given the title.

Nevertheless the Australian Open has found a good home there. Now into its second year as a World Series title, the event undoubtedly built on last year’s success.Staged in a fine theatre at the National Convention Centre, it really looks the part.

After some purportedly barren years in Australia for squash, where the sport drifted in to decline in relation to the standard of its best players, the number of people playing the game, and the lack of major squash tournaments, this seems to be getting the blood flowing again.

Inspire

Crowds were big, enthusiastic and responsive to the action all week and everyone within Squash Australia who are responsible must be very proud of their efforts, building on the success of last year’s event. They will surely continue to get reward from their efforts as squash continues to inspire in one of the important sporting countries of the world.

Many players were finding their feet after four months without high-class competition. I came up short in the quarters against Gregory Gaultier. After taking a 1-0 and 9-6 lead he reversed the momentum to draw level at one game all and he ended the match the stronger.

Happy to have a tough match in the legs I now look forward to next week’s World Team Championships in Paderborn, Germany.

Yorkshire continued to show its strength as possibly the world’s strongest squash region with Nick Matthew and Jenny Duncalf, world numbers one and two respectively in the mens and womens games, both in the finals on Sunday.

Jenny lost in three games to world number one Nicol David, but maintains her hold on the number two ranking in the world, and Nick lost in five sets to world number two Egyptian Ramy Ashour.

The World men’s Team Championships, the squash version of the World Cup, starts in Paderborn in Germany on Sunday, where England are seeded one to win the title back from Egypt.