Squash is on the up in the US - Willstrop

Laura Massaro.
Laura Massaro.
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Pontefract’s world number one James Willstop gives the inside track on the competitive world of sport.

The US Open Squash Championships finished on Friday evening at Drexel University, west of downtown Philadelphia.

It’s the second year running that the University has hosted this event and the improvement on last year was very encouraging. Crowds were well up and US Squash made running one of the biggest squash tournaments in the world look easy.

Like the British Open, the US Championship has had an inconstent few years: after John Nimick’s EventEngine company relinquished the rights to the US governing body, the tournament hasn’t found consistency.

The event was held for the first time on the bright lights of Broadway at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City in 2007 (I remember it well having reached the final) and since then it was financially downgraded in Chicago a couple of times before recently finding its present home in Philadelphia, a strong region for squash.

Last year was the first of a purported three-year run, and I heard some positive noises that the hope is to extend that.

Last year’s winner Amr Shabana lost in the best match of the tournament in a quarter-final of ebb and flow to Nick Matthew. Matthew then lost to Ramy Ashour in the semis.

I trundled my way through the top half of the draw winning two matches in 80 minutes and my quarter-final in just over 90.

I didn’t feel fluent all week and was broken down quite efficiently by Greg Gaultier in the semis, who went on to lose to Ashour, showing himself to be in spritely fettle all week.

Laura Massaro, was last year’s women’s champion, and she came into the US Open with the Carol Weymuller trophy in tow from the week before. It is one of the biggest events on the WSA calendar, staged in Brooklyn, New York, and the English girl beat Raneem El Weleily in the final who avenged that defeat in Philadelphia in the semi finals.

Massaro’s England compatriot Alison Waters beat Nicol David in the quarter-finals in Brooklyn, the biggest single win of her life, but lost to her in Philadelphia in the same round.

David took the title, after defeats in the last two major events, a rarity for her.

I now wait in Philadelphia for a few days of training before packing the bags for San Francisco and the Netsuite Open, an entirely new PSA world tour event, and a location that is unknown to me. The anticipation builds...

* JAMES Willstrop’s book: Shot and Ghost. A Year in the Brutal World of Professional Squash has been included in the long list for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award 2012 – the most prestigious prize of its kind. The shortlist for the award will be announced on October 26.

Lee Beachill. Picture: SquashPics.com

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