The Caribbean squash championships are in full swing at the South Sound Club and coach Dean Watson knows all eyes are on him because he unexpectedly won the Cayman Open in May.
‘We’ll soon find out if it was a fluke, won’t we,’ he said at the start of the week. No tournament victory this time but at least he got as far as the semis where he lost to Chris Ramasra of Jamaica.
‘It’s great to have all these players come back again. It’s great for the profile of squash here. Juniors, members and the general public have a chance to see how the game is played by the best players in the Caribbean.
‘It’s going to be interesting to see what happens and should be a really good atmosphere for the entire week.
‘We’re looking very strong for both the men’s and the women’s teams. A lot of teams will have one or two good players and then the level drops off, but we’ve actually got a depth of players all the way through which gives us a consistency. Most people think Cayman is going to do very well.
‘Home court advantage will make a difference because some are used to playing with AC courts and others not. (South Sound does have AC). Having you home fans behind you, hopefully, gives you a good few points head start.’
Cameron Stafford was the only Caymanian at the Caribbean Junior Championships last month to medal. He won silver in the Under-19s having won the U17s last year. It was an excellent showing as he was one of the youngest in the category.
‘Cameron is a strong, up and coming player. Very keen and we’re expecting good things from him. He delivers when he’s under pressure which is great and is maturing all the time.’
Jake Kelly sprung a surprise in beating one of the Caribbean’s top players in Gavin Cumberbatch at the Cayman Open.
‘I don’t think anybody was expecting Jake to pull it off as easy as he did,’ said Watson. ‘Jake’s very fast and fit and he’s going to cause a lot of players a lot of problems.
‘The girls are playing very well. We’ve got Chantelle Day back from the UK. She’s playing league in the UK which is a good standard. That’s keeping her on her toes.
‘Samantha Hennings has been training quite a lot which is usually one of her down sides. But when she’s on court she will deliver as best as she can.
‘Courtney Stafford’s still playing pretty good and of course you’ve got Marlene West and Caroline Heal. Marlene has had knee surgery, but she doesn’t show any signs of having problems from it. By what we’ve seen from the practice matches she will certainly be a top contender for one of the competitions.
‘Caroline has been playing consistently and being a triathlete she is obviously very fit. I’d be surprised if she loses any matches.’
Watson is really pleased that Mark Hennings, Samantha’s dad who is also in the vets team, has stepped forward and sponsored the tournament with his company Cayman Contractor Store.
Other sponsors are Deloitte, Cayman National, Welly’s Cool Spot, the Department of Sport, Genesis Trust, Rawlinson and Hunter and Deep Blue Divers.
Watson added: ‘Without the sponsors we wouldn’t have an event and so we have to say a huge thank you.’
Day said: ‘Cayman, across the board, all the teams are strong and we should be highly competitive and we do have a good shot at winning overall.
‘Since I’ve been home I’ve trained really hard to be in the best shape I can given the short notice of the tournament so hopefully, I’ll be able to go out there and play some good squash.’
Samantha Hennings said: ‘We have a pretty strong team and hopefully we’ll place in the top three. Individually I hope to get to at least the final of the plate. My form has been okay. My shots could do with a little more work but I’ll be doing the best I can. Of course, my dad wants me to look good.’