The top women squash players will be here for the World Open next week.
Cayman is hosting the World Championships for the first time at the South Sound Squash Club and glass court in Camana Bay. The event will be attended by players from over 24 countries including the current world champion Nicol David and the other nine top ranked players in the world’s top ten.
It is organised by event director Dan Kneipp and runs from 14-21 December. David, having won the World Open six times in the last seven years is favourite. She has also won the Cayman Open all three times. Cayman’s Marlene West will be competing, as will England’s Jenny Duncalf who is ranked No.6 in the world.
Australian Liz Irving is a former World No.2 and World Open finalist. Irving also coaches Nicol David. “I’ve been to Cayman twice, for both the glass court tournaments and really enjoyed it both times,” said Irving.
“Cayman is just really relaxed. It reminds me a lot of being back home in Queensland. Everyone makes you feel so relaxed. If I had to describe Cayman in three words it would be Just Like Home, or Great Pina Coladas.
“Cayman is so different! Outdoor squash, palm trees…the tournament has its own beachy feel and is so well run. It’s a super place to visit and the crowd is so enthusiastic and knowledgeable.
“Cayman really invests a lot of time in its junior programme and it’s interesting to see how that starts paying off. They have lots of players coming through all the time, it’s great to see.
“For the World Open I’ll be taking four players – Nicol David, Aisling Blake, Samantha Teran and Lauren Briggs, so I’ll just be looking for the best performances we can get from all of them.
“I’ll take it a match at a time and as long as my players give their best that’s all you can ask, but we’re working towards some good results.
“It’s been great to be a part of Nicol’s victories in the previous tournaments.”
Malaysian David is currently the world No.1 ranked player. She is a two times World Junior Champion, current Commonwealth Games gold medallist and has won the world championship six times since 2005, only missing the title in 2007. She also won the Cayman Open in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
“This will be my fourth time in Cayman, I’ve been lucky enough to win it three times,” David said. “I just love the whole atmosphere of being on the island and the crowds are so enthusiastic about the game it really gets you going. And the beaches! In three words, I think of Cayman as Beautiful, Chill, Sun.
“Apart from winning it three times, what I’ve most enjoyed is coming back each year to see the growth of squash with the kids and how the government has come in and helped bring the tournament up to such a level in such a short time.
“It’s great to see all the junior players involved, it makes it such a special event.
“It’s overwhelming to see them all, and I hope that more countries can emulate what they’ve done.
“Dan has seen many professionals tournaments in his time travelling with his brother Joe, and he knows what the players want and need.
“He does a fantastic job in getting all the sponsors involved in the event, goes out of his way to make sure everything is catered for, and makes it great fun too for everyone . He also makes sure we’re kept entertained even when we’re out.”
David is so enthused about coming here that she is like an unpaid ambassador on the delights of the Cayman Islands
“Everyone should come and watch because it’s the holiday island to be in during the winter – it’s a fabulous island getaway with some great squash too, I’ve told so many people about it.
“After the experience of the last three years I so want to be back in Cayman. There’s good Malaysian support there. They come to cheer me on and feed me Malaysian food, so hopefully they can get me through one round at a time!”
The main sponsors are BDO whose managing partner Glen Trenouth is pleased that tens of thousands of dollars are being spent to boost squash’s junior programme.
He said: “We have been a main sponsor of the regular women’s pro tour event since its early beginnings five years ago.
“There are a number of reasons why it is important and highly beneficial for sporting events to invest in Cayman youth. It will help provide the necessary tools it needs to supply the children of Cayman with opportunities to excel and grow in sports, enhance social skills and increase confidence from a young age.
“Investment will also help provide a framework to promote certain values to guide children along the right path in life and make better decisions.”
Trenouth’s best squash experience here was “being able to play against the pros with a group of friends”.
He thinks the exposure the Cayman World Open will have will be beneficial. “The increased media coverage this year should open up the global audience even further and mark Cayman as an international sporting destination.
“BDO would like to thank all of the other sponsors and the organisers of this event, as without them, this fantastic event would not happen. We feel privileged to be supporting the Cayman World Open and wish all of the players the best of luck.”
Cameron Stafford, 20, is a novice pro and already ranked No.196 in the world. His highest world Ranking has been No.180. Stafford is the two-time Caribbean Junior Champion Under 17 in 2008 in Bermuda and Under 19 in 2010 in Cayman Islands. He has just returned from playing in Australia.
“My favourite player is Amr Shabana,” Stafford said. “I’m looking forward to watching the best women’s players in the world battling it out on our shores and think Nicol David will win again.”
Stafford has been inspired by the Cayman Opens. He admits to working and training harder from watching the top pros here.
Squash was never his first sporting love. “I was playing tennis one day and coach Dean came up to me and invited me to come play some squash and ever since then I fell in love with the game.”
As far as Stafford is concerned, his best achievement has been at this year’s Caribbean Senior Squash Championships in Trinidad & Tobago when he came second.
“I am very proud to represent my country. I’ve always dreamt of wearing the Cayman colours at an international level. My ambition is to world No.1 and world champion. Watching the World’s best on Squash TV has motivated me to pursue my dream.
“I think that Cayman Hosting the World Open is a great achievement for the Cayman Islands. A small Island hosting a world class event will bring more tourism to the Island and will inspire more local kids to get more involved in squash.
“During the World Open I would like to meet and watch Nour El Sherbini of Egypt because of what she has achieved already in the game. I think she will cause a lot of problems at the tournament.”