Stafford misses Kneipp’s input

Cameron Stafford’s rapid rise up the pro squash ranks is a testament to his dedication and burning desire to succeed in a sport he has only taken seriously for a few years.

Stafford has jumped from No. 430 when he first turned professional in June 2011 to No. 176.

The Caymanian, who is a former Caribbean Junior champ, turns 21 next month and if his development continues at the same rate, within a couple of years he could be squaring up with the likes of Ramy Ashor, the double world champion who played at the Cayman Open two years ago.

“I’m very pleased with my progress,” Stafford said. “I’ve been working very hard recently. Last year, I went to Australia with more confidence in my game.

“I scored some very good wins over guys ranked No. 111, 131, 181, 199 in the world, respectively, and reached the quarterfinals and my first Professional Squash Association final, also giving the world No. 35 a hard time in New York City just a few weeks ago. Overall, I’m very happy with the way I’m playing at the moment.”

Stafford’s main goal for this year is to rise further up the world rankings. “At the moment, I’m training by myself but soon will be working with Mark Chaloner, the former world No. 7 and Commonwealth Games gold medallist.”

For the next few weeks he is focusing on training in Cayman. Then he plays in Switzerland in March before tournaments in South Africa and Australia between April and June. He will be coming back to represent Cayman in Bermuda for the Island Games and Caribbean Championships in Guyana in August.

Stafford is grateful for the enormous support received from the squash community here. “I’m very pleased with the help I received from people on the island.

“I get a lot of help from my mum and dad, the government, Cayman Airways, Harrow Sports (Racket Sponsor), Stuart Walker & Hersant Law Firm, 305 clothing line based in England, the squash association and South Sound Squash Club. Without these main sponsors this wouldn’t be possible. Thank you all for helping my pursuit in chasing my dreams.”

The Women’s World Open in December here was another great experience for Stafford. “Watching the best women’s players in the world battling it out on our shores was amazing.

“I think by the adults and juniors watching them compete it inspired them like it has inspired me to chase my dream in becoming a world class athlete.”

The three Cayman Opens culminating in the World Open were mainly thanks to the efforts of tournament director Dan Kneipp who returned to live in Australia last month. Stafford hopes Kneipp will either return otherwise major tournaments may not be staged in the Cayman Islands in the foreseeable future.

“It was sad to see Dan leave the Island. He has achieved a lot since arriving in Cayman by hosting the Women’s World Open and three Cayman Opens which brought the best players in the world, including both current world ones in Ashour and Nicol David.

“He also helped promote other local sports on the Island which I think will make Cayman an important sports destination.”

Despite Kneipp’s absence, Stafford believes squash will still progress here.

He said: “There is a lot of young talent coming up through the ranks. Cayman has produced four Caribbean Junior and national Champions in the past five or six years with the likes of Chantelle Day (three times Women’s Caribbean Junior champ), Samantha Hennings (Women’s Caribbean Junior champion), Julian Jervis (current Boys’ Caribbean Junior Champion), Eilidh Bridgeman (current Women’s National Champion) and myself.

“Hopefully, in the near future everyone wants 
to see the top players come back and compete again 
in Cayman.”