By Jonathon Brodie/London Community News / Twitter: @jonathonbrodie
If you haven’t yet heard about the Professional Squash Association’s Nash Cup at the London Squash Racquets Club, on Albert Street, you most likely will soon, as the international tournament is getting better with age.
The fifth edition of the Nash Cup, running this year from Sept. 17-23, promises to be its toughest competition to date with 16 players qualifying for the tournament, hailing from the U.S. to Pakistan and France to Australia.
The highest-ranked player in last year’s tournament was 46th in the world — the first player to be within the top 50 to compete at the Nash Cup. This year there are four players ranked 50th or better, with the top North American player, 28th ranked Julian Illingworth from the U.S., entering the tournament as the top seed.
“That will be the highest level of play we’ve ever seen in London,” said Jay Nash, an organizer of the annual squash tournament. “It’s been nice because as it grows, we worry less and less about the ticket sales and that kind of thing.”
The raised level of competition has already looked to have impressed fans awaiting the Nash Cup. All full week ticket packages are sold out three weeks before the start date of the tourney and only individual tickets for each night remain.
“We get crowds right from the first night, which is pretty rare in squash,” Nash said. “The pros aren’t used to it in the opening rounds having a full crowd behind them.”
The large number of people coming through the doors of the London Squash Racquets Club has spilled over to more than just fans as the tournament has also seen an increase of players in their amateur draw.
Nash said he’s expecting around 140 players to register for the amateur part of the Cup, with currently 20 per cent of the seats filled. To help hold the mass amount of athletes, squash courts at Goodlife Fitness host some of the games.
“If we didn’t have (Goodlife Fitness) we couldn’t handle 140 players,” Nash said, adding he expects about a third of the amateur competition to have at least a 45-minute drive or more to get to the tournament. “On the amateur side it has to be a cooperative because we’ve grown beyond what our club can handle and I’m not sure other cities on the amateur level that can actually do that.’
The Forest City squash competition has gone from handing out a $3,500 purse in its first edition to the winner now getting $10,000 during the last two years. When the prize money reaches $25,000, there will be bigger changes than just better talent and more amateur players, though.
“We would look to setup a glass court and continue to expand from there and then the question is, where does it go?,” Nash said. ”Do you put it at the John Labatt Centre? I’ve measured out Citi Plaza and it could actually go where the water fountain is. University of Western Ontario has been fairly vocal that Alumni Hall is available.”
For more information about the Nash Cup, visit www.nashcup.com.
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