I no doubt run the risk of repeating myself around this time of year, but after arriving back from the Tournament of Champions in New York I just grow fonder and fonder of the event every time. It's the ringleader of all events on tour and my personal favourite and I find myself wondering how many chances I have left to play in the most iconic venue in squash at Grand Central Terminal, and how much more I will be able to enjoy playing in front of the most exuberant fans in the world.
I travelled out to the Big Apple well before the start with my manager Mick to visit three very contrasting clubs in the area. First we headed for the Heights Casino squash institution in Brooklyn -where former world number 3 woman player Linda Elriani and husband Laurent are resident professionals- to give a talk and book signing.
The following evening we visited the HQ of the urban youth squash programme 'Streetsquash',where I practiced with the students and talked about my life as a professional; and the third club, situated in prime position on Park Avenue, was the Tennis and Racquet Club, a silkily opulent male only club, quite a world away from my Pontefract home, literally and figuratively. Members in their palatial surroundings were so comfortable in the changing rooms that they even found time to have a nap on the sofas provided.
Mick, adapting to the contrasting social differences of home, adorned himself in a conservative outfit of checked blazer, mustard tie and slacks, appearing inexorably comfortable, whilst I gave three of the club's best players the run around on court. We received such a warm welcome from everyone and and it felt like a great success.
The tournament was soon in full flow, and the court shimmered as usual in the Vanderbilt Hall, one of the thoroughfares leading to the famous and often photographed iconic main hall. This positioning gives the sport unprecedented exposure to thousands of travellers during the week, impacting more for the promotion of squash than any other event by a mile.
Ramy Ashour beat me in five sets in the semis, and I was disappointed not to push on having had a 1-0 and 7-4 lead. He also came from 2-0 down to beat Greg Gaultier in the final.
Natalie Grinham beat Kasey Brown 3-0 in the women's event.
Next are the National squash Championships in Manchester, UK, from 11th-17th of February.Suggest a correction