THE BLOG

Malaysian Tournament a Big Success for British Players

15/04/2013 15:36 BST | Updated 11/06/2013 10:12 BST

It's time, during this mini-spring-tournament-slump, to reflect on some of the squash that took place before Easter. Undoubtedly from an England point of view the CIMB KL Open was an extraordinary success. Laura Massaro, the England number one woman, won the title, beating Alison Waters, British Champion and second in command in the English ranks, in the final.

What a result that is for the girls, all involved in England Squash and Racketball, and for all those behind them. Having two finalists of a major event from the same country is extremely unusual; there is such strength in depth on the women's tour. Nicol David was again beaten by Massaro in the semis, validating the theory that David's indelible, spellbinding hold on the number one spot, whilst not in danger of yet being lost, is now being seriously challenged by a hungry pack.

Waters battled through the bottom half of the draw -enduring a series of brutal matches- in which the number two seed Raneem El Weleily from Egypt was dispatched by 35 year old mother Natalie Grinham.

Massaro's dismissal of David in the latter's back garden, where her image is displayed on motorway or airport billboards along with other world sporting icons, and where she is considered THE sporting celebrity, is even more remarkable because of this, though the pressure on David is considerable.

She is the equivalent of a Dame, and if she walks outside will usually get mobbed by celebrity seekers. The eyes of the country are on her and perhaps the fact that she has made The Netherlands her home for most of her professional career nods to the fact that an escape from the pressure is necessary.

The press too in Malaysia are unbelievably misguided and take a shamefully critical stance when she loses one match, which has been a relatively rare occurrence. She is almost the highest achieving squash player of all time, a genial and hard working ambassador, and such a dignified loser, and she should be continually showered with praise by the whole of Malaysia.

Unfortunately praise does not make interesting news articles. At least the benefit for us here being English is that people don't care enough about squash to criticise.

The fantastic performance of the English players in Malaysia certainly bodes well for the lead up to the British Open, the next major, in Hull from the 20th-26th May.

There are some tickets still available from www.britishopensquash.net.

James' book 'Shot and A Ghost' is available to buy from Willstrop.co.uk or on kindle