By Linda Elriani and Judy Scofield Miller
The top professional women squash players in the world returned to Brooklyn (New York) to participate in the world-renowned Carol Weymuller Open hosted by The Heights Casino last month, October 26th to Sunday, October 31st. For the 20 young globe-trotting professional players, coming to the Brooklyn Heights community is a highlight of the WISPA tour. Eight of the world’s top 20 women competed, including the defending 2009 champion and the world’s current No. 2, Jenny Duncalf.
The event partners with U.S. SQUASH which applies proceeds to support the U.S. Junior Development Endowment Fund. The endowment seeks grants and funding for urban and community squash programs in low-income neighborhoods.
Unique to this tournament is that the players are provided billeting by Casino members, who graciously host the women in their homes, for the week-long events. To widen the scope of the tournament, all matches were streamed live with commentary at www.carolweymuller.com and www.squashsite.co.uk. The long-time community sponsor of the tournament is the Corcoran Group.
The qualifying event featured four highly-ranked American Juniors, including two from the Casino (Haley Mendez and Julianne Chu), former Casino Junior, Olivia Blatchford, and the world Junior champion, Amanda Sobhy. Amanda and Olivia managed to prevail in their matches and qualified for the main draw.
Each night of the main draw was full of exciting and inspiring squash with the quarterfinal between the No. 2 seed and former World No. 1, Rachael Grinham, and qualifier, Nour El Tayeb, a crowd highlight. The squash was a fantastic display of speed, athleticism and unorthodox shot selection. Between gasps and cheers the spectators watched Nour, in her endeavor to get back every ball, literally dive around the court. Nour wasn’t able to finish the second game even though she had two game balls, eventually losing 14-12. Rachael won 3-0.
Saturday evening‘s semifinals, before a standing–room-only-crowd, proved to be incredibly exciting with two five-game matches. Laura Massaro’s comeback from a giant 2-0 deficit to win in five against Grinham showed true fighting spirit. Afterwards, Linda Elriani, the Casino’s squash director, interviewed Laura, who told the spectators and those viewing around the world, “Rachael is such a dangerous player. I just tried to dig in physically and make the rallies longer and I felt I got the rewards from that.”
In the second semifinal, Jenny Duncalf came through a thrilling match against World No. 9, Australian Kasey Brown, to win 11/6 in the fifth. Just days before in Mexico, Kasey beat Jenny for the first time in their rivalry, and Jenny was eager to grasp back the win. Talking to the crowd after the match, Jenny related how she felt, “Relief really! It was a tough match. Kasey has physically improved and she’s always been good with the racket. I was patchy at times but kept telling myself ‘KEEP PUSHING!’”
Sunday’s final was, regrettably, one-sided, with Duncalf beating her English teammate and World No. 8, Laura Massaro, 11/6, 11/1, 11/6. Jenny played a very precise, accurate and error free final, but Laura didn’t have the physical reserve in the tank, after her tough semifinal the day before, to make an impact on Jenny’s flawless game.