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Courts ready as world’s best squash players compete on island

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Taylor Carrick and Micah Franklin will be taking on professionals (Photograph by Mehluli Sibanda)

SOme of the world’s top 100 squash players will take on the best our island has to offer when the IQUW Bermuda Open starts on Tuesday.

A raucous atmosphere is expected for every night session in Devonshire and Micah Franklin, head of squash at the Bermuda Squash Racquets Association, has been overseeing the work needed to get the international tournament in place,

“It’s so far so good and I don’t want to jinx it but the club is looking the best it’s looked in years,” Franklin said

“This tournament feels like the most work we’ve done compared with previous tournaments because we have essentially two brand-new squash courts in action.

“A lot of renovations have been going on internally with a lot of help from the membership and It’s been a huge team effort.

“We’re in the last stages, just putting in the final touches and It should be a good week.”

As well as helping to deliver the tournament, former professional Franklin will also be competing and is looking forward to playing Canadian Corey McCartney, ranked 173 in the world, in the first round on Tuesday night.

“It’s interesting because I feel like I still have some fight left in me and I feel like I enjoy playing when I get on court,” said Franklin, who won the Bermuda National Championships last month.

“The hard part is I don’t get to go on court as much as I used to and practice because that’s not my lifestyle any more. My lifestyle is to work at the club and make sure it’s successful so I don’t prioritise myself maybe as much as I should.

“Having said that, I’m looking forward to it and it brings me back to the fun of playing on tour. It brings the best squash out of me and I have no pressure.

“The crowd will be behind me. That’s massive and I’m expecting a packed house every night. The first two nights we have a lot of locals playing, including myself, and word spreads quickly through the members and junior programmes, so it should be a loud, rowdy atmosphere.”

Franklin is keen to point out the standards being brought to the island by the travelling professionals and is hoping that local players can rise to the challenge.

“There is a gap that is going to be apparent,” Franklin said.

“When you play a top-100 player there is a level of professionalism that changes. These players eat, live and breathe their squash and this is their lifestyle and choice of income, so their focus is just that much more intense.

“The pace of the game, the concentration levels and the error counts all combine in the search of perfection and as you go up the rankings, these players are going to be more intense.”

While the locals have their work cut out, Franklin is keen to highlight the efforts of one of the home-grown players.

“I want to mention Taylor Carrick,” Franklin said.

“Right now he is playing and training full time. He’s got this keenness and he’s such a fan of squash He loves it so much and that’s going to make him a better player. He’s getting better regularly because of his passion.”

Spencer Lovejoy, right, is top seed for the IQUW Bermuda Open

Top seeds Spencer Lovejoy, from the United States, and Ineta Hopton, of Latvia, look certain to thrill the crowds but there is expected to be plenty of entertainment across the five nights of competition, with the tournament concluding with Finals night on Saturday.

The No 1 American [Spencer Lovejoy] is an incredible athlete, very fast and very agile around the court,“ Franklin said.

Personally, I’ve never seen the second seed Sanjay Jeeva, from Malaysia, but I’ve heard really great reports about how talented he is.

“There is also one to watch and his name is Mathias Knudsen, from Colombia. He’s very talented and uses a lot of trickery around the court.

“On the women’s side, I expect the top two seeds to be awesome but there is a player from Colombia, Catalina Pelaez, who is very entertaining.

“We also have some Caribbean players, who are friends of Bermuda, coming. One of those is Margot Prow. She actually plays the top seed in the first round, but she’s my one to watch and she has a chance if she can get past the first round.”

As for Franklin, success on a playing level and an organisational level look vastly different.

“A win or even a good performance is what I’m looking for, but a win and a gutsy performance where I leave it all out there would make it just that much better,” Franklin said.

“As far as tournament success, we are looking to highlight the sport of squash to local Bermudians and sponsors and show why we think the sport is so awesome.

“Squash has just made it into the 2028 Olympics for the first time, so we are finally getting that recognition, and I am hoping to grow this tournament into bigger and better things in the future.”

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Published April 23, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated April 24, 2024 at 8:03 am)

Courts ready as world’s best squash players compete on island

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