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Bermuda’s budding squash stars inspired by world’s best players

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Inspiring Bermuda's future squash stars: Andres Herrera, middle, of Colombia with Ben Sherratt and Mason Smith (Photograph by Mehluli Sibanda)

Bermuda’s young squash stars got a glimpse into the lives of being a professional player at the IQUW Bermuda Squash Open.

The youngsters, who are preparing for the Junior Caribbean Squash Championships in the British Virgin Islands, got to rub shoulders and even spend time on court with some of the world’s best players.

Ten-year-old Mason Smith, who won a gold medal in the under-11 boys division at last year’s Junior CASA Championships in St Vincent & the Grenadines, was amazed by how the professionals approached the game.

“It was very nice interacting with the professionals and I got to learn a lot of things,’’ Smith said.

“I got to experience what it’s like to be a professional and not lose your mindset. I got to hang out with the professionals and it’s a really good experience as a young player.

“I played with Manuel Paquemar, Robert Downer and Matias Knudsen. It was nice and they move you around the court a lot. They don’t take it easy on you, they’re really good, and they can teach you a lot of things.

“I got really inspired by Matias and Andres Herrera as their technique was just perfect. “My wish is to play in this tournament when I get older and I hope I have a good career in squash.”

Margot Prow, middle, with Olivia Sherratt and Gabrielle Turchiaro (Photograph by Mehluli Sibanda)

For 15-year-old Olivia Sherratt, it was the ferocious manner in which the players approached their matches that caught the eye.

“Watching these professionals play at the intensity that they played on our courts was really a cool experience,’’ Sherratt said.

“I definitely took a lot from it and we got to play with some of them in person, which was great. I worked on where I stand with my serve, how I hold my racket and general posture.

“There was a really fun doubles match to watch and we have doubles at our tournament this summer. It was great to watch the professionals play a doubles match as that is something I had never seen before.

“The effort that they put in and the intensity for every single point the entire match was something I really look up to. It’s something that I would love to bring into my squash matches as well because once you’re down at match ball, it is easy to off the intensity a little bit and give up slightly.”

Sherratt was inspired by Bermuda Squash Open champion Margot Prow, who came into the tournament unseeded but finished as champion.

Sanjay Jeeva and Margot Prow (Photograph by Mehluli Sibanda)

“Margot Prow was very inspiring,’’ Sherratt said.

“In the semi-finals, she went 2-0 down and we were sitting right in front of where she was talking to herself and she came back and won the tournament

“She is also from Barbados, so seeing someone from the Caribbean at this level is really cool. That’s the tournament that we go to and she’s won that and gone on to win this, so I feel like we can put ourselves in her shoes.”

Owen Rosorea, 14, spent a lot of time with the professionals as his family hosted some of them throughout the tournament.

“It’s always great to play with people that are at a higher level and it’s really good for your game,’’ Rosorea said.

“It’s really great for all the juniors to experience this and this will help them get better. It’s good for building future relationships for the juniors in Bermuda that want to go professional and it helps asking questions about the lifestyles they live.”

Gabrielle Turciaro, 17, who has ambitions of being part of Western University in Canada’s squash team, was impressed by how the student-athletes balance their sport and their academic commitments.

“Seeing especially student players get on court and play some phenomenal squash was inspiring,’’ Turciaro.

“It was inspiring how they balance that academic work and being a squash player. I know one of them is on the Cornell University squash team and she was talking about how when she gets on court she wants to put her whole heart into each practice, to make sure she gets the most out of it.

“She’s able to put that academic burden aside when she gets on court, focus on that for maybe an hour, and then she’s able to focus on her academic. That is good advice for next year and the years to come.”

Prow, who completed an incredible week by defeating Egypt’s Ingy Hammouda 3-0 in the final, was impressed by the commitment of Bermuda’s young players.

“It’s incredible to see how just how many junior players are in Bermuda,” Prow said.

“I hope I have inspired them and really shown them that if you work hard, you can get anywhere.

“These children seem passionate and you can see that they love the sport. They were here everyday, from 5pm till 10pm, playing and talking to players.The programme that they have at the squash club is fantastic and I can only see it growing further.”

Sanjay Jeeva with the trophy (Photograph by Mehluli Sibanda)

Sanjay Jeeva, who triumphed 3-0 over Andres Herrera in the men’s final to win his maiden Professional Squash Association title, urged the island’s juniors to continue playing squash.

“We hope us playing here will inspire and motivate the younger generation to pick up squash and continue playing and even pursue a professional career,’’ Jeeva said.

“In order grow the sport, it all starts with the younger generation. I saw throughout the whole week they were always getting on the court playing and they were always around, which was great for us to see.”

Robert Downer, a 32-year-old British player based in the Czech republic, made great use of his time after being knocked out in the second round as he mentored more than 20 of the island’s budding stars.

“This is why this tournament is so important for the island because you've seen the energy this week,” Downer said.

“Their love for the game is only going to grow and the only thing standing in their way of achieving great things in the sport is getting the right exposure off island.

“Having Micah Franklin, Anaya Smith and all the other role models they have in Bermuda is a good starting point for their growth.

“I probably spent time with 20 to 25 different juniors in three days. They were different ages, boys and girls, and there’s some talent in there, that’s for sure.

“The more they play, the better they’re going to be but the moment they’re too good for their peers, the competition off island is going to be more important.”

Stephen Young, the Bermuda Squash Association president and chief executive officer of tournament sponsors IQUW, expressed his appreciation to the professionals.

“These guys inspire all our juniors and the junior programme,’’ Young said.

“It’s incredible to see all the time and effort they put in with all the juniors. It is really good to see them giving back and inspiring these juniors.

“We at IQUW are so proud to be the title sponsor of the Bermuda Open Squash Championships. As a new reinsurer to the island, started in 2021, we understand how we nurture talent and develop relationships, in order to produce excellent results.

“Just like all these professionals, inspiring our juniors, members and the squash community at large.

“It’s awesome to see these incredible men and women rising to the ranks, chasing their dreams and succeeding in the sport.”

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Published April 28, 2024 at 1:17 pm (Updated April 28, 2024 at 10:36 pm)

Bermuda’s budding squash stars inspired by world’s best players

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