Today I'm am going to discuss the Women's World Team Championships. I am very late getting around to this topic, especially seeing they are being held here in Canada! The are playing at White Oaks in Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario. I am heading to that club next week for the Canadian Junior Open, but that's another post. I have to say the glass court looks great and the club is steaming matches on 3 courts in total. You can tell they got a good deal of government funding to run the event.
You can watch the matches here http://www.sportscanada.tv/index.php/upcoming/444-2014-women-s-world-team-squash-championship or on SquashTV on HD here www.womensworldteams.com/squashtv. I'm unsure if SquashTV will be showing all of the matches, or just the semifinals and finals now. SquashTV is trying a new 2.0 HD stream and it does look really good. It's also been fun listening to Jonathan Power commentate.
I've only been able to watch a few matches with the time difference and my work schedule. As usual, I have a few comments though. Why do they play the 3rd match in the knock out round? If a team wins the first 2 matches they are through, but they still play the best of 3 for the last one. I saw some of these scores and times and they were only about 10 minutes in length. What's the point? That's not helping the event or women's squash. They shouldn't have to play, or they can play their alternates if they want to get a match in for the audience. I really can't understand this one. I get it earlier in the box format where every match counts, but in the knock out rounds this match is meaningless and nobody is going to put in a great deal of effort because they have a match the next day.
My next comment is about having 3 players per team. Do 3 players really represent which country has the best squash talent? At the varsity level in the States the top 9 positions count. In Ontario it's the top 6. In Toronto squash league it's 5 per team. I would love to see more people on each team. I think this would make the tournament a lot more interesting and would provide more validation for the top country for women's squash! Not just who has the top 2 players! I know this brings the cost up dramatically. Hopefully if squash gets in the Olympics all the countries will get more funding and we can improve events like this.
My next comment has to do with the well documented absence of India's top player, Dipika Pallikal. How could India's top female squash player not know that the Women's World Team Championships was being hosted at this time. I read a few articles documenting this. From what I read, Dipika was emailed and asked to respond by a certain date and didn't. And when the national coach followed up and told her that her funding was dependant on it she declined to play. Saying she didn't know about the event. I don't know exactly how it went down, but this is good Canada! As we beat India today mainly because of Dipika's absence. Thanks Dipika! I know there is no money on the line and there isn't much money to be made on the WSA tour, so who is really to blame here? All of the other top women are here. Is it because they need the funding? Most probably love this event I bet. It's not very often you get to represent your country. It's what most kids dream about. The good thing about squash is that we are a small sport and I don't expect our top players will ever all decide not to participate; like what often happens at the World Basketball Championships. After playing a long NBA season, not all of the players want to risk injury and do more travelling. They want to enjoy some time sleeping in their own bed; I can't blame them for that and the can certainly afford to take the time off!
While I'm on the topic of the WSA, what do you think about the merging PSA and WSA in 2015? Will this help professional squash? Will it make any difference? When I mentioned this to the kids I coach, some asked if they were combining the rankings and if they would have to play one another!! Who knows, maybe one day. But I do think that it will help with the calendar of events. Hopefully they will align more of their competitions. I think the men would like having the women around. They want to impress the women with their squash ability, the very few women that would be impressed by someone's squash game. I know it sounds silly. But I do think this would improve the vibe at events and the camaraderie between the players. I have only ever played 1 PSA event and watched a few others, so I know there are people that are much better qualified to give their opinion on this topic. I'd be interested to hear what the men and women think. Do they prefer the events where they have both, is it a bit distracting, or do they not care either way?
I don't know how else the PSA and WSA will change the professional tour. Time will tell. I'm assuming that this will ensure the women will have a world championships ever year now! And hopefully they will get more coverage on SquashTV. I know some previous events they've showed the women but didn't have any commenting. They just basically left the cameras rolling. I've also said before that some of the women are less experienced on the glass court so sometimes the matches are lopsided and the rallies are quite short. This will continue to improve with more exposure. I think most amateurs appreciate good squash, man or woman, it doesn't matter. We can all appreciate good shots, retrieving and a good taxi!
The merger could pave the way for more young female junior squash players. They need role models to look up to, someone to aspire to become. For a long time the men have had all the spotlight, which yes is the highest level of squash in the world, but we all want to see more women and in particular young girls play. This may be a step in this direction. I know things have changed already since Nicol David, but I haven't heard of any young girls watching WSA matches online, or having their idol's poster in their bedroom. It's much different for boys. We have Jonathan Power Harrow or Shabana Dunlop racquet, or a Palmer BK frame. We have posters or got an autograph at some point. I know I'd like the young girls I coach to have role models to look up to and aspire to be. The women's game is also slightly different tactically and watching the top women play will help them lean and then this means the future of the women's game will continue improving year after year. I feel that SquashTV has dramatically improved the quality of the men's game and I'm sure it will do the same for the women's.
Last point. Does anyone else find it strange that Squash Canada is introducing 3 of their men into the hall of fame at this event? Shouldn't this event be focused around women's squash? We've had some great female squash players and coaches. Maybe one of them could be inducted instead..just a thought. But maybe since the PSA and WSA are about to merge it's not too big of a deal.
Alright, that's enough. I hope you're enjoying the Women's World Team Championships! Go Canada Go!!