Ipswich trio to take on world's best
SQUASH: Some of the world's top players, including the No.1-ranked Peter Nicol, could be coming to show off their skills in Ipswich.For the first time in the history of the sport in Suffolk, the launch of an Ipswich team in the National Super Squash League will bring the world's top 30 stars to compete against the new team.
By Dave Vincent
SQUASH: Some of the world's top players, including the No.1-ranked Peter Nicol, could be coming to show off their skills in Ipswich.
For the first time in the history of the sport in Suffolk, the launch of an Ipswich team in the National Super Squash League will bring the world's top 30 stars to compete against the new team.
The Super League, of six teams, includes league champions Maesteg of Wales, and also Halifax, Nottingham, Devon and Exeter, and Winchester.
The visit of the Maesteg team, on February 4, could bring world No. 2 David Palmer and British Open holder and world No. 8 David Evans to town as well as Del Harris from Colchester.
Harris, 32, is back at 16 in the world rankings after 19 years as a world ranked player.
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Ipswich-based Bradley Ball said: "This is as strong as it gets."
The new team is based at Ipswich Sports Club where manager Mike Penman said he was delighted.
"This will be a great lift for the squash section of the club and will be a big eye-opener for the youngsters."
Competing for Ipswich will include Suffolk's own Bradley Ball, head pro at Ipswich Squash Club and now England No 12 and world 59, and Ben Howell, squash coach at Next Generation, who is up to England No 39 and world 98.
Both Ball and Howell travel the world for their squash but the cost of travel to PSA tournaments, and lack of personal sponsorship, limits their opportunities.
Ball, won two PSA titles and competed in eight finals over the past five years while Howell won his first PSA title in Spain this season.
And with both their world rankings climbing the team is a boost for their individual careers.
Ball said: "This is a great opportunity for Ben and I to improve our level of squash and most of all really test ourselves against the best. The standard of play will be an eye-opener for local players. It is great news for the sport."
Howell added: "The opportunity to play some of the top players in the world, at home, is something I really relish. It is a great step for me personally to be able to compete in the national super league."
His recent rise gives Suffolk two world top 100 players for the first time.
Also hoping to climb the rankings is Shahid Khan, 22, who coaches at Ipswich Squash Club, and has risen to No 203.
The Suffolk No. 4 has set himself a target of reaching top 150 in the world.
"I think the new team will be a great boost for my career. I am sure it will help me."
Each team has to assemble a squad and team manager Dave Howell and Bradley Ball have managed to bring in some highly-ranked men.
They include Paul Johnson world No 14 (and formerly top five), Peter Genever world No 30, French No 3 (world 39) Jean Michel Arccuci, John Russell (world No 47) Scott Handley world 58, Lee Drew world 66 and Tony Hands, also Colchester-based, a former world top 10 player.
Team manager Howell said: "This is an exciting time for squash in Suffolk.
"The league is the strongest of its kind in the world. And the level of squash that will be seen at Ipswich will be fantastic for everyone who is involved and supports the team."
A major sponsor would be announced shortly for the team, he said, and tickets for the home matches would be limited and were already on sale of the first one.
"I think it is going to be a great success. Suffolk is only a small county and to have two world top 100 players is a big bonus.
"Seeing world ranked players coming here will inspire local players. The level of competition will be very high."
Ball, Ben Howell and Shahid Khan will be travelling to compete in a PSA tournament Barcelona later this month and are already heavily involved in competition.
Yesterday Ball and Howell travelled to represent Lee on Solent in the National League against National Squash, a different national tournament using more players and mixed male and female teams.
Ball has also competed regularly in Europe while Howell's career has taken him to play in Germany, Belgium and Holland.
For professional players there are many hours on the road on the planes. Bradley Ball's new car has clocked up 29,000 miles in only 14 months.
Ipswich get started in the Super League with two away fixtures, on January 14 against Halifax and on January 21 at Exeter.
Each match features three players per team, played in three, two and one- ranking order.
The court has a smaller, 17 inch tin and the American scoring system is used.
Their first home match, on Monday February 4, promises to be a great occasion. Tickets are available from the club on 01473 251143.