Squash stars to shine in Ipswich

SQUASH: Many of the top 20 players men in the world will be coming to compete in Ipswich again thanks to a town team competing in the 2002-2003 National Super Squash League.


MANY of the top 20 players men in the world will be coming to compete in Ipswich again thanks to a town team competing in the 2002-2003 National Super Squash League.

Their first match is at home to Exeter next Monday.

Stars of the quality of Malaysian Ong Beng Hee (world ranked No. 7), Aussie John White (WR 5), Englishman Lee Beachill (WR8) and David Palmer (WR 3) are already signed to some of the opposition teams in the NSSL.

The Ipswich team, based at Ipswich Sports Club in Henley Road, entered for the first time last season and had mixed results.

But it gave local fans a tremendous opportunity to see some of the best players in the world competing on court.

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There was some high-quality squash, many exciting matches and more than a few disputes and clashes in pressure games on court.

Team manager David Howell has a nucleus of Suffolk and Essex players for his side, including Suffolk Nos. 1 and 2 Bradley Ball and Ben Howell.

Chris Walker and Lee Drew from Essex will feature and foreign players will be Belgian WR 24 Stefan Castelyn and South African WR 33 Rodney Durbach. Each match involves three players per team.

Howell said: "There are four teams in the league at the moment with the possibility of Guernsey entering too if they can raise the sponsorship.

"Again we will be seeing some of the top 20 players in the world. The quality of squash was very high last season and I am sure it will be the same again. Last year was pretty successful – we had some good home nights and some very good away matches, too. I am sure it will be a very competitive season."

Ipswich squad members Ball, Drew and Shahid Khan are training regularly at Ipswich SC with coach Mike Penman for the new season.

Another important target is the World Championships in Antwerp. Ball and Drew are in the main draw with Ben Howell in the qualifying which began earlier this week.

Last year's event, which had been planned for India, was cancelled following the 9/11 attacks in the USA.

The summer has brought many thousands of miles of travel for players seeking experience and ranking points on the PSA circuit.

Howell and Drew went to South America and played in Brazil before moving to Colombia, where their challenge in the Colombian Open was hit by altitude sickness.

Ball went to Hong Kong in August, followed by France, Pakistan and Qatar.

"I probably did too much. It is easy to under-estimate the effects that travel and tiredness have on you. This time last year I was ranked 59 so I am up to 46 but I need to press on to a higher level.

"Once you get up there it is easier to stay. You have to keep picking up ranking points at tournaments. It is good to be back and into a routine here."

The NSSL matches are on Mondays while the five-person National League (four men and one woman) takes place on Tuesdays. Howell and Ball compete for Lee on Solent in that league.

There are also county league games as well as leagues in Belgium, France and Germany where the English players regularly take part.

Ipswich's first home match, on December 16, will be against Exeter, who are likely to include Ong Beng Hee and Joe Kneipp, the Australian WR 13. Advance tickets are available from the bar at Ipswich Sports Club.

Ipswich squad: Chris Walker (world ranking 14), Stefan Castelyn (24), Rodney Durbach (33), Peter Genever (40), Bradley Ball (46), Lee Drew (59), Ben Howell (82), Shahid Khan (151).

Fixtures: December 16 v Exeter; February 17 v Halifax; March 17 v Maesteg; March 24 v Winchester.

Internet link: www.ipswichnssl.co.uk

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