AS serious competitors on the international professional circuit, top-ranked South African squash players Steve Coppinger and Siyoli Waters have progressed to a level attained by only a few of their compatriots on the world squash scene.
But they have not forgotten their roots and each year the East London-born Waters and more nomadic Coppinger mark South Africa’s annual interprovincial as a must on their calendar of events.
This year’s event, sponsored by Investec, ends in Port Elizabeth tomorrow, with both Waters (Western Province) and Coppinger (KwaZulu-Natal) at the coalface of their teams’ efforts to land the prestigious title.
“It’s the biggest tournament in terms of a team event on everyone’s calendar,” Waters, ranked 34 in the world, said this week. “It really is an honour to represent your province and the Jarvis and Kaplan Cup are so special because they combine a high level of play with a chance to socialise with your colleagues off the court.”
Coppinger compared the tournament’s atmosphere with many of the world’s top venues.
“I think this is my 12th year and the first thing on my calendar every year,” the lanky world No16 said. “It is a unique tournament, and the atmosphere is unparalleled.
“I have played at many amazing venues in the world, but there’s nothing quite like playing in front of a Jarvis crowd when they are getting into the spirit of it.”
The South African pros will be returning to the international circuit later this year with serious ambitions of trying to keep South Africa on the world squash map.
Waters, who attended junior school at DSG in Grahamstown and then went to Clarendon in East London, only turned pro in 2009, when she was 26. She lives in Cape Town and travels overseas periodically to compete on the pro circuit.
“I decided to complete my BSc degree and although turning pro in my mid-20s is relatively late, that’s the only time I had the opportunity to do it,” she said. “Obviously there are many sacrifices but it is going well. I started out at No249 and have risen to No34.”
Coppinger, 28, is following in the footsteps of several fine South African squash players and is eyeing the goal of world No7, which compatriot Roland Watson attained in the 1970s.
This year, he broke into the top 20 and has now reached 16. “My aims are to move up,” he said. “I have been making fairly steady progress over the last few years.”
Born in Dublin, Coppinger spent time as a child in Kenya, went to school in KwaZulu-Natal, studied in Britain and now moves between his parents’ home in Cape Town, and Florida in the US, where he trains with former Aussie world champion David Palmer.