EASTERN Province’s squash players will have a chance to test themselves against high quality opposition with a powerful field having entered the Frontline Underwriting Managers Londt Park Open, getting underway on Sunday.
After being the top tournament in EP under the leadership of Mark Milborrow from 2000 to 2008, the Londt Park Open fell on hard times before it was revived last year. The interest which has been rekindled in sponsors and players suggests the event is firmly on the road to becoming one of the must-play tournaments on the national calendar.
In last year’s inter-provincial, the EP teams excelled, with the men’s A team and the women’s B team winning their respective B sections. Now players like Rudi van Niekerk, Sean Bailey and Jacqui Ryder will have a rare opportunity to face players of a high calibre on their home turf.
For many juniors, such as Dewald van Niekerk and Kacey-Leigh Dodd, it will be a great opportunity to learn from some of the most respected players in the country.
There will also be massive interest in the return of one of EP’s favourite squash sons in Greg La Mude, who is back in PE after a three-year coaching stint in the United States. Even if he does not feature in the top placings, La Mude will be assured of plenty of support.
Men’s champion Christo Potgieter will defend his title, but this time he will have to contend with much stronger opposition, headed by two South African masters of the game in Rodney Durbach and Adrian Hansen. They may be pushing past the 40-mark, but their skills are hardly diminished and the experience they bring makes them the men to beat.
Hansen injured a hamstring in the Rhodes Open final last weekend, but is determined to put in an appearance next week.
Former England player Lauren Siddall finds herself back in the Eastern Cape after taking the Rhodes Open title and will be looking forward to a tougher challenge this time.
Her chief rival for the title should be SA No2 Cheyna Tucker, while the tournament will also throw up some fascinating tussles among EP’s leading women.
The top section will get under way on Tuesday, but the massive entry of 112 means the C and D sections will start on Sunday. – Neale Emslie