Three years after the Delaware Investments U.S. Open Squash Championships at Drexel University became the first major championship on the PSA World Tour to offer prize money parity to men and women, the tournament also became the first major championship to test 17-inch “tins” for the women.
The tin is the strip at the bottom of the front wall above which every shot must be hit.
It has been 25 years since the men players lowered the tin in 1990 from 19 inches to 17 inches to raise the level of play by making it more difficult to reach shots that would not bounce as high after clearing a lower tin.
While recreational and women professionals continued to play the game using the 19-inch tin, the men professionals did not look back.
Two inches separated the men and women’s professional sport from absolute parity in prize money and performance standards until the PSA announced that the women had agreed to a four-month trial beginning in September.
The response has been positive overall. World #3 Laura Massaro, who dispatched Heba El Torky in 30 minutes, 11-6, 11-8, 11- 5, said that while the change was theoretically expected to favor attacking players, she has found it an advantage from the backcourt.
“This is the third tournament I have played with the 17-inch tin,” said world #19 Dipika Pallikal, who prevailed over Joelle King in a hard fought five-game match, 8-11,13-11,5-11, 11-7, 11-9. “It’s harder to get to the ball, but we will find the balance and then use the four corners.”
“The women’s game is at its best right now. Our fitness level has improved the quality of the game,” she continued. “All of us are having great matches with the new lower tin.”
In addition to supporting the 17-inch tin initiative, Pallikal is keenly appreciative of equal prize money being offered at the Delaware Investments U.S. Open Championships, having boycotted the national Indian championships four times.
“I won the national championship,” she recalled. “But the prize money disparity is not fair. The women are paid only 40 percent of the prize money that is paid to the men. I cannot agree to participate on those conditions.”
World #11 Amanda Sobhy outplayed world #12 Sarah-Jane Perry, 11-6, 11-7, 11-8 in 35 minutes, marking the second time in two tournaments, both played with the 17-inch tin, that Sobhy was victorious over Perry. After winning, she declared that playing with the lower tin was “fast and furious.”
With a final decision to be made at year-end, players will have three additional opportunities to test the 17-inch tin at upcoming major tournaments in Doha, Malaysia, and Hong Kong.
It is clear that the women squash players are no longer inching along.
Players were asked to describe their reaction to the 17-inch tin in three words. Here is what they said:
Olivia Blatchford: “Bring it on”
Joey Chan: “So far away”
Nicol David: “Nicol: Low, far, fast”
Jenny Duncalf: “The way forward”
Tesni Evans: “Chop it in”
Nouran Gohar: “I like it”
Laura Massaro: “Used to it”
Mariam Metwally: “Felt no difference”
Catalina Pelaez: “Perfect for me”
Sarah-Jane Perry: “Attacking, exciting, athletic”
Camille Serme: “Faster and tougher”
Nour El Sherbini : “Shorter games, better!”
Nour El Tayeb: “I love it”
Samantha Teran: “One extra metre”
Donna Urquhart: “Better for men”
Raneem El Welily: “It’s still there!”
In addition to players, Vanessa Atkinson, Squash TV announcer and former world champion commented: “Haven’t noticed it!” and U.S. Open referee Roy Gingell summed up the experiment: “Will be interesting!”