Anticipation grows as the U.S. Open looms

Article by Will Heyman and Kristi Maroc

With just two months to go until the world’s best squash players arrive in the United States to challenge for the prestigious U.S. Open title, and local pre-qualifiers currently underway at clubs across the city, anticipation is growing within the Philadelphia and broader squash community as the 2012 Delaware Investments U.S. Open Squash Championships near.

Squash has rapidly risen to new heights and popularity at U.S. Open’s host venue Drexel University in recent years thanks to the addition of a varsity squash team boasting the legendary former world #1 John White as head coach, and a new five court squash facility.

The buzz is quickly spreading among local sports lovers and students who are looking forward to the opportunity to witness the prestigious World Series event.

22-year old senior Amey Khanolkar, who has played on the Drexel Club Squash team for three years and the Varsity Squash team for one year, is thrilled to see all his favorite international professional athletes battling it out on his home campus.

“Being an avid squash player and an enthusiastic follower of the professional squash tour, I can’t wait to see the pros play on the glass court from up close,” Amey said.

“It’s such an amazing opportunity for people in the U.S. to get to see the world’s best international squash stars compete at this World Series level.”

“I’m especially looking forward to seeing Ramy Ashour play this year, it’s great news that he is going to be there.  He’s an absolute magician with the squash racquet, it’ll be incredible to watch live,” Amey said excitedly.

Also eager to see the world-class event is 21-year old Dylan Siegfried, a rising junior who learned about squash just last year thanks to the U.S. Open.

“I didn’t really know much about squash until last year when the U.S. Open was here and my friend who loves squash dragged me along.”

“They turned the DAC into an awesome venue with a sensational center stage and all the biggest names in squash from around the world. I’m pumped to watch it again this year.”

The ‘DAC’ as it is affectionately known around campus is Drexel’s Daskalaskis Athletic Center, where a world-class all-glass showcase court and expo arena will be constructed in October to house the U.S. Open.  The impressive first-class facility includes five squash courts, a swimming pool, a golf center, and a gymnasium featuring four courts for recreational, intramural, club volleyball, basketball and badminton.

“Squash is developing such an enthusiastic following here at Drexel,” Dylan said.

“Sometimes in the evenings I go to the squash courts to play with a friend, but unless you reserve a court there are so many people wanting to play you often have to wait quite a while.”

Students aren’t the only ones who are excited.  Drexel Athletic department staff are keen to host again this year, following the success in 2011.

“We are so proud to have the opportunity to host this fantastic event,” said John White.

“It was a great success last year showcasing the U.S. Open and Drexel University to a large national and international squash community.”

The U.S. Open Squash Championships attract national and international visitors to Philadelphia, and are also broadcast to an audience of international fans via SquashTV and it’s network of 18 television distributors.

John White was one of the local contenders to participate in the U.S. Open last year, and will play again this year.

“Playing in front of the crowds that come to Philadelphia for this event is terrific.  Not only are there the students and local Philadelphians, but also tons of passionate squash players and fans who travel from all over the country and even overseas to be a part of it…it’s an awesome atmosphere.”