The first major international sporting event in London since the onset of the pandemic will also serve as a tribute to a local legend.
The Nash Cup PSA squash tournament, which restarts after a one-year absence Tuesday, was in its early days a way to help keep the egos of Jack Fairs’ Western men’s team in check.
“When we started talking about the idea, Jack was 84 and Western was already the winningest team in college history,” event chair Jay Nash said. “Every year, there is at least one Western player in the draw. You have players coming in who are the best in Canada and ranked top eight in the U.S. and some automatically think, ‘I’m better than everyone else. I have an 84-year-old coach and there’s nothing I can be taught.’
“The beauty of the cup is they get to play against these great players, get beaten and learn they can be better. It helped with recruitment and the strength of the team with Jack moving on as coach emeritus.”
Fairs died two weeks ago at 98. Last year, the Western men won their 37th consecutive Ontario university title.
Western captain Elliott Hunt will open against Tang Ming Hong of Hong Kong Tuesday during a Purple and White night in Fairs’ honour at London Squash and Fitness Club.
“Jack loved watching his boys play here for many years,” Nash said.
The latest draw includes all the top men in Canada, including 2011 event winner Shawn Delierre, and a number of top up-and-coming talent on the women’s side. France’s Auguste Dussourd, the champ two years ago, is the top seed on the men’s side, though compatriot Melissa Alves will not return to defend after her world ranking boost pushed her into higher-purse international tournaments.
Egyptian Hana Moataz is the No. 1 seed in the women’s draw, which includes Londoner Catherine Giachino. Third-ranked Nikki Todd is the only female competitor to appear in eight Nash Cups.
There will be 15 countries represented and all competitors are double vaccinated.
“The challenge was countries where a visa is required,” Nash said. “We lost three players to that. We thought at first we might not have spectators, but the fact we will have them is getting everyone excited.”
A maximum 32 spectators are allowed at every match and no one will get in the building who isn’t vaccinated. Each competitor will be given a COVID rapid test at the start of the week and masks are mandatory everywhere except on court.
“Everything is falling into place better than I hoped,” Nash said. “We’re in good shape right now and looking forward to a great event.”