The beauty of squash is that you can build a glass court anywhere in the world.
Over the years, I’ve played in some amazing venues such as in front of the pyramids in Cairo, Egypt, the harbour in Hong Kong and the Grand Central Terminal in New York.
My next tournament is the Canary Wharf Classic, which starts next Monday. The East Wintergarden might not have the glamour of the Grand Central but it has the same feel and atmosphere. It’s the perfect venue for squash and, along with Grand Central, is, for me, the best tournament to play in atmosphere wise.
I have been lucky enough to win the Canary Wharf title four times but I had a bit of a shocker in the first couple of years in the tournament as I lost in the first round on a couple of occasions. It is one of those events where you can’t just ease your way into it. You have to hit the ground running.
There is a bear-pit atmosphere at Canary Wharf as the crowd are in close proximity. You sometimes feel like they are right on top of you. In our sport, the closer the spectators are to the court, the better the atmosphere. It’s a really warm court and the ball flies around. You have to adjust your game because of the heat that the number of bodies close to the court provides. I struggled with that for a few years.
Canary Wharf is an intimate venue. It’s not easy to find a place to go warm up because people are everywhere. Things like that you learn as you become more familiar with the set-up.
Most squash tournaments finish on a weekend, but what is unusual with Canary Wharf is that it takes place between Monday-Friday. It is the heart of London’s financial district so we get people straight from work. They quite vocal, especially in the latter stages of the event.
The set-up is excellent so it has also been a great place to showcase some of the new changes in the sport. It was the first tournament where we started to use video replay reviews and bring in two extra referees. Canary Wharf is a level below a world series event so we used it to gauge the technology before introducing it into other events. It was important we tried out the technology before bringing it into the World Championships. At Canary Wharf, they have got a brilliant base, four screens for replays and a big crowd.
We get great coverage there and hopefully, in years to come, it will become a world series event. It would be great if it could attract the top players like Mohamed Elshorbagy, Ramy Ashour and Gregory Gaultier.