2018 was one of the most significant years in the history of professional squash and we are looking forward to an even better 2019.
The sport has made major strides over the past 12 months both on and off the court. In terms of the on-court action, our players continue to showcase the incredible athleticism and skill that is par for the course on the PSA Tour.
Egypt continue to be the nation to beat on the court – with the likes Mohamed ElShorbagy, Raneem El Welily, Ali Farag and Nour El Sherbini setting the standard at the top of the World Rankings – but we saw players from across the globe step up to claim honours in 2018.
Germany’s Simon Rösner and Colombia’s Miguel Rodriguez broke new ground for their respective countries when they won the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions and British Open, while Joelle King of New Zealand memorably got her hands on a first Platinum title at November’s Hong Kong Open.
We also waved a fond farewell to two of the most well-respected and well-liked players on the PSA Tour this year, with Nick Matthew of England and Omneya Abdel Kawy of Egypt both announcing their retirements. We wish both of them well for the future and their presence on the tour will be sorely missed.
Away from the court, the sport has continued to grow exponentially, and in July we announced a record amount of prize money on offer during the 2017/18 season. Prize money increased to $6.4 million, which was an 11% increase compared to the previous season, while the pay gap between men and women was at its lowest ever, with the gap dropping by 32% over the past year.
We expect these figures to grow further by the end of the 2018/19 season, which is the first season in which we have implemented our new tour structure. The restructured tour came into effect on August 1 and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our players and tournament promoters for their patience and assistance during this transition.
Simon Rösner (left) after winning the Tournament of Champions against Tarek Momen (right)
We are confident that restructuring the tour will simplify the pathway from junior squash to the professional ranks in addition to boosting earnings for all of our athletes and we are encouraged with how the previous five months has gone. The PSA World Tour has gone from strength-to-strength since August, while we are pleased to see that the newly created PSA Challenger Tour is flourishing.
In addition to this, we were also delighted to see the sport make a big impression at the Buenos Aires Youth Olympic Games in October, where over 25,000 people got the opportunity to witness squash in the flesh. We are hugely encouraged with the feedback we have received and remain committed to working alongside the World Squash Federation to get squash into the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
One of the star attractions at the Youth Olympic Games was the incredible interactiveSQUASH front wall and we have developed our relationship with them throughout 2018, with their interactive front wall making an appearance at the PSA World Series Finals in Dubai.
The PSA is committed to innovation and, as such, we have also developed our partnership with Sports Data Labs. Using their proprietary data capture and tracking technology, we have been able to track our athlete’s physiological data. Not only is this used to enhance our live broadcasts, we are the first sport ever to make this data available for commercialisation.
Despite all of these major developments over the past 12 months, we are confident that 2019 will be even better and are excited to stage the sport’s first $1 million tournament – the Chicago PSA World Championships – in February.
The tournament will be a major milestone for the sport and we are incredibly thankful for the support of Mark and Kimbra Walter. We look forward to working with all parties over the next couple of months as we aim to make this the best World Championships of all time.
We are also delighted to have Qatar come on board to host the men’s 2019/20 World Championships next November and are hoping to announce the location of the women’s 2019/20 World Championships shortly.
The PSA Tour calendar is also strengthened by April’s DPD Open – which has increased in prize money and stature to stage both a men and women’s Gold event – and the Manchester Open, which will host the world’s leading female players in May.
The world's best female players will line up in Manchester's National Squash Centre in May 2019
We are delighted with how things have gone in 2018 and are confident that there are even greater things to come for professional squash in 2019.
Happy New Year,
PSA Chief Executive Officer