By Mark Etheridge
South Africa’s two squash representatives at next week’s 2009 World Games in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan will feel the squeeze from the go-get.
Stephen Coppinger and Siyoli Lusaseni are both playing Jarvis and Kaplan Cup inter-provincials in Johannesburg and won’t have much time for relaxing as Team South Africa go into a holding camp on Sunday before leaving for Taiwan the next day for the games which last from July 16-26.
Both are unseeded for the World Games and it won’t get any easier as they both face tough opening match-ups.
Coppinger, who spends a large portion of the year in London, is based in Fish Hoek, Cape Town when in South Africa. But for the Jarvis Cup he represents KwaZulu-Natal. He faces Germany’s Simon Rosner in the opening round of the World Games.
Said Squash South Africa national director Liz Addison: “Rosner, seeded 15th for the Games, is ranked 45 in the world. In their only meeting in 2008 Rosner edged through 16-14 in the fifth against Coppinger but a much-improved Coppinger stands a good chance of beating the 15th seed this time round.ÔÇØ
Coppinger , a former Hilton College student, is presently ranked 52nd in the world. He graduated from Birmingham University and has spent the last few years playing squash full time. In 2007 and 2008 he captured the SA National Men’s Individual title and in 2009 he collected the SA Men’s Doubles title partnered by his coach, Rodney Durbach.
In the recent SA Nationals, top-seeded Coppinger was surprisingly beaten in the final by an on-form Durbach. ┬áBut he won the WP Open title, accounting for Jesse Engelbrecht in the final, and went on to beat Durbach to take the Northerns Open title.
Lusaseni, who plays for Western Province and is one of the World Squash Federation’s Olympic Ambassadors, graduated from UCT last year. She has since concentrated on squash, and was selected to represent South Africa at the 2008 Women’s World Team Championships where she won all her matches in the No 3 slot. She notched a well merited win against Annelize Naude of the Netherlands who was ranked 22 in the world at that time.
Like Coppinger though, her World Games task is not an easy one.
ÔÇ£She faces a huge challenge in the World Games as she has drawn the experience Natalie Grinham who is ranked third in the world. Grinham is a former Australian now playing in the colours of Netherlands after having married Tommy Berden and fulfilled the required WSF residential criteria,” says Addison. Grinham is also the reigning Commonwealth Games gold medallist.
Lusaseni has moved steadily up the world rankings list this year. She started the year 249th in the world and her monthly march saw her start July as world No 158.
Players from 24 nations – more than ever before – will compete in the squash championships. Among them will be another player with a South African flavour, in the shape of Natalie Grainger who moved to the US a while back and went on to become that country’s number one player (and world No 2). She’s also the last player to beat the world’s top woman player for the last three years, Nicol David of Malaysia.
SA team for the World Games: Stephen Coppinger, Siyoli Lusaseni. Official: Tshepiso Sathekgo