Article by Kristi Maroc
One of the biggest shake ups of the 2011 Delaware Investments U.S. Open was during the quarterfinals of the women’s event when sixth seed Kasey Brown, ranked #6 in the world at the time, beat the robust and long-standing world #1 Nicol David.
In what was one of the greatest wins in her career, Kasey outclassed the rarely beatable Nicol in a smooth four game match that lasted just under an hour, and then went on to beat third seed Madeline Perry to make it through to the U.S. Open final.
The super-fit 27 year old Aussie, who lives and trains in the United States, says that the experience was thrilling and has been one of the biggest highlights in her career so far.
“The 2011 U.S. Open was probably the best WSA tournament I’ve ever played to date,” she says.
“I don’t think anyone really expected me to win that match [against Nicol]. I had to play really well to beat her…and I think things just came together.”
“It was a huge match for me, and it was just a fantastic tournament overall.”
“It was really good. I was training with my coach Rod Martin here in the States and he was able to come to the event as well which really helped me get through to that final.”
“The finals atmosphere at the U.S. Open is fantastic, and I really just took it all in and took it in my stride. Unfortunately I lost the final against Laura Massaro, but it was a fantastic tournament overall.”
Kasey has been playing on the professional women’s tour for eight years now, since she was 19 years old, and has solidly climbed through the rankings to reach a career high of world #5 at the end of last year.
Kasey’s introduction to squash happened at a young age through her mum’s work at a local squash center as she was growing up in the Australian country town of Taree.
“I used to go there with her on the weekends and after school and just hit balls by myself for hours and hours and play games with myself while she was working. It all really started from there.”
At 13 years old Kasey won the highly competitive Australian Junior Open and realized that becoming a professional squash player was a realistic goal for her future.
“At the time I won I thought ‘yeah I want to become world number one!’ and I think that has always been in my head. It still is!” she smiles.
“It’s been a long term goal and hopefully I can get there one day.”
Boasting an athletic physique that screams fitness and strength, and the proven ability to beat the unshakable Nicol David, there’s no doubt that Kasey is in optimum shape and at the pinnacle of age and experience right now to do whatever she sets her mind to in her career.
Currently at world #8, she’s got a wealth of knowledge and experience behind her to achieve her ultimate dream. She has competed solidly in a throng of eminent world tournaments and boasts an impressive list of career achievements, including winning the esteemed Greenwich Open last year.
Kasey has represented Australia at two Commonwealth Games, in 2006 and 2010. In 2010 she was the only player to take home three medals in the mixed doubles, women’s doubles and singles. Added to that was the prize of a career highlight win in the singles during a marathon match that saw Kasey fight back from two games down to beat England’s Madeline Perry, proving a life lesson to herself about her capability and endurance. She also won a bronze medal with women’s doubles partner Donna Urquhart, and a gold medal alongside mixed doubles partner Cameron Pilley.
"It’s just a dream come true really to play for your country. Especially with Australia having such a strong history in the sport.”
“Another highlight for me was winning the World Team Championships in 2010. The Australian team beat England, and to win that title and win for Australia was a huge thing for me.”
“Having Michelle Martin as our coach and part of the team was great. She was my idol growing up so to have her there was just fantastic.”
Growing the profile of women’s squash is important to Kasey. She’d like to see it more closely aligned with the men’s tour in terms of popularity as well as prize money.
“With the U.S. Open, the gap [in prize money] is closing, which is fantastic for an event like that, and also great for women’s squash,” says Kasey.
“In terms of the appeal of women’s squash, I think the spectators relate a little bit more to the women's game and I think we need to use that to promote the WSA."
“It’s such a great sport for women to play. Not only does it keep you incredibly fit, but it’s a really social and fun way to mingle with other people.”
Along with her exceptional squash, Kasey has also become well known in the squash world for the eye-catching and glamorous dresses she wears on court, with their fun design making them a standout favorite in on-court fashion.
During her U.S. Open match against Nicol, Kasey was wearing one of the favorite designs – a black racer-back dress with lavish metallic embellishments.
“The reaction that I got from that dress has been just fantastic,” she says.
“A friend of mine and I, we really wanted to create a statement for squash through a bit of fashion, so we found a design and put some ideas together, and my friend’s mother made the dress up.
“We actually made a whole set in different colors, we have a pink and a blue one as well,” she adds.
The outfits have been popular amongst many squash fans.
“I’ve been coaching here at camp with Karen Kronemeyer, and these kids from Philadelphia have said ‘oh, you’re the girl with the dress!’, remembering it from when they were watching last year’s U.S. Open! So I’ve had a really good reaction from it,” she says.
“I think it’s really important, for the girls especially, to show their personality through what they wear on court. I think it’s a big part of the game, and hopefully others will follow suit.”
Rather than relaxing over the summer break, Kasey chose to spend her time training with her coach Rodney Martin, coaching at school camps, and mentoring at New York’s urban youth program CitySquash.
“I think it’s really important to give back, and CitySquash is a fantastic charity and so a great way to do so,” she says.
“I try to volunteer as much as I can for that program when I’m around. I think they’re all just an amazing bunch of kids, and they really open up to you after a while and you see their personalities come out. It’s a really beneficial program.”
Kasey has just returned from Australia where she competed in the Australian Open at the beginning of August. Next up she’ll head over to the Malaysian Open, before returning to her home base in New York to prepare for another attempt to win the crown in what she lists as one of her favorite tournaments, the U.S. Open.
“It was such a fantastic event last year. Drexel University had the glass court set up, on one day the SquashSmarts youth program from Philadelphia came out and watched which was fantastic,” she says.
“I thought that U.S. SQUASH did a great job with the event and I hope that things just become bigger and better each year.”
Article by Kristi Maroc
Donna Urquhart has confirmed that she will be playing in the 2012 Delaware Investments U.S. Open in October.
The 25-year old Aussie beach babe, who spends her time surfing when she’s not on the squash court, grew up among a family of squash players in the small coastal town of Yamba, Australia.
Many who didn’t already know Donna for her exceptional squash ability – she’s currently world ranked #17 – have heard of her from the attention she brought to squash through a racy photo shoot for an Aussie men’s magazine in 2010.
“I kind of think I’m more known for that photo shoot now than my squash!” she laughs.
“It’s a shame, but I’m hoping that maybe I can change that and people start to recognize my squash more.”
Donna is currently in New York preparing for the British Open next week, after competing in the Texas Open last month.
“It would have been a long way to fly home in between, and I knew that I could find plenty of good people to train with here in the US. I’ve had some really good hard match practice,” she says.
“It’s a great place to be, there’s plenty of stuff to do, and I have some great friends here…that’s a few reasons that I chose to stay and train for a couple of weeks.”
Donna’s passion for squash and desire to promote the game she loves led her to participate in the Alpha magazine shoot. The goal of the article was to increase the awareness of squash, and help change the status of squash from an old men’s sport to a sport for everyone.
“That’s what the article was written about, that squash isn’t just for middle aged sweaty old men…there are young professional players out there too,” says Donna.
“I am glad I did it because the purpose was to get some exposure for squash. It did create a buzz and got people talking about squash again and that was really good.
“I’d never done anything like that before, so I was a bit nervous about how it would turn out and how it would go…but the response to it was pretty good, and I think that most people that know me realize that it was just a bit of fun and I don’t take myself too seriously like that.”
Donna is a left-handed player, and grew up among a passionate squash family. Her cousin is Australian #1 Cameron Pilley, who is also widely known for holding the world record for fastest squash ball ever hit, at 175mph – a record he made during last year’s U.S. Open.
“Cameron’s family owned the squash center in Yamba, so I was able to go and play there whenever I liked, which is a pretty big thing as a kid growing up,” says Donna.
“When I was a kid I idolized people like Sarah Fitzgerald and Michelle Martin, and I thought ‘god I’d love to do that one day’“.
At 18, after finishing school, Donna was offered a squash scholarship by the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), Australia's premier sports training institute.
“As a teenager I dreamt of being in the AIS and being able to train full time and become a professional player in the senior ranks.”
Donna says nowadays when travelling around the world on the professional circuit, the major difference she notices in the squash scene is the level of junior participation.
“Australia has such a rich history of good players, and when I was a kid I was idolizing people who were world number one at the time…Australians. The history goes back such a long way for Australia.
“Unfortunately now in the juniors there, there are a lot less than when I was coming through as a junior. So in comparison to somewhere like Egypt, it’s a big difference.
“The amount of kids that are playing in Egypt and the enthusiasm they have for the game is so inspiring. It’s great to see such a love for the sport.
“The kids all idolize Ramy Ashour and Amr Shabana. They sit there waiting for a free court and twenty of them run on at any chance they get. It’s incredible, and I wish it was like that everywhere’” she says.
“The United States is like Egypt too, with the amount of kids that play. I find it a whole new world though, where it’s all directed at getting into college. The quality of squash here is out of sight compared to when I was a kid. US squash in the juniors is improving all the time because they’re pushing each other and there’s so much competition.”
“I think it’s hard in Australia because there seem to be so many other sports that kids want to take up, and so maybe we need to give them a reason to find squash attractive again.
“Hopefully someone like me can help to change that and get kids back into it – me and the other professional Australian players – help inspire some kids!” she says.
“Something that is different about Australian squash is the people we’ve had in the past. We now have really good quality coaches, all the past players that have been there, people like Sarah Fitzgerald…they have a lot to share.”
When asked what she would say to juniors dreaming of becoming professional players one day, Donna says that they have to make sure they enjoy themselves too.
“Train hard and enjoy it, but you’ve got to be willing to put in the hard work to get anywhere with it. It’s not an easy thing and the older you get the more your realize that.
“Make sure you get out there as often as you can and have fun and play with your friends!”
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