Six months out from hosting the WSF World Junior Championships and squash in Russia is on the rise.
Over the last three years, the number of squash players and clubs has shot up in Russia. In 2019, it is estimated that there were 600 ranked players in the country. That figure has jumped year-on-year, to 1052 in 2020, 1435 in 2021 and today there are almost 2000 officially ranked squash players in Russia.
This rapid influx of players have had no shortage of places to play, either. 12 new squash clubs opened in 2021, adding 40 new courts to the nation’s total, with Moscow seeing four new clubs opening in March alone.
Presidium Board Member of the Russian Squash Federation (RSF) and Championship Director of the 2022 WSF World Junior Team Championships Anton Odintsov sat down with WSF media to explain some of the reasons squash is seeing such growth.
“The rapid growth of squash in Russia is indeed a complex process with many aspects working in parallel and strengthening each other. In recent years, several big squash clubs were opened and started to invest in the promotion of squash, social media marketing, organising international tournaments, raising professional players and coaches, and attracting influencers into squash,” he explained.
Odintsov added: “Meanwhile, smaller clubs and individual enthusiasts have made extra efforts in arranging various local tournaments and leagues for amateurs, training camps and even building locally produced squash courts.”
These extra efforts to arrange tournaments and training camps have been extremely noticeable. In 2021, despite COVID-19 restrictions, more than 240 tournaments for amateurs and juniors were held, welcoming over 5000 total participants.
Some of the game’s top professionals have also been lending their skills and expertise. Last month, England’s former World No.1 James Willstrop ran a camp at the SL Squash Club in Moscow, while Paul Coll, Diego Elias and Borja Golan have also run sessions in recent years.
Odintsov added that the progress has been possible thanks in no small part to the passionate work of the team of RSF volunteers, working in tandem with clubs and passionate individuals.
He said: “The RSF is now managed by around 40 enthusiasts and volunteers, and has made considerable progress with attracting government support and sponsors, financing national championships and junior league as well as several glass court events, supporting the national team players participation in ESF and WSF championships, growing the national ranking system, developing international cooperation and also promoting squash around the country.
“All of this together created a synergistic effect, which gave the result we see now and of course, it could have been much better without the impact of COVID. But there is still a long way to go to reach the level of nations where squash has been developing for many decades.”
While Odintsov believes that there is still much work to be done, the future is certainly looking bright for Russian squash.
Besides the dazzling new clubs, there is a sense that Russian players are well-placed to make a significant impact on the world stage over the coming decade. 25-year-old Vladislav Titov is Russia’s highest-ranked player on the PSA Tour at World No.109, while the country has four male and female players aged 17 and under inside the world’s top 200 players.
With exactly six months to go until Saint Petersburg hosts the WSF World Junior Squash Championships, could this be the tournament where Russia announces itself as one of the world’s major squash nations?
The WSF World Junior Championships will be held in Saint Petersburg between 9-20 August. Find out more.