I want to personally invite all Drexel students to join me at the Daskalakis Athletic Center for the most exciting week of professional squash. From Oct. 8 through Oct. 17, Drexel University will be hosting the 2015 Men’s and Women’s U.S. Open at the DAC. General admission is free for students with a valid Drexel ID. Qualifying begins on Oct. 8, with Drexel’s head squash coach, John White, former world number one player, trying to battle his way into the main draw, which begins Oct. 10. The finals will be held Oct. 17.
Squash first arrived in the United States in Philadelphia, where the U.S. Squash governing association was founded in 1904. Although the organization later moved to New York, there is still a squash shot named after our city: the wicked “Philadelphia” touches three walls and leaves one’s opponent fit to be tied into a Philly pretzel. Today, more than twenty million play squash worldwide. Of British origin, squash has spread throughout the Commonwealth countries, and the best players in the world now hail from Egypt, Pakistan, India and Australia. Drexel’s varsity squash teams finished last season as the 12th- and 13th-ranked teams in the nation for men and women, respectively.
Professional squash is a feast for the eyes. Squash, at the world-class level, reminds me of a combination between a Cirque du Soleil performance in Montreal and a Garry Kasparov versus Bobby Fisher chess match in Reykjavik. Squash is a tough game with simple rules. Two competitors are confined to a rectangular glass enclosure with the semisoft squash ball traveling at speeds up to 180 mph, and with all walls and angles in play, it is mesmerizing to watch. The athletes perform with a beautiful combination of agility and power. Their footwork is as graceful as ballet, and their stamina rivals that of triathletes. With the struggle for points often lasting 20 to 30 strokes, extreme fitness is the price of admission to world-class squash. The winner, however, is often the player who outfoxes his or her rival. The principal object in squash is the ball. During a match, it becomes the center of attention. How it behaves—its cosmic order of trajectory and velocity—is the basis of all play. It and the athletes who propel it can do astonishing things that defy intuition, all of which you can now see for yourself at the DAC.
It is an honor for Drexel University to join forces with U.S. Squash and serve as the host for this world-class tournament. The Open fits perfectly with Drexel’s mission to celebrate, within an international context, a world-class performance culture at 33rd and Market streets, while being a leader of gender equity on and off the court. The Open has a commitment to gender equity, being the first professional tournament in the world to offer equal prize money and equal draws for both men and women (this year, 32 men and women will each compete in the main draw for a total of $300,000).
So take a time-out between your classes and bring a friend over to the DAC to watch the Open. Adopt one of the many intriguing players from all over world to follow and cheer for. As a neuropsychology professor, I know that it takes up to 75 percent of the brain to follow and watch a moving squash ball. Thus, I also recommend watching squash as good mind therapy from your rigorous class schedule.
See you at the DAC!