BY FORTUNE MBELE
THE annual Safeguard Zimbabwe Open Squash Championships kick off today with the finals set for tomorrow afternoon at the Suburbs Squash Club in Bulawayo.
Matabeleland Squash Association secretary Melody Mwete said the tournament had attracted fewer foreigners compared to previous years when the competition saw South Africans, Zambians, Malawians and Nigerians participating.
Mwete said four Malawians and one Zambian had shown interest in taking part in the tournament whose registration deadline was yesterday evening.
“It is not as good as the previous years with four Malawians and one Zambian as the only foreigners. Registration starts tonight (yesterday) and play starts
tomorrow (today). With regards the prize structure, that will only be finalised after registration, but the total prize money is $6 000,” Mwete said.
Indications are that last year’s winner in the men’s section, South African Christos Potgieter who beat Zambian Kundanji Kalengo 3-0 in the finals to walk away
$1 000 richer, will not be available to defend his title.
Potgieter also clinched the championship in 2016.
The South African and his partner Jimmy Schebusch last year beat locals Mike Burns and Neil Nesbitt 3-1 in the doubles’ finals.
The ladies’ section was won by Nigerian Yemisi Olatunji who beat her sister Busayo 3-1 to claim the $1 000 prize-money and a trophy, while Zambian Paul Chanda beat fellow countryman Felix Chilufya 3-1 in the veterans’ category.
Registration is pegged at $50 per player per section and $20 per additional section entered.
The Zimbabwe Open Squash Championships have the men, ladies, doubles open sections and the veterans’ category, for athletes over the age of 45.
Over the years, locals have struggled in the competition and with a few foreigners taking part this year; it could be an opportunity for locals to shine at the tournament.
Zimbabwe’s young squash sensation, England-based Ryan Gwidzima, who is in the country after finishing his primary school at Wycliffe College in the UK, might
also feature in the tournament after playing opponents older than him in the men’s open category last year to finish position 13 in the competition.