Thio wants to deliver smash hits for local game

Singapore Squash Rackets Association president Patrick Thio (left) with his predecessor Woffles Wu at 2018's Singapore Squash Open.
Singapore Squash Rackets Association president Patrick Thio (left) with his predecessor Woffles Wu at 2018's Singapore Squash Open.PHOTO: SINGAPORE SQUASH RACKETS ASSOCIATION

The world's best squash players - past and present - delivering lobs and volleys in a glass court built on the centre of the Padang.

This is what squash fans could be in for this year, if Singapore Squash Rackets Association (SSRA) president Patrick Thio's plans for the sport take off.

In a bid to raise the profile of squash and attract more young players, he is lining up a series of events that will bring the world's top athletes to town.

Former women's world No. 1 Nicol David will be here in March for the SSRA's gala dinner while the top-ranked Egyptian men's and women's players, Ali Farag and Raneem El Welily, will come a few months later for an exhibition event in July. They will be joined by men's world No. 3 Tarek Momen and women's No. 4 Nour El Tayeb.

More stars will arrive in September, with Singapore to host a Professional Squash Association (PSA) World Tour Silver event for the first time in September. This is a third-tier tournament that offers ranking points and a prize purse ranging between US$70,000 (S$94,450) and US$88,000.

The last major international squash competition the Republic hosted was the 2011 CIMB Singapore Women's Squash Masters.

The PSA World Tour Silver tournament will be held at the Kallang Squash Centre, though Thio wants to host the finals at an "iconic venue".

He added: "It could be the Padang, or the Esplanade, or the Singapore Indoor Stadium... a court is only 63 sq m, it's so flexible and it's temporary, we could collapse it in two to three days and remove it."

Referring to PSA World Tour events that have been held at venues with picturesque views such as Egypt's pyramids and the Bund in Shanghai, he added: "Shanghai is on the world map for the squash community, and I want Singapore to have this as we have a beautiful skyline.

"Having an event like this will make it interesting for the local community, and I want to let the youth see the potential as well."

The PSA Tour tournament and exhibition event will cost close to a million dollars each, and Thio intends to raise funds by reaching out to sponsors and tapping on the One Team Singapore and Bicentennial Community funds. Both government initiatives provide dollar-for-dollar matching for donations up to a certain amount.

  • 62.4 sq m

  • The size of a typical singles squash court. The small space is what makes SSRA chief Patrick Thio confident Singapore can host an event in an iconic location.

Explaining how these events would benefit the local squash community, Thio noted that there would be clinics and opportunities for interaction.

"People are always curious about (these professional players') training programmes... you can watch videos of what they do but there's nothing like watching them and doing the drills with them," he said.

"This is what we want to share with our players: How far are you from that standard? I want to get more people - members of the public, juniors - involved in squash and to show that we are capable of hosting a world-class tournament."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2020, with the headline 'Thio wants to deliver smash hits for local game'. Print Edition | Subscribe