Alan Clyne will top the seeds in his home city next month when Inverness hosts the biggest professional squash tournament to be staged in Scotland for many years.
The 27-year-old, who is world ranked 37th, goes into the $15,000 Be Personnel Squash Loch Ness Challenger tournament -it is being staged at the Inverness Tennis and Squash Club from June 17 to 22 - as a strong favourite. He will open his account against one of four of the players who get through the qualifying competition which several Scots have entered including Clyne's Commonwealth Games team-mate Kevin Moran.
However, by way of demonstrating that there has been nothing untoward in the way the draw was made Greg Lobban, the Scottish No.2 who also hails from Inverness, will have to open his account against the second seed, Egypt's Omar Abdel Aziz.
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Lobban, who has pushed Clyne hard in recent meetings, should go into the event full of confidence that he can create a first-round upset and perhaps go all the way to a final meeting with his fellow Scot, following his recent quarter-final win at the Jersey Classic over another Egyptian, Omar Abdel Meguid. It was the 21-year-old's biggest win to date and, at No.30 in the world rankings, Meguid is 13 places higher than his compatriot Aziz.
The staging of the tournament is the latest evidence of the re-generation of what was, until recently, considered to be a dying sport in Scotland. The national governing body has made no secret of its disappointment at the way squash will be showcased at the Commonwealth Games, but it has welcomed the way that the sport itself is working to compensate for that. "The Be Personnel Loch Ness Challenger in June will be the biggest Professional Squash Association event in Scotland for many years and is a very welcome addition to the Scottish squash calendar," said John Dunlop, chief executive of the Scottish Squash and Racketball Association.
"I believe this new event is testament not only to the determination of all those in the Inverness club who conceived this event and have worked hard to pull it together, but also to a renewed confidence of the sport of squash in Scotland. Only recently Aberdeen Squash and Racketball held their first PSA event for some years at Mannofield and they have already confirmed that it will be held again next season."
He indicated that, while SSRA operates on much smaller budgets than many other sports in which there is genuine opportunity for players to pursue professional careers, the governing body is anxious to play its part.
Dunlop had originally hoped that, either by identifying a permanent venue in which major squash events could be staged in future, or by putting a showcourt at an iconic Glasgow venue, the Commonwealth Games could have acted as a beacon in that regard.
While that failed to happen, he says SSRA is undaunted. "The sport does have ambitions to bring ever bigger squash events to Scotland in the coming years, which we hope to be able to reveal soon," he said. "Events primarily help us to raise awareness of this great sport in a marketplace dominated by four or five big sports.
"We need to fight very hard for our 'share of voice', but there can be few better ways to build fitness, to develop hand and eye coordination, to find your 'fast feet' or improve your decision making than playing squash. Those looking to be part of the much anticipated 'Games Bounce' should certainly be considering the sport with more bounce than any other."