NEW HORIZONS FOR WISPA
a player who’s been on the tour for many years now (some might say
too long!), we often visit many countries and cities time after
time, but our recent tournament in Brunei was a great chance to
visit somewhere new!
On first impressions Brunei is a strange, empty country (with a
total population of 300,000), but having spent a whole week there, I
soon changed my mind.
Yes, it is lightly populated, and it doesn’t have much of a tourist
industry, but the people we met who ran the tournament did
everything in their power to ensure we left Brunei satisfied.
The main venue was fantastic as it was a very wealthy establishment
called the Jerudong Country Club which has amazing facilities of 2
permanent all glass squash courts, 9 hole and 18 hole golf courses,
polo fields and huge stables, bowling alley, snooker room,
a banqueting hall occasionally used by the Sultan (and he did while we
were there!), an in-house band and swimming pool. Pretty impressive
facilities for a squash tournament!
Right next door to the country club was a fun park which was
apparently ordered to be built by the Sultan for the people of
Brunei…… very generous!
On the Thursday night after the quarter finals we had our own
personal tour of the fun park! No queues (not that there were many
anyway!), but it was so exciting to be driven on buggies round the
park and go on rides only with your squash friends and no-one else
around. We went on each ride twice before moving onto the next one.
I wrongly thought the rides would be very average and tame,
especially having recently got back from my honeymoon in Orlando,
and having the rides there to compare with them, but the rides were
in fact both scary and FUN!
We were lucky enough to have full-board and were fed at the Jerudong
Country Club each and every lunch and dinner time.
After one lunch we were sitting playing scrabble when we heard a
loud but strange noise, and as we turned to our side to check out
the situation, to our horror we realised a huge 4 to 5 foot iguano
lizard had fallen from a ledge above us and landed right next to our
table!! After a huge scream from Fiona, Jenny D and myself, and
hurried movements away from the area, the lizard scuttled off in the
direction of the club house, making its way down some stairs towards
the squash courts – Is this lizard merely a squash fan wanting to
watch some top women’s squash and get some autographs we thought –
or was it wandering lazily along and randomly fell off a big ledge
to be greeted by high-pitched screams and turmoil!? Either way the
lizard was eventually caught by some workers from the club in a huge
dustbin and taken outside again and released back into its own
There was plenty of wild-life to be seen, as we were also regularly visited
by local monkeys which were most entertaining and
definitely less scary than the lizard!
We were also treated to other great meals, of which my absolute
favourite was one we had at the Empire Hotel which is a 7 Star!!
(which I didn’t know existed). There was a buffet which consisted of
the most delicious seafood – 15 King Prawns later, I’d had my fill!!
We even missed the chance to go 10-pin bowling at the hotel,
because we spent so long at the buffet enjoying the food and the
surroundings. The hotel is out of this world. It’s definitely not
just a hotel, it has a country club attached, 18 hole golf course,
villas, apartments, 10-pin bowling alley, a squash court, gym,
sauna, spa bath and ice pool, cinema and theatre, and the most
amazing grounds and swimming pools. There’s talk that they’re going
to try and put us in the Empire next year ….. Fingers crossed!
Our final day in Brunei which was the day after the final, we had
the chance to go horse riding on some of the polo ponies from the
stables at the Jarudong Country Club. They have nearly 300 horses in
their stables which in itself is very impressive.
So Vanessa (the Brunei champ) Fiona, Becky and myself got up early
and traipsed off to the stables. I’d never been horse riding
properly before and nor had Becky or Fiona so the grooms certainly
had their work cut out! First we went round the country club to the
polo fields and the great highlight of that being that the Sultan
himself was out practising polo in the next field with his
daughters! Next we went down to the beach and rode towards the
Empire Hotel. An hour later we arrived, very hot, very sweaty but
having had a really fun time. The ice-cold flannels and water that
were there to greet us were very much appreciated. On the way back
we tried going a bit faster and broke into a canter for part of the
way….. I think I’ve unintentionally developed a brave new way to
ride! I managed to stay on my horse, but believe me it was not
That final afternoon of our Far Eastern tour we were taken to the
water village. Not knowing where or what we were visiting we had a
pleasant surprise when we saw it was in fact a very interesting 500
year old village built on the water. The first settlers in Brunei
were fishermen and they built their homes on the water. The
government has ordered the village to be preserved in the name of
After a delicious meal overlooking the harbour we were treated to a
boat tour of the village and surrounding areas. The people do still
chose to live in the water village and some even have property on
the land as well – most of them have their cars parked on the
waterside, so it certainly doesn’t seem to be poverty that leads the
majority of these people to live there.
The water village has its own school, mosque, hospital and police,
so you can say it’s pretty self-sufficient. It was an enchanting
ride to be steered through the narrow gaps between the houses on the
water and see how some of the Brunei people live and have lived over
We could even see the Sultan’s palace from the water with its pure
solid gold covered dome. There are apparently 1700 bedrooms in the
palace, which is obviously very impressive, if not a bit
Sitting on the water you could see the two extremes of Brunei…. The
Sultan’s Palace and the somewhat shanty accommodation of the water
village, but it does sound like their king has done, and does do
many many good things for his people.
THANK YOU, BRUNEI !
I’ve left Brunei with lots of very good memories and an extremely
different view to the one I arrived with. It is in fact a peaceful
and beautiful country with a low crime rate and even though I did
miss the hustle and bustle of people and shops etc there is a lot to
be said for an almost tranquil way of life.
After all if you want some excitement (and alcohol) there are many
places only a half-hour flight away; like KL, Bali, Philippines and
Lastly I just want to say a huge thankyou to everyone we met in
Brunei for making us so very welcome. I hope we left the Brunei
people excited about women’s squash and that they’ll want us back
again next year…. Here’s hoping.
Vanessa - a deserved Champion
The fun Park
AND SQUASH TOO !!!
Obviously our main interest on the trip was
our squash, but it is nice and welcoming when a tournament makes it so easy
to take part in activities away from the squash court, but still not
interfering with our match preparation
THE FIRST ROUNDS were a great insight for the Brunei people into the
increasing depth in women’s squash nowadays. All the matches were of quality
and some in particular were pretty closely contested. The match between
Vanessa and Shelley was a great combination of hard hitting,
taking the ball early and the use of the short ball. Another match that was
close was between Tania and Becky, with Tania clawing her way
back from 2-0 down to 2-1 and a very edgy fourth game with Becky eventually
coming out on top after needing about 10 match balls to do so.
The longest match of the evening, and the only 5 setter was Fiona and
Vicky’s match. This match was very entertaining, with 2 very
different styles and both very effective when given the chance, but it was
Fiona’s precise short game, holding of the ball and steady lengths that won
her through to the quarter finals in the end.
THE QUARTER FINALS while good to watch were all much more one-sided
than the first rounds, with higher seeds prevailing in each of the 4
matches. It seemed to be a day when the top seeds played to their full
potential. I was very pleased to get past Fiona into the semi, especially
having seen her play so well the day before.
THE SEMIS AND FINAL were played at a different venue, the National
Stadium, which has a 3 sided glass court with a plaster front wall in the
main arena and another 6 glass back courts in an adjacent room.
My match with Vanessa I felt was an exciting and hard fought match,
with Vanessa’s tricky boasts taking their toll on me by the 4th game,
especially with the National Stadium being incredibly hot and humid.
Rachel’s match with her sister Natalie was a bit more one-sided but
still exciting as they has some long rallies because they both move so well.
There was the added bonus for Rachel, that if she managed to beat her sister
and reach the final (which she did) she’d move up to the World No1
position, in the Aug rankings, for the 1st time in her career!
THE FINAL between Rachel and Vanessa was again very entertaining. The
first 4 games were mostly dominated by one or he other player, but the 5th
game was a perfect ending to the match. Entering the court for the fifth and
final game they were both tired, especially with the heat ... was Rachel
going to put out Vanessa with her deceptive angles and movement, or was
Vanessa going to keep to her plan and hit great precise lengths and lobs,
either forcing the error or creating the opening herself. At 8-8 going right
down to the wire, it was difficult to know either way, but Vanessa battled
through to become the very deserved Brunei champion.
Results & Reports