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Grinham switches nationality to Dutch

Squash star Natalie Grinham has decided to switch nationality with immediate effect from Australian to Dutch. The world’s number 2 female player is not eligible to represent The Netherlands at the European and World Team Championships until 2009, as a result of the rules set out by the World Squash Federation (WSF) and the European Squash Federation (ESF) which stipulates that players have to wait at least 3 years before being able to represent another country. Grinham last represented Australia during the Commonwealth Games 2006 after which she opted to not represent her country at the World Team Championships in Canada later that year. As an individual the 29-year old will play the Women’s International Squash Players Association (WISPA) tournaments under the Dutch flag. Starting from the CIMB KL Open 2008, that will take place from March 5th until March 8th in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.

The nationality change of the former Australian player doesn’t come as a major surprise. Grinham has already been living in the Netherlands for more than 7 years and is married to former Dutch champion Tommy Berden. The younger half of the “GrinhamSisters” - sister Rachael is currently ranked 3 in the world - contributes her rise on the World Rankings to her stay in The Netherlands. "When I first came to Holland in 1999 I was ranked in the 40's. The professional set up that they have here with the league, training facilities, coaches and training partners had a huge impact in getting me to where I am today.  I'm looking forward to being able to represent Holland so that I can give something back to the country that has helped me improve so much." according to Grinham.

Like her sister, Grinham is renowned for her amazing speed and attacking style of play. The Toowoomba born player has been a regular in the world’s top 5 since February 2004 and already occupies the 2nd spot on the World Rankings for 13 straight months. The citizen of Almere won 4 WISPA tournaments in 2007, bringing her career total to 10 titles, and she also reached 6 more major finals. During the Women’s World Open in Madrid she was part of a historic final in which she had to succumb to her one year older sister Rachael. The highlight of Grinham’s career came in March 2006 when she took the Commonwealth Games by storm winning an unprecedented three gold medals. The individual title was taken after beating the world number 1 Nicol David in the semi’s and higher seeded Rachael in a sisterly final, before Grinham paired up with her sister to win the Women’s Doubles, and with Joe Kneipp to triumph in the Mixed. The new Dutch player also won the World Team title twice with Australia in 2002 and 2004.

The naturalization of Grinham comes at a perfect time for squash in her new home country, a popular sport with approximately 450.000 Dutch participants. The Netherlands already boast 4 players in the top-50 of the world, with former World Champion Vanessa Atkinson (currently ranked 10th in the world), Annelize Naudé (17), Orla Noom (35) and Margriet Huisman (37). On top of that Karen Kronemeyer (58), Milja Dorenbos (71), Dagmar Vermeulen (80) and Milou van der Heijden (82) are also ranked inside the top-100. But the addition of Grinham to the already impressive pack will improve the chances for further Dutch success tremendously during the (biggest) women’s squash events around the globe, a very encouraging sign for the organizers of the Forexx Women’s World Open Squash 2009, which will take place in Amsterdam. Grinham admits the good prospects for squash in The Netherlands played an important role in her decision to switch nationalities: I am already looking forward to challenge for the world title in Amsterdam in 2009. The opportunity to become World Champion in front of a home crowd gives me extra motivation and everything I do in the next year and a half will be in preparation for this major goal.

Not only Grinham is happy with her switch to a new country. Also the Dutch Squash Federation is ecstatic about the news: “The choice of Natalie to become Dutch not only gives us a real chance to win a European- and/or World title in the near future with our women’s team, but it also means an enormous boost to the juniors and other top players in our country. Besides Vanessa (Atkinson) and Annelize (Naudé) they now have another great role model, who they can learn from.”, said the federation’s technical manager Ian Cherington.




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