SF squash tournament puts sport on unusual display

- The world's top squash players battled in a glass box in the middle of Justin Herman Plaza in the NetSuite Open Squash Championships Tuesday night.

The tournament ended with Ramy Ashour of Egypt taking home the title.

"He loves being creative on the court," said tournament spokeswoman Beth Rasin. "He can hit shots that have not only spectators, but fellow players shaking their heads wondering how on Earth he made that shot!"

The tournament featured 56 of the best squash players from around the world. The matches where held in a clear glass box in Justin Herman Plaza along San Francisco's Embarcadero.

"The question was how do we get this sport in front of a lot of people, because it's fabulous to watch," explained Rasin. "It's played in 121 countries around the world. I think only soccer is played in more countries around the world than squash."

In the United States, squash is not as popular.

"Ah, who's trapped in the box?" asked a woman walking across Justin Herman Plaza, looking at the squash final match. "I think they're playing tennis, but I can't be sure."

"I started playing squash when I was in 5th grade," said Piera Miller.

She'd never heard of squash before that. Miller benefits from a charity program called Squash Drive. It gives urban youth a chance to pick up the sport.

"I love it and and I couldn't wish for anything else," Miller said confidently.

An exhibition match before Tuesday night's final was to benefit Squash Drive. Miller said she's learned a lot in five years about squash and life.

"Even as you may get hurt by getting hit with a racquet or ball, you will still be able to keep on going," she said. "And with the couple scrapes you do get, you learn from them and they're just memories that you have."

Squash players and enthusiasts hope by literally exposing the sport to the public, more people will want to pick up a racquet.

"It opens up the sport to a lot more people," Rasin said.

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