Squash: Jackman in the crucible

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The Independent Online
CASSIE JACKMAN, the world junior champion and England's most promising player for a decade, embarks on the toughest fortnight of her career at the world championships in Vancouver on Monday, during which her credentials as a potential world beater will have their closest examination so far.

The 19-year-old Jackman is seeded fourth in the individual event and, for the first time, is also a member of the England line-up who defend the team title.

England have won that title four times in a row and the squad of Jackman, Martine Le Moignan, Lisa Opie and Sue Wright have an even chance of fighting off another tough challenge from the favourites, Australia.

Whether Jackman has improved sufficiently to wrest the individual crown from the New Zealander Susan Devoy, though, is more open to question.

Devoy named Jackman as her heir apparent after regaining the British Open at Wembley in April, prompting yet further speculation that she may soon retire. However, there is no confirmation of this yet and if Devoy sets her mind on winning the World Open again, she will be a strong favourite.

Jackman, who has Wright, the British champion, in her quarter-final, is seeded to meet Devoy in the semi-finals. Opie, last year's British Open champion who is still feeling her way after prolonged injury problems, is unseeded for the first time in a decade and should meet Devoy in the last 16.

Devoy's nearest rival, according to the seedings, is Le Moignan, who has contested the last two finals, losing in Sydney in 1990 and scoring a memorable triumph in the Netherlands in 1989.

Another important issue is the use of three referees in a match, the first time this panel-type decision-making system has been used at a major competitive event. The aim is to reduce arguments between players and officials, but critics believe that time will be wasted and the referee's authority eroded.