Hard hitter: Siyoli Waters is a standard-bearer for South African squash players. She is ranked No33 in the world. Picture: PETER HEEGER/GALLO IMAGES
Hard hitter: Siyoli Waters is a standard-bearer for South African squash players. She is ranked No33 in the world. Picture: PETER HEEGER/GALLO IMAGES

Siyoli Waters is a world-class squash player with a number of Professional Squash Association (PSA) titles to her name, making her an unsung heroine of South African sport.

The 33-year-old from the Eastern Cape is also a two-time national champion and is proud of the fact she is the first black female to achieve that feat.

"I was runner-up on several occasions before going all the way in 2013," said Waters, who was born and raised in East London to parents who were both teachers.

"You could say I earned my stripes. I wanted that title badly because it’s the one players want to win. You could say I had arrived and people were now taking notice of me."

Waters went on to defend her title in 2014 and in 2017 and will be chasing a third win.

"I feel I can still mix it with the best players in the country. The desire to compete is still there and I enjoy practicing. My speed has picked up as well. I’m one of those players who likes to attack and try and keep the points short," she said.

Waters has been as high as No28 in the world rankings and at the moment is No33.

"I feel 2017 is going to be a make or break one. I’ve still got a couple of years left competing on the international stage and will give it my all.

"But for me to be successful will require a different approach. I don’t want to be doing the same old; I must find a way to spruce things up."

"I definitely feel that I can still take on the top ladies and give them a run for their money."

Waters has beaten players in the top 20 and has even taken a game off world No1 Nicol David at the World Team Championships in France.

"Being on the court with Nicol was a huge thrill. Here we were trading shots and then I took a game off her, but she hit back with a vengeance.

"The experience was amazing and left me determined to work even harder," said Waters.

Had it not been for a rainy day, Waters may never have taken up squash. She earned provincial colours in hockey and tennis before taking up squash.

"I was supposed to practice tennis and it rained, so the teachers said we’re off to play squash and I haven’t looked back," Waters said. "I could hit the ball hard and things took off. I won a racquet and then at around 12 or 13, I won my first tournament. Through the age groups I was ranked No1 in the country and after school, I made a choice to give squash a full go.

"My progress was steady and I have to thank all of the people that helped me," she said. "To go on and be selected to play for my country was a huge honour.

"I joined the PSA in 2009 and over the years, I travelled the world, competing in big events and doing okay. My world improved and I got to 28, leaving me feeling that I was headed in the right direction. I started to win titles and one of them was the Mediterranean Open (2012).

"I went on to become the leading player in SA and 2013 was a watershed moment when I was crowned national champion, she said.

"I also won other titles and more success followed in 2014. I defended my UCT Open title before successive triumphs at the Gauteng Open and the Keith Granger Memorial Open rounded off a strong season. The past two years have been okay."

Waters runs a squash coaching programme, offering clinics to would-be players.

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