This Girl’s Got Game
You may not realise it, but Manchester will soon host the Squash World Championships and Preston is home to a world class player, writes Emma Brereton. Photography: PSA World Tour
Taking place at the National Squash Centre in Manchester between 8th – 17th December with matches from the quarter final stages, 14th December onwards hosted at Manchester Central, the AJ Bell PSA World Championships promises to bring the cream of the men’s and women’s tours together to compete for the sport’s most sought after title. It is promised to be one of the most competitive World Championships to date and our very own, Laura Massaro, will be there representing England.
The 34-year-old has played squash as long as she can remember and has enjoyed a glowing career to date. Growing up close to Chorley and achieving a squash scholarship at Preston’s College when she was just 16, has led to a life playing all over the world, being crowned world number one in 2013, whilst being at the forefront of a sport that has made great headway in closing the gender pay gap in a world where women haven’t been recognised in the same playing field as their male counterparts.
“I was born in Great Yarmouth and when I was seven my dad’s job moved us up north. Both my parents had a love for squash and my brother and I would join them regularly at Clayton Green Leisure Centre near Chorley.
“I had a passion for it from day one and spent all my spare time on the court. I had morning training sessions from the coaches at the leisure centre and when I was 18 David Lloyd opened in Chorley. It was at this point I turned professional and David Lloyd became my first sponsor.”
Unusual by today’s standards, Laura didn’t go to university, being lucky enough to play squash professionally meant at age 18 she went on tour for three years and found her feet in a professional capacity.
“The first three years were like an apprenticeship,” says Laura. “I wasn’t expected to go to university at the same time as some players from Egypt and America are, but these three years were like studying for a degree in the sport.”
Laura has since been awarded an honorary degree by UCLan which she is extremely proud of and it is platforms like this that she wants to use to bring the sport to the next generation.
“Squash has enjoyed a rich history in the UK for a long time and we are getting close to the end of a generation of hugely successful players who are now starting to retire. There is a lot of competition from other sports, but I hope that through the results I achieve over the next lot of tournaments, I can inspire young people to pick up a racket and have some fun on the court.”
Although retirement isn’t on the horizon for Laura, she is doing all she can to ensure she has lots to give back when the day comes.
“Retirement is a personal choice,” says Laura. “I will continue to play so long as the drive and hunger is still there and whilst I am still in contention at the highest level it would be silly to hang up my racket.”
“When the day comes though I absolutely want to set something up in my local area. Squash is a brilliant sport and was rated as the best sport for health by Forbes magazine. It’s a sport that needs to be made more readily available in schools and why not since it’s something that can be played indoors – perfect for our inclement British weather.”
Laura is still very much at the top of her game, she won the 2013 Women’s World Championship and is hoping to build on her success and lift the coveted title for a second time.
“For the World Championships to be held in the UK is huge for England Squash and I’m really excited to compete and hopefully be part of a real showcase for how great squash is.”
“It’s a massive opportunity for all of the players. The World Championship happens only once a year, but a home world comes once, if you’re lucky twice, a career.”
Knowing she’ll have a home crowd behind her has proved for success in previous competitions such as the British Open and provided that extra motivation needed in tough matches.
Next summer when the squash season is over, Laura will be able to have some downtime. You’re likely to find her on a beach no more than a four-hour flight away. “We travel so much to competitions all over the world that when it’s time for a holiday I can’t face a long flight and the jet lag that comes with it. When it’s time to rest I do just that, watch films, boxsets, go out for dinner – anything that allows me to completely switch off from what is a mentally challenging game.”
If you’d like to support Laura and the rest of the England Squash team, tickets for the AJ Bell PSA World Championships in Manchester from 8th – 17th December are on sale now at: www.ticketmaster.co.uk/ajbellworldchamps