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When I was four, my parents owned a squash club. I used to hit the ball on my own, for hours every day, that’s how it all started. Then I was lucky enough to be found by the right people, people who believed I had the potential to do well and helped me improve my squash.
I like racket sports in general, but I love the fact that squash is a much more complete sport than the rest, it’s very fast. I love seeing a game between two players who have a good fighting spirit and give everything on the court until the last point and show respect at the same time.
I play because I just love it, I always have. Of course, my main motivation now is to win big events, like the World Open or the British Open. And to do the best I can to reach my goals and to do the best for my family.
Winning the 2015 World Open Squash Championship was huge. But that would be followed closely by winning the British Open three times and of course reaching World Number One. I’ve been fortunate to have some really great moments in my career so far.
I train twice a day, five days a week. Every day is different, but I always start with a long stretch to loosen up the muscles and to activate my body for my first training session. I usually do my fitness in the mornings (three times a week), it can be weights, a session on the bike, on-court training, or just drills. In the afternoon, I do more squash but I vary those sessions depending on how hard the mornings were. I never do two hard sessions on the same day.
Every day is a challenge to get better and find a way to improve. Perfection doesn’t exist, but when you want to be the best you have to try to get as close to perfection as possible. Of course the biggest challenge is to win a World Open Championship. So right now my challenge is to win another one.
Squash is a hard sport physically and demands lots of training – endurance, speed, explosiveness, agility, flexibility, power. But if mentally you are not there, the body won’t function correctly. It’s what’s in your head that drives the rest.
I’d advise young players to always find a goal in what they do and enjoy it most of the time. There will be times when you’re down, but try and enjoy it most of the time.
If I’ve had a bad result, I need to be on my own for a bit to digest things. Then I will debrief with my team to see where we can improve.
Role models can also help guide you when things are tough. I like Nadal and Federer in that way, because they always came back to their best and won big things after people wrote them off.
Travelling is a luxury and we get to see the world. But it’s also very hard, first because you are away from your family and second because of the hours you spend in airports, on flights and the jet-lag, but I’ve got certain routines to try to adapt my body and be in as good a shape as possible for the first round of a tournament. I always travel to tournaments a few days early, to adjust and to be as fresh as possible when the event starts.
I used to love visiting New York. Playing in Grand Central Station was incredible – a unique venue with millions of people passing by every day. It’s great for squash.
To relax, I like to watch almost any racket sport. At the moment, I’m into UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship), probably because a friend of mine competes there.
I like seeing the cities I visit, experiencing different cultures, I love trying the local food, I like eating but I don’t like cooking :). Otherwise I just enjoy being with my family between tournaments.
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