‘Greg’s professionalism will have stood him in good stead during the lockdown’
By GEOFF BEW – Squash Mad Correspondent
The coronavirus pandemic could not have come at a worse time for flying Scotsman Greg Lobban.
In the last tournament before the tour was suspended, the St. James’s Place Canary Wharf Classic, he claimed notable victories over Mazen Hesham and world No.3 Karim Abdel Gawad on the way to his first quarter-final at a PSA Gold event.
But within a few days the prospect of building any momentum was lost, as tournaments were put on hold indefinitely amid the global lockdown.
It must have been a major blow to the 27-year-old, but conversely England legend Nick Matthew, Lobban’s coach, believes the break might be something he can use to his advantage.
“Obviously nobody wanted this situation and it will be interesting to see how different people have coped physically and mentally when things come back,” he said.
“I think Greg’s professionalism will have stood him in good stead in this period and he used it as an opportunity to work on other areas outside of the court.”
Nick, who started coaching Greg after his retirement in 2018, feels his charge, now at a career-high world ranking of 22, was already proving a threat to the world’s top players before his run at Canary Wharf in March.
“Greg knows that he has to back these results up day in day out and in best of five matches as well throughout an entire season,” he said.
“He has hunger to improve and is desperate to get back out on tour to prove this.”
The Wolf believes there are no limits to what Greg can achieve, saying “anything is possible”.
“He was undoubtedly operating at a high level already but is very ambitious to get to the very top and to do that I think he was aware he had to makes some changes too,” he told Squash Mad.
“He has always had a great flair side to his game but we’ve tried to add some structure to complement this.
“Before you even talk about on court strengths, he has an incredible base of professionalism, dedication and work ethic that he applies to his life as a whole and that always gives you a chance.
“He is very good at taking criticism constructively and always wants the honest appraisal of where he needs to improve, which is refreshing to work with.”
The three-time World Champion says it was a “huge leap of faith” for Greg and his wife Donna to start working with him given his lack of coaching experience.
But he believes their hard work is finally starting to pay off.
“We have been learning together every step of the way and whilst they are desperate to improve both players have been so patient with me as I find my feet as a coach,” he said.
“These improvements sometimes don’t happen overnight but I think last season you could start to see the things we’ve been working on coming through with both Greg and Donna.”
Last month marked two years since Nick’s retirement from the tour, which many believed was premature given the high level he was still playing at.
But the former world number clearly has no regrets.
“I’m completely satisfied with my decision. I knew in my heart and my head, not to mention my body, that it was the right time,” he said.
After 20 years on the squash tour you could have forgiven him from putting his feet up, but instead he set up the Nick Matthew Academy at the Hallamshire Tennis and Squash Club in his home city of Sheffield to train the next generation of emerging players.
He also makes regular trips to the US for his work with Berkshire School and does consultancy work for Dunlop and England Squash.
Retirement has also given Nick the chance to view the sport from a different perspective and he has identified several areas that could help the game bounce back after COVID-19.
“Things like interactive squash are a great starting point, but we need more options to get kids activated in schools,” he said.
“The Olympics would help to be able to tell these kids what there is to aim at, but the grassroots as always is the key.”
PART TWO TOMORROW: Greg Lobban tells Geoff Bew his views on coming out of lockdown
Pictures courtesy of PSA and Twitter