‘Having Nick Matthew in my corner is a real boost – he and Neil Guirey have stripped my game apart and rebuilt it’
By GEOFF BEW – Squash Mad Correspondent
It could be up to six months before the PSA World Tour gets back under way, warns Scottish number one Greg Lobban.
The professional game’s governing body is believed to be considering major changes such as allowing tournaments where only prize money – and not ranking points – are up for grabs amid worldwide travel restrictions.
Rising star Lobban says the players were told to tentatively prepare for the tour to resume at the end of August, but feels given the current situation that could be too optimistic.
“It’s going to be very difficult to see the tour resume like it was at Canary Wharf,” he told Squash Mad.
“I think it’s only fair [to resume] when all the countries and all athletes are able to play in any event and there’s no travel restrictions.
“It might be that some tournaments offer just prize money and no ranking points so they might just have to freeze the rankings for a longer period of time.
“With the situation being so unprecedented I don’t think there’s necessarily a right way or a wrong way, I think we’re just going to have to try and deal with it in the best way we can.
“The PSA said the end of August, but whether that’s pushed back a month or two now I’m not sure yet.
“Hopefully we’ll be seeing some squash in some capacity before the end of the year.”
The Scotsman, now at his highest world ranking of 22 after reaching the quarter-finals at Canary Wharf – the last men’s tournament before the lockdown – praised the PSA for keeping the players constantly up to date with developments.
“Although we don’t have a start date just yet, we have got an idea of what it might be like,” he said.
“It might be behind closed doors and there’s going to be some hygiene conditions that we’ll have to meet.
“Their job is an extremely difficult one at the moment with international travel and all the things they have to cross off the list to make sure things go ahead.
“I’m ready and happy to be playing as soon as they allow that, as long as it is in a safe environment for everyone.”
Despite the lockdown coming as he was hitting top form, Greg has clearly taken the enforced break in his stride and along with his wife Donna has been treating it like an extended training block.
“There’s not often many chances in the season to do weeks or months of training so I’ve been seeing it as a chance to work on some weaknesses,” said the 27-year-old.
“It’s been a really nice way of distracting us away from all the negative stuff that’s going on in the world right now and sticking to some normality in this weird time.
“The training itself has been a lot different from what we’ve been used to, but we’ve been training once or twice a day, working on different things like yoga, some core, and some mobility work, things I wanted to improve, and I think I’ll see a real benefit once the tour does get back to normal.”
The couple are now back in Sheffield having travelled down from Greg’s family home in Inverness, where they had been visiting when the lockdown kicked in the day after they arrived.
Their permanent base in South Yorkshire has ensured the Scotsman is able to spend as much time as possible with his coach Nick Matthew and he is delighted with the progress they’ve made in the last 18 months.
“He’s made a huge impact on my game along with Neil Guirey,” he said.
“They’ve really stripped my game apart. When I first got down here I realised there was a lot of things they wanted to change about my game and I’m glad they did.
“It was a little bit daunting at the start, having to change my grip… it was stripped back to junior days.
“I’m glad they gave it to me straight at the start and now getting my highest ranking things are starting to click into place and having someone like Nick in my corner is a great confidence booster.”
Greg’s positive attitude also means despite the lockdown he’s confident he can pick up where he left off when the tour eventually resumes and repeat his victories over top players like former World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad.
“I think it’s probably the worst possible time for everyone,” he said of the tour’s suspension.
“Even if you’ve had a few bad results and you’re at your lowest ranking in a while the last thing you’d want to do is take a break and not the get the opportunity to improve on it.
“I don’t really see it as the worst possible time for me, I see it as a positive in terms of I’m at my highest world ranking whenever I resume playing and I’m confident I can beat these guys now that I’ve shown it.”
Greg was aiming to get into the top 20 by the end of the season when the tour was suspended, but with nine tour titles to his name his goals are far greater.
“I don’t set tournament goals because they are too short-term,” he added.
“I’d love to be able to say I was a top 10 player one day and I’d love to win a medal at the Commonwealth Games.”
Pictures courtesy of Steve Line (Squashpics.com) and PSA