Chris Simpson loves playing in New York, getting free lessons from Amr Shabana, and scoffing Thai food back home in Harrogate
By LIESLGOECKER – Squash Mad Correspondent in Dubai
Chris Simpson is playing today in the semi-final of the Dubai Squash Cup, coming off a Round 1 loss to Peter Barker at the World Championship in Doha. Before his quarter-final against Paul Coll (NZL), which he won 3-1, Chris had a chat about where he comes from, where he’s going, and where he’d like to see squash go in the future.
11 Points With … Chris Simpson
1) Why and when did you start playing squash?
I started when I was eight at my school. A sheet went on the sports notice board. I played every sport, tried every sport it was an option to try. And when one went up for squash, I put my name down. The squash coach came in and drove us to the local club. And got us playing mini squash, actually, so it was a sponge ball and a short racket.
I didn’t decide straight away I was going to play squash for the rest of my life. I always liked racket sports, I played a little bit of tennis. I like doing anything with my hands a lot more than football or like that, cricket, hockey, badminton.
And when I played squash I just felt like it was my favorite. And it suits being from England because it’s inside. I like the fact that I can go and play it year round and not get cold and wet.
2) What’s your match superstition (or night-before ritual), and if it goes wrong, does it throw you off?
I try not to have superstitions. But I think there’s always a little bit of ritual. Just the nature of being a squash player. I find when I go somewhere, I generally eat the same sort of things and always eat the same amount of time before I play. It becomes quite a habitual life when you’re in tournaments.
I wouldn’t say it freaks me out but one of my biggest fears is not making it to the match on time, or turning up without my shoes, or something like that.
3) Where is your favorite place to play squash?
Probably Grand Central Station in New York (right). Because I grew up never getting to watch professional squash, really, apart from a couple of TV shows that showed three or four tournaments a year on SkySports in England. So I’d video them and watch them over and over again.
Two venues that would always be on would be Al Ahram under the pyramids in Cairo and the Tournament of Champions. And we don’t have Al Ahram any more, so, to play in Grand Central Station in front of that many people is something I grew up watching guys do and always wanted to do myself.
4) Who do you most admire in the sport – past or present – and why?
My favourite player at the moment is Amr Shabana. He’s my favourite to watch and I just love the style he has. I think he carries himself with a lot of class. I definitely try to play like Shabana. But I think when I was growing up, when I was really young, I always watched Peter Nicol and Lee Beachill, the two guys I always watched and tried to copy their strongest points.
I played him [Shabana] four times. Last time I got a game off him. And felt like I was in there until the last few games when he just chopped me. But it’s good, it was amazing. I try to practice with him when I can at a tournament.
5) When you’re feeling down about your game, what or who keeps you going?
I’ll be honest, I find it really hard when I have a bad loss. I do get very, very down. I’m not someone who shrugs it off very easily. But it’s just trying to remember it’s a sport, and in sport, you’re not going to play well every day, and there’s more to life than sport. It’s just a game, really, isn’t it? I just try to remind myself it’s a game.
6) What is the one thing you want most for the sport in the future?
More spectators. Whether that comes in the form of the Olympics or not, I’m not actually that bothered. Because I think, when we talk about the Olympics, it’s because that’s the easiest way to get big numbers watching. But it’s just for more people in the world to see squash, and for us to go to tournaments and have huge crowds and people enjoying what we do. When you go to a tournament and you’ve got a crowd that really gets into it, it’s amazing. It’s brilliant.
7) What do you do when you’re not playing squash?
Relax. I’m quite into music, rock n’ roll music. My favorite band these days is probably Kings of Leon, but I listen to a lot of old music, like the Kinks, and the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones. I spend time with my friends and my fiancée at home.
With a beer and a burger.
9) What do you do after a loss?
I sulk and then I try to get out of there as quickly as possible. I usually try to get home quickly – it just resets. I don’t sulk too long, I’m making it out worse than I am. But I do sulk a little bit.
10) What is your favourite restaurant to eat at when you’re at home?
I really like Thai food. So there’s a sort of Asian fusion restaurant in Harrogate, where I live. It’s called The Orchid (right). I order fish with red curry sauce. I wouldn’t like to try to tell you the name. (It’s called Plaa Choo Chee. We checked the menu).
11) What colour is your favourite jersey?
At the moment it’s my blue one. I get kit from my sponsor and I generally just decide whichever one I like most and try to wear that in my biggest matches. Right now, it’s the blue one.
Dubai action pictures by NITESH SQUARE