Renewed focus takes English ace to the top
By ALAN THATCHER and NATHAN CLARKE
Laura Massaro has become just the third Englishwoman ever to occupy the coveted World No.1 position after leapfrogging Egyptian Raneem El Welily to top the January 2016 PSA Women’s World Rankings released today (January 1).
The 32-year-old Lancastrian ended 2015 in a rich vein of form claiming three PSA World Tour titles and competing in four of a possible five finals to surge to the top and become World No.1 for the first time in her career, following in the footsteps of compatriots Cassie Jackman (2004) and Lisa Opie (1988).
Massaro took a break from the game midway through 2015 after suffering a loss of form but returned with renewed focus and desire.
She said: “I’m over the moon with topping the January ranking list. It’s been a goal of mine since I was a junior and something I have strived for throughout my career. I feel proud of myself and for everyone that’s helped me. Now the hard work starts to maintain the level of squash I have been able to play recently.
“I trained hard over the summer after taking a break and the focus was all about competing and challenging for major titles. It’s gone better than I could have expected, winning three titles, and I knew that if I could hit my goals of winning titles then the ranking would take care of itself.”
“When I first joined the tour my aim was to be on the first page of the rankings,” said Massaro. “Then it was to be top ten, then top three and the last step to becoming top of the list has been a long time coming.
“I’ve been close for a very long time and to now be World No.1 is very, very special. There’s no trophy lift or one moment of winning like at a tournament but there’s a huge sense of satisfaction that another box has been ticked.
“It has taken a lot of years to get to the point where I can be at the top and just like the World Championship and British Open titles I won, I know this is something that I’m always going to be able to look back on.”
Massaro secured her place at the summit of the World Rankings with victory over El Welily, who occupied the position from September – December, in the semi-final of the recent Hong Kong Open. But having lost to long-time rival Nicol David, the woman who held the No.1 spot for an unprecedented nine-years, in the final of that tournament Massaro says she is relishing the prospect of defending her position throughout 2016.
“The battle between Raneem, Nicol and myself is an interesting one but there are so many players in the top ten capable of winning big matches and winning titles that there’s more uncertainty at tournaments now than ever before,” said Massaro.
“I think the Women’s Tour is at one of its strongest points ever so women’s squash is in a very exciting period but I now have that ranking to defend and that gives me even more motivation to keep improving.
“I believe there is plenty left to come and I have a lot of desire to make sure that I achieve it and push myself for the remainder of my career.”
Elsewhere inside the World Top Ten American Amanda Sobhy moves up three places to a career high of World No.8 while New Zealand’s Joelle King continues her rise up through the rankings, also moving up three places to No.12.
PSA Women’s Rankings (January 2016):
Picture by STEVE LINE (www.squashpics.com). Graphic courtesy of PSA