Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Laura Massaro: Spat over money fired me up

If becoming the US Open champion wasn’t motivation enough to produce my best squash in Philadelphia on Saturday, then the events of the previous few days certainly ensured I gave it everything on the court against world No.1 Nicol David in the final.

The US Open is considered to be one of the grand slams of squash and the great thing about the tournament this year was that the women were handed equal prize money alongside the men.>It’s the first time we have ever had parity with the men’s game and not only that, the women were also handed an equal share of court time on the main glass show court.

I managed to battle through several tough rounds to reach the semi-final against Low Wee Wern, of Malaysia. I was satisfied and elated at earning a last four place but was disappointed afterwards to hear a young English male player had tweeted that he disagreed with women receiving an equal share of the prize pot.

The particular player has since apologised for what he said which is pleasing to hear, but his comments were at the time disappointing and incensed many female players. Some girls got into a bit of an argument with him on social media. It was a bit of a stupid comment to make. He probably said it without realising what furore it was going to cause.

With that in mind, I was so pleased that Wern and I were able to paint the women’s game in a positive light by producing an excellent match, which went to the fifth and deciding set. After the match, we got lots of compliments about how good our match was and how good the women’s game was in general.

I think we deserve to be equal to the men. We work and train just as hard as what they do. It’s not fair to compare the men’s and the women’s games. It’s like comparing a heavyweight boxer with a flyweight boxer. They both may have the same level of skills, train as hard as each other, but you would never put the flyweight in the ring with the heavyweight.

It was great that the men’s winner Greg Gaultier said after his win over England’s Nick Matthew in the men’s final that he thought it was brilliant that the women were on an equal footing as the men.

So having beaten Wern to reach the final, I had to back that performance up the next day against David, which was difficult bearing in mind the physical nature of the semi-final and the whole furore surrounding the gender equality debate.

Obviously I have beaten Nicol a few times this year – including in the final of the British Open in May – and I feel my game matches up well against her.

The final proved to be another five-game epic. I was up 2-1 during the match and was four points from victory as I led 7-4 in the fourth game. Nicol then stepped up the pace a little bit and I didn’t react quickly enough to that and she ended up going on to win the match.

It was probably my best performance of the tournament and a great advertisement for the women’s game. I was gutted to lose the final but that was eased as so many of the spectators took time to congratulate me and Nicol on what they thought was the match of the tournament.

Some have said it was one of the best women’s matches in recent memory so I am very proud to be performing at that level. I played 55, 82 and then 85 minutes in three consecutive days of tense and high paced squash. When I fell on my bed that night I definitely felt like I had earned every dollar of my prize money.

I arrived back in the UK on Sunday after my three-week stay in the US, which also took in the Carol Weymuller Open – a competition I reached the semi-finals in. On Monday I head off to a tournament in Monte Carlo…so wish me luck.

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