Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Wales No.1 Joel Makin: ‘I want to be beating the world’s best’

Joel Makin is ready to add to the late-blooming big trophy winners of the past. After putting a bumpy period behind him when illness and injury caused Makin to exit the top 10 he had become a long term resident of, the Welshman is in confident mood. “This is it for me and I want to be beating the world’s best,” he tells Squash Mad.

The Welshman claimed the Oxford Properties Canadian Men’s Open title last weekend, coming through a brutal four-game, 73-minute encounter 12-10 in the final stanza against Victor Crouin to claim his second PSA World Tour title. Now, as a new coaching relationship with former World No.15 Johnny Williams rejuvenates his game with new found vibrancy and imagination, the Welsh No 1, at 28, is determined to make his peak years count.

Makin said: “I’ve trained like I have for years to be in contention to win the major titles and be competing in the later stages, which I haven’t been doing of late, so it was just nice to put four matches together and get back on track with the win in Canada.  

“I am at a point in my career where I have built for years and although this last six months has maybe been disappointing through illness and injury it has made me think about the direction I was going in until then.

“In the summer I was at No.7 in the world rankings and I’d never had a patch in my career where I’d gone down a couple of places or anything had gone wrong and I’d trained hard for 10 years with very few issues really.

“Then the first time my body showed signs of breaking down I moved down the rankings for the first time and it made me think that with all this work going on I need to be in position to win major tournaments.

“I am happy with winning the Canadian last week but what I am really looking for is to win a worlds or a British Open because they are career defining. I am not happy any longer to settle for around 10 in the world.”

When it came to a source of encouragement for these lofty ambitions Makin had an example readily in mind. He said: “I am looking to see how I can beat the next group up, then really contend for a British Open or World Championship in the coming months.

“Nick Matthew didn’t win his majors until late on and there are plenty of other examples of guys winning majors late on so the precedent is there and that is my target.

“That might sound ambitious but at 28 I have a chance to achieve something in the next couple of years and if I can’t achieve that it won’t be for lack of effort.”

Yet there is perhaps an even more important driving force behind ‘The Golden Tiger’s return to the prowl: “In January I spoke with Johnny Williams and he is a guy I get on really well with, as he is so analytical and so intense and I went to Zurich and spent a week with him and really enjoyed it.

“We went through a few matches and also a few patterns which were repeating themselves in the way I was playing and then just simplified things a little bit and that went nicely and hopefully we can do that again.

“I have known Johnny for years and in one of my early tournaments, where he was running a 5k in Zurich, I was lucky enough to spend a bit of time with him. I had a 3-0 loss in about 80 minutes to Kristian Frost, who was quality in these events, and Johnny spotted a few things and he was very helpful.

Joel Makin beats Miguel Rodriguez

“So ever since then we stayed in touch but it is not an arrangement which is similar to say Mohamed’s (ElShorbagy) with Greg Gaultier, that is much more intense and Gaultier is almost like a new solution to his game.”

Going forward, Makin intends to find a balance between working with Williams at his Vitis Sportscenter Zurich base while also continuing to rely on his trusted domestic coaching triumvirate of Miles Jenkins, John Tate, and childhood advisor Nick Burt.

The Commonwealth Games silver medallist explained: “You can work with guys for a long period of time and they might stop calling you out for certain things that you are maybe sloppy on but then if someone comes with a fresh pair of eyes and asks: ‘Why are you doing it like that, it’s not good enough,’ it is a benefit and keeps things fresh.

“The new set of eyes can maybe also spot something you have been overlooking or thought was too basic to look at but then Johnny has seen that happen four times in a match and then written it down and gone: ‘That’s cost you four points and we must look at that and cut it out.’

“So, Johnny is consistently very intense; he really does not drop off for one minute. He is also very analytical and the attention to detail is superb and I enjoy all of that.”

Reflecting on his Canadian Open triumph, Makin is hoping this is the start of a major push. He said: “I was very happy to win the Canadian and put together some good wins while Victor is always a good benchmark because of the organised way he goes about his game.

“He goes about it in a very business-like fashion and is fully professional and that has been the way since he started. If you play him then you know you have to play a decent level to beat Victor and I was happy to get the win over him.”

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