British squash star Laura Massaro launches into 2016 as world No1

Laura Massaro has begun 2016 as the new No1 in women’s squash

Marianne Bevis
By Marianne Bevis
laura massaro
Laura Massaro is the first British woman to top the world rankings since 2004 Photo: PSA World Tour

Laura Massaro, former World and British Open champion and current US Open and Qatar Open champion, has begun 2016 as the new No1 in women’s squash. She is the first British woman to top the world rankings since 2004 and only the third since the current rankings began in 1983.

Although Massaro won her first title more than a decade ago, in Germany in 2004, she has risen assuredly into the elite of women’s squash over the last few years, picking off ever more prestigious titles.

There’s a huge sense of satisfaction that another box has been ticked

Laura Massaro

After winning her first World Series title at the US Open in 2011, she made a final run to the World Open in 2012, where she fell to the remarkable Nicol David—who topped the rankings unbroken for nine years until the summer of 2015.

In 2013, Massaro beat Nour El Sherbini to claim the World Open title and also beat David to take squash’s other top title, the British Open—regarded as the Wimbledon of squash—to make her the first British woman to hold both titles simultaneously. She was also runner-up at two more World Series tournaments, the US Open and the Kuala Lumpur Open.

After a slight dip in form in 2014—though she still made the finals of the British Open, falling again to David—2015 saw a resurgent Massaro, now age 32, make another final run at the British Open and score two World Series victories at the Qatar Classic and the US Open. She secured the No1 ranking by beating the incumbent No1, Egypt’s Raneem El Welily, at the Hong Kong Open before losing the title match to David.

Massaro said of her ground-breaking achievement: “I’m over the moon. 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.”

She explained to the PSA website about the long game required to reach this latest landmark.

“To now be world No1 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 know this is something that I’m always going to be able to look back on.”

Massaro returns to action this week at the World Series Tournament of Champions in New York, and relishes the chance to engage with David and El Welily again.

“The battle between Raneem, Nicol and myself is an interesting one but there are so many players in the top 10 capable of winning big matches and winning titles that there’s more uncertainty at tournaments now than ever before.

“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.”

Massaro’s successes are the latest in what is proving to be a strong era for British squash. When Massaro won the World Open in 2013, she joined Nick Matthew, who won the men’s title that year for the third time.

Matthew has also won the British Open three times and he became world No1 for the first time in 2010, since when he has accumulated 19 months at the top. He begins 2016 as No3.

James Wilstrop, who became No1 in 2012, is currently No12, while in the women’s rankings Alison Waters is at No9, and there are four more Britons in the top 20.

The glamorous Tournament of Champions, squash’s largest spectator event, takes place at Grand Central Terminal, Manhattan, in its eye-catching all-glass court, from 7 to 14 January, and will have equal size draws and prize money for the first time.

Massaro, who rose to No1 too late to seal the top seeding, is drawn in the same half as No1 seed El Welily, and plays a qualifier in her opener on Saturday 9 January. No2 seed David takes on Briton Victoria Lust.

Matthew, the men’s No2 seed, also plays a qualifier in his first match on Friday 8 January.

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