Laura sets sights on No.1 ranking
Chorley squash star Laura Massaro has her sights set on another stint as the world No.1 player.
The 32-year-old ace fulfilled a lifetime ambition last season when she topped the rankings for the very first time in her career.
After beating Raneem El Welily in the semi-final of the Hong Kong Open in December 2015, Massaro leap-frogged the Egyptian into top spot when the new ranking list was compiled at the start of this year.
The fact that she can call herself a former world No.1 is a massive achievement for Massaro.
Despite being an ex-world champion and British Open winner, she had always been behind Malaysia’s legendary star Nicol David, who enjoyed a remarkable nine-year unbroken stint at the top of the women’s rankings.
And Massaro admitted reaching the pinnacle of her sport is something she thought would never happen.
“When I beat Raneem in the semis of Hong Kong, I knew I was going to be world No.1 in January of this year,” she said.
“That was pretty big and a very emotional time for me.
“I think that probably had something to do with my loss in the final in Hong Kong to Nicol.
“Getting to No.1 was probably something I never thought would happen in my career.
“With Nicol being so dominant over the years, I had got to No.2 and got close to the No.1 ranking, but I never quite managed to get that top spot.
“And at the start of last season, I had dropped down to No.4 or No.5 in the world.”
Massaro’s stay at the head of the rankings lasted four months until she was knocked off top spot by another Egyptian Nour El Sherbini in May.
Now ranked second behind El Sherbini, Massaro faces a challenge on her hands to maintain her current position as she has plenty of ranking points to defend ahead of the Christmas period.
This time last season, she won three out of four tournaments – including the prestigious US Open in Philadelphia when she got the better of Eygpt’s Nour El Tayeb in a five-game classic in the final.
This season, she got her campaign up and running by winning the China Open a couple of weeks ago and is looking to defend her US Open crown next month.
First though, she is heading to San Francisco next week for the Netsuite Open where she has been drawn against Olivia Blatchford in the first round.
“If I can play well and continue to improve my level of squash, there is a good possibility of getting that No.1 ranking back,” she said.
“I have got some heavy points coming off over the next few months and with that brings a certain amount of pressure but I think experience helps you to handle that type of pressure.
“Mentally for me it’s about getting my best level of squash on the court and if that’s the case then the points and rankings will take of itself.
“I am going to play in San Fransciso, which is something new for me and I think at this stage of my career that is what it’s all about – keeping things fresh.
“The US Open is a tournament I have managed to win twice and when I won it for the first time in 2011 it gave me a lot of confidence. I had won a couple of big events previous to that but just the name of the US Open needs no explanation as to how big an event it is.”