By Mark Sleightholm
Four-time national champion Laura Massaro is expecting fierce competition as she strives for a fifth title at the AJ Bell British National Squash Championships, held from 14-17 February at the University of Nottingham.
With four [now three] former national champions inside the World’s Top 10, this year’s Nationals will be hotly contested, but something Massaro is looking forward to.
“Right from the first round, there’ll be some really good competitive matches,” said the former World No.1.
“It certainly feels like this year is one of the most competitive in recent years.”
“It’s going to be really strong, and not just at the top end with Tesni, SJ [now withdrawn], Al and myself, but the girls that are playing in the next tier below like Vicky Lust, Millie Tomlinson, Fiona Moverley and Emily Whitlock. Then you’ve got younger girls vying for it as well.”
The open nature of this year’s competition reminded Massaro of the events she played in at the start of her career. Massaro narrowly lost out on the 2008 national title to Alison Waters, but was crowned champion three years later then went on to win the 2012, 2016 and 2017 titles reaching all but four of the finals in the last decade.
“There was an era which was ridiculous with the likes of Sue Wright, Cassie Jackman, Vicky Botright and Tania Bailey and then you had all of us lot underneath,” explained the 35-year-old.
“It was just so hard for so many years to even get a decent win.”
“For me, winning my first national title was really up there as one of my biggest achievements,” Massaro added.
“You grow up playing it year after year, and every year you want to try and do a little bit better. You want to finish your career winning as many national titles as you can.”
Massaro is feeling positive ahead of this week’s event.
“I’ve got really good belief and confidence in myself,” she explained, but added that the extra competition this year has changed her attitude slightly.
“In the past I thought, ‘if I don’t win it then it’ll be a surprise,’ so it’s nice not to have that expectation this year. I’m under no illusions as to how hard and competitive it’s going to be this year.”
The 2019 Nationals will be held in Nottingham for the first time after 20 years in Manchester. Massaro said:
“I’ve never played at the University of Nottingham but I’m looking forward to it. I hear the Premier Squash League matches hosted there are really good.
“I’m sad to be leaving Manchester as I’ve played every single National Championships in my career there but I do think it’s probably the right time for a change and it’ll be nice to host it somewhere different. It’s a great event to be part of, it’s special for all of us.”