Secrets of PSA World Tour squash stars’ success

Squash heroes Mohamed El Shorbagy and Nicol David tell Vision how they are keeping an eye on the ball for the PSA Dubai World Series Finals in May

The spectacular season-ending PSA Dubai World Series Finals will be staged in Downtown Dubai from May 24-28 with Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, and The Dubai Fountain, the world’s tallest performing fountain, in the background. 

The world’s eight best male and female players are set to compete in a five-day squash extravaganza taking place in a state-of-the-art squash court and innovative spectator venue to be constructed in Burj Park, Downtown Dubai. Buy tickets here.

Men’s World Number One Mohamed El Shorbagy

Why is this leg of the World Tour special?

It’s the perfect end to our season before the summer break. It’s like a reward for the best eight players in the world to play and to enjoy themselves in an amazing location. Playing in front of the Burj Khalifa is the highlight of the career of each player, we love squash and live to play in this kind of location and I’m really excited and happy to be part of it.

It’s been a record breaking season for you – top with the most average points this season – what are the secrets of your success?

It’s been a great season for me, but it’s not easy for me. I work really hard on my game and when I win a tournament I enjoy it for a day or two, then I put it to the back of my mind and start to focus on what I need to do next and how I can improve and stay hungry. I’m very lucky to have a great team that can take care of my body for each tournament and keep me as fresh as possible and injury free. On the technical side I have my coach Jonah Barrington who was the World Number One and British Open Champion six times and having him has been a great support for me. Also having my brother in my life (younger brother Marwan is World Number 14 at 21 years old). I'm just 25 so hopefully I have a few more years at the top level.

You were in school in Egypt when you first burst on to the scene, what inspired you to play?

Back in my local club in Alexandria I used to be a swimmer and my uncle played for fun and took me to a squash court one day. I loved the fact of people running around after a small black ball and I did not think that one day my job would be running after a squash ball for the rest of my life. I’m proud that I’m doing the thing that I love the most. There is a difference between keeping a job or having it as your hobby and sometimes I have to remind myself that it was my hobby before it became my job.

Why are so many of the world’s top players Egyptian?

We always had one or two great players at the top level and we tried to be like them. I remember when I was playing with the juniors and I saw the World Number One training and I just wanted to be like him one day. I feel lucky to have my dream come true and one day I hope another Egyptian will take over after me. Each country has its peak time and Egypt right now is at its peak. 

What advice would you give to young and aspiring squash players?

Enjoy playing and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Life as an athlete is not very long so you want to make sure you enjoy it and don’t have regrets after you finish. Squash is such an amazing sport so enjoy it.

I've achieved what I've achieved but no doubt it was a really difficult process. What I love is taking every challenge as an opportunity and making the most of it

Nicol David, Eight-time World Champion

Women's World No.3 Nicol David 

What have you enjoyed most about Dubai?

It’s an amazing experience for all the squash players to have the squash court right next to the Burj Khalifa and it couldn’t be a better location that playing in front of the tallest building in the world and showcasing our sport right here in Dubai.

You’ve had a remarkable career as one of the most decorated athletes of your generation, how do you stay at the top for so long?

For the last 10 years or so I’ve been training really hard and applying my game every year and trying to improve my squash each time. I’ve been doing that from the very beginning. When I’ve had a good year I’m just focusing on the next year and before you know it 10 years have passed. I’ve achieved what I’ve achieved but no doubt it was a really difficult process, I’ve had lots of ups and downs and obstacles in between but I have a really good support system in my family and coaching staff that have given me the extra boost to pick myself up when times are tough and to push myself through. What I love is taking every challenge as an opportunity and making the most of it.

You have been World Champion eight times. If you could pick out one as particularly special which would it be and why?

I have to pick two because the first world title was the ultimate dream come true in 2005 in Hong Kong. I couldn’t believe it at first, when your dreams finally come true you just think ‘what now?’ but then 10 years down the line I won my eighth world title in Cairo and it was one of the hardest finals I’ve experienced. To be in the home crowd of my opponent in her home club and I was 10-6 down, four match balls down and I came back to win the game and the title, so that was truly an emotional experience but no doubt my best performance ever.

What message would you give to young squash players?

The main thing to do is have fun with the game, bring your friend along and just have fun.