Earlier this month, Peru’s Diego Elias made history when he became the sport’s first South American World No.1.
Could he do the double, and go on to become the first player from South America to win the PSA World Championships? We spoke to the Peruvian about his season, and looking ahead to the sport’s biggest event in Chicago.
Diego: “I think this season is my best season so far. I had good results in the US Open, the TOC [Tournament of Champions] and yeah, I think just being more mature in court and, putting in the work and getting stronger physically. I just felt very good for this season.
“And then with all the results and getting close to the World No.1, I think I put a bit of pressure on myself in the last few tournaments, but yeah, it happens. And yeah, I know now that I got it, I think I’m a bit more relaxed and I’m ready to try and win this.
Q: Does being World No.1 coming into the World Championships add pressure?
Diego: “I’m just going to try and not put too much pressure on myself. Like, I think if I had to do something in the tournament to become World No.1, it would be even worse.
“I mean, it’s the most important tournament of the year. So even if I was World No.1 or World No.10, I would still want to go and win it. I have to two weeks back home to train and get ready for that. And hopefully I can, I can get that title.”
Q: How does your preparation change for multiple big events?
Diego: “The British Open and the World Championships are the two most important tournaments of the year. So of course I wanted to get in my best shape for, for those two and yeah, I think that also in the last two tournaments in Canary Wharf and Optasia, maybe I wasn’t feeling that great and I knew I had these two coming up.
Q: How do you feel physically and what are your World Champs goals?
Diego: “I feel great. I have a great team with me too. My coaches; Wael [El Hindi], my dad and Jonathon [Power] are actually… The three of them are here with me this week. So yeah, I mean, we are all working together to for me to be in the best shape I can.
“And I think I’m there, I’m feeling great and, and I still have a few weeks until the World Championship. So I think I’ll be at my best and my goal is to try and go and win it.
Q: Has your team given you any advice for the upcoming tournaments?
Diego: “I mean, the main goal this last few weeks was to try and get to that World No.1 spot.
“We are all very happy, but there is not really time to celebrate. We still have like the British Open this week and then the World Championships. I’m going to have a quick celebration of the World No.1. And then I’ll start focusing on the World Championship.”
Q: Where have you been training prior to the World Championships?
Diego: “I was in Prague after those two not great results in Canary Wharf and Optasia. I just decided to stay here in Europe, go to Prague. I went there with my fitness coach and there is a few good players. I have lots of friends there. Leandro [Romiglio], Juan Camilo [Vargas], players from South America that are living there and training at Greg’s [Gaultier] club.
“I just feel like home there, it’s like another, like another home for me. And yeah, my relationship with Greg is… He’s great. He’s been helping me also since I started playing on tour. I mean, he’s like a, like an older brother for me. So it’s just, it’s just great to have a place in Europe that I can go and feel like home.”
Q: Is it difficult being good friends with Gregory Gaultier, while competing with Mohamed ElShorbagy?
Diego: “I try not to think of it. I’m very relaxed and I don’t, I don’t really mind. I’m great friends with both of them. I’ve known Greg for such a long time that, I mean, I know he’s coaching Mohamed now and but it’s fine. Mohamed is a great friend of mine too.
“I don’t even think about it. We’re all good friends. And it’s just when we are on court it’s different, we want to kill each other like you saw, at Black Ball but out of the court it’s completely different. We’re just very close friends.”
Q: What are your feelings after the most recent match with Mohamed?
Diego: “We had a really tough one there. I was coming from winning a lot of matches in a row and but not really having the World No.1 that close.
“And then when I went to Black Ball knowing that if I win the tournament, I would be World No.1. I think I put a bit of pressure on myself but I think I played okay. I played well and we both played a good match. It was just unlucky in the end.
I think it’s one of the best matches I’ve played with Mohamed until now. I always like a good fight and, and even when I lose, I enjoy it. So hopefully the next one, if it’s in the World Championships, I can get my revenge.”
Q: What would it mean to capture a World Championship for Peru & South America?
Diego: “It would be, would be amazing. It would be like a dream. Like it’s something I’ve been working for for so many years. And yeah, I’m just going to do my best there and try not to put that much pressure on myself and just go enjoy it and, and hopefully come out as the winner.”