Ahead of the PSA World Championships, which begin on July 14 in Chicago, the 2013 winner, England’s Laura Massaro, gave her thoughts on the upcoming event, along with what it meant to lift the trophy in one of the highlights of her stunning career.
Looking forward to next week’s event, and the second time the sport’s biggest tournament will be held in Chicago, and Massaro believes that the reigning four-time World Champion, Nour El Sherbini, will be the favourite.
“I have found the last few events interesting. It has been hard as no-one has been able to get any continuity with their training or performances. Sherbini often seems to thrive in those situations, like the last World Champs, which she won on the back of a knee injury and hardly played. I have never known anyone to be able to perform like that, the way she can,” the Englishwoman said.
“Whether it was the injury, a little bit of complacency or what, when Hania beat Sherbini at Black Ball, that potentially looked like a little bit of a shock to her, that she hadn’t thought about the fact that someone else might be coming up. But then look what happened on the back of that, the regroup and the fact she is still World No.1. She played unbelievably at El Gouna and showed her level.
“There will be times where there are dips in form, but with Sherbini, and never having won El Gouna or Black Ball, she is always setting herself new challenges and that is what the top girls do. They all find a way to create that drive and determination to keep going forward so the complacency doesn’t last as long as maybe some of her opponents.”
El Sherbini remains the World No.1 at the top of the World Rankings, and Massaro admits that she expected one of the chasing pack to make a case to be the clear World No.2, as there has been in the past.
The Englishwoman, who reached the summit of the World Rankings during her career, was in a similar situation with both Nicol David and Raneem El Welily at different points during her time in the professional game.
“I think with [Nour El] Tayeb and Raneem [El Welily] leaving the game, it almost feels like it has weakened that top five a little bit and I thought what might happen would be that someone would put their head up above the pack. I think, when you look back in history, there’s always been that rivalry between World No.1 and World No.2, whether or not they were winning a lot.
“I watched Natalie Grinham and Nicol [David] for a lot of years and Nat did not win a lot but she was the clear No.2. She never really lost to anyone below her in the rankings, but she only rarely beat Nicol. I think that was the same for me and Nicol, and then me and Raneem for a while. I think that it is quite common to have a clear No.1 and then a No.2 that has put their head up above the pack.
“Hania [El Hammamy] was looking like she might do that, Camille [Serme] maybe with the opportunity, Amanda [Sobhy] played well in Black Ball. Who is going to actually make it happen? [Nour El] Sherbini is beatable, of course, but when she turns up, on her day, she just has that really nice balance of being relaxed and determined, which makes her really tough to beat. It’s going to take someone with a lot of determination and honesty and willingness to change that and put themselves out there.
“There’s no doubt that the World Championships is a different animal when it comes to performing at an event like that. That equally hands to El Sherbini who has been there, done that before. She wants to win the World Championships, she doesn’t need to win it. That is the difference that pretty much everyone else on Tour has. When they get out to that week, its about handling nerves, the situation and what it means to become World Champion. Hania definitely has the game and the mentally to hold it together, Camille is hungry but whether or not she can put performances together for the week is still questionable. Sobhy has home advantage and you never know how that will play but my gut still says that as long as Sherbini is fit and hungry, then she will be really hard to beat because it is a World Championship.”
Massaro claimed the biggest prize in the sport in the 2013 World Championships, where she defeated El Sherbini in the final in Malaysia.
She became the first Englishwoman to win the World Championship crown in the 21st Century, and she struggles to describe how she felt after claiming the win.
“That sounds a bit deep but I think it is true that everybody is fighting so much to make everything they do and the sacrifices they make worthwhile. You can’t help but think that when that pinnacle comes, the Worlds, British or World No.1 ranking, it makes it all worth everything that you have done. It’s one of those where even if you never win anything again, you’ll always be World Champion and that is why it means so much to say. It transcends any sport to say you’re a World Champion, everybody knows what that means.
“It is hugely centring in a way, that all that work, and all that effort is done. It’s calming to know that you will always have that for the rest of your career. I played in three World Championships finals and it was tough to take to lose two of them and you wish that you could have won more but there’s never any regret with winning that one, and the British Opens, it makes your career worth it when you look back.”