By ALAN THATCHER
Englandís Tom Richards is knocking on the door of the world top
ten and is keen to win his first Canary Wharf title.
Londoner Tom is sure to have some enthusiastic backing from the
home crowd as he bids to make an impression.
He meets a qualifier in the first round and is seeded to meet
his good friend and some-time mentor Peter Barker in the second.
In a fascinating quarter of the draw, Nick Matthew meets Miguel
Angel Rodriguez of Colombia, and Botswanaís former England
international Alister Walker enjoys an all-Africa clash with
Steve Coppinger, who is cementing a place in the top 20.
The 26-year-old Tom, who is 6ft 1in tall and lives in
Walton-on-Thames, answers questions about life, squash and
Tom, good to see you at 12 in the PSA rankings.
What are the key results that have got you up there?
Winning the Montreal Open last year was a real breakthrough for
me, both in terms of a ranking boost and also mentally as it
gave me belief. In that tournament I beat Hisham Ashour in the
semis and Thierry Lincou in the final. Apart from that I've been
consistent over the year and that's helped to improve my ranking
up to its current level.
2: You are now the fourth-highest Englishman in the world
rankings. Please tell us about your training programme and
coaches who are helping you.
I do a lot of training on my own and this will be mainly in the
gym doing anything from endurance based sessions to really
short, sharp interval sessions. I also do a lot of circuits with
power endurance based weights. As a general rule Iíd say I get
on court around five times a week. That could be feeding
sessions, matches or group practice. Iíve been working a lot
with Chris Robertson, the England national coach, who has helped
me greatly and I will also get on court with Danny Lee and Steve
3: Where do you do most of your training?
All round London! My home club is St Georgeís Hill in Weybridge,
and having a glass court there is a massive boost. Iíll also go
to Surrey Sports Park at Guildford when Robbo is down and Iíll
go to any number of clubs in town when I have practice matches
with the other English guys.
What are your targets for the rest of this year?
To win Canary Wharf! My aim is to get into the top 10 and that
goes hand in hand with beating the top eight guys. Iíve never
made the quarters of a World Series event so Iíd also like to
5: What would a place in the top ten mean to you?
Itís been a goal of mine for a long time and itís why I train
hard on a daily basis. I now feel like I'm in a position where I
can warrant a place amongst the worldís best so itís just a
question of producing in tournaments.
6: Do you ever feel slightly overawed when you get on
court with the top guys or have you got past all that stuff now?
No, not really. Certainly playing the likes of Palmer as a young
professional was nerve-wracking but I donít think I ever felt
overawed. The people I looked up to growing up had either
retired or were on the verge of retirement as I started so I
never got the chance to experience playing them. I suppose the
last great player left from when I started paying attention to
squash is Amr Shabana, but we all spend so much time on tour
together that you realise everyone's human!
7: I have seen you take the game to some of the best
players and attack as much as you can. How would you describe
I think Iím a naturally attacking player. I love volleying and
trying to create angles, and I also really enjoy the movement
part of the game along with a never say die attitude. Iíve
mellowed a bit as Iíve got older and have understood the
importance of good, straight hitting and this is what has helped
me to compete against the top guys.
How much do you alter tactics depending on the opponent?
Every player I play Iíll have different tactics in mind.
Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. It's just a
matter of understanding them and then applying your game
accordingly. Squash is such a fluid game that these tactics can
change as the match progresses and itís important to be aware of
9: Who are your current sponsors?
Wilson for rackets and apparel, Adidas for shoes and Tecnifibre
10: Which players do you respect the most? And why?
A: Several! Of the current players, Amr Shabana is a true
legend. To win four world titles says it all, and all with the
best swing on tour. Nick Matthew has achieved so much, too, and
is constantly looking to adapt his training to stay on top and
it is his work ethic that I can really relate to.
Closer to home, I have a lot of respect for Peter Barker and
Daryl Selby. They have both taught me a lot about the game over
the years and as a young professional I was lucky enough to get
on court with Peter a lot and he provided the baptism of fire
that toughened me up for the tour!
up, I remember the many battles between Peter Nicol and Jonathon
Power and this certainly sharpened my love for the game.
11: What would it mean to you if squash were to win a
place in the 2020 Olympics?
It would be absolutely massive! I would be 33 in 2020 so Iíd like to think
I could just about hold on so on a personal level it would be
great, but for the game it would improve things enormously. The
increased exposure, funding, and sponsorship would all help
raise the profile of the sport to the levels it deserves.
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