CHORLEY squash ace Laura Massaro believes she is hitting the peak years of her career.
The 29-year-old has made giant strides up the world rankings in the last few seasons.
She rose to a career-high No.2 in November last year and is currently just one place further back as she prepares for a tilt at winning the Cleveland Classic, in Ohio, USA, next week.
Just a few hundred points separate Massaro and Eygptian No.2 Raneem El Weleily, although both lag well behind the sport’s undisputed queen Nicol David of Malaysia.
However, Massaro has shown in the past month or so that she, perhaps, is the nearest challenger to David’s supremacy.
She lost to the Malaysian in the showpiece match of the World Finals, in Grand Cayman, in December and then was defeated once more by her in the World Series Final, in London, earlier this month despite beating her convincingly in an earlier pool match.
Massaro said: “I think you get to that age in your late 20s – most players tend to peak at that age, especially on the women’s side.
“It’s hard to know whether you are at your peak but I think over the past couple of years I’ve been getting more and more experience of getting to semi-finals and finals.
“I think all that starts to show the improvements I’ve made as a player over the last couple of years.
“I’ve beaten everybody regularly apart from the world No.1.
“It’s really difficult to get a win over her. The thing is Nicol is improving just as much as what we all are.
“Physically, she is just a little bit better than most other women. She’s just naturally strong.
“I try to look at what I’ve done well against her in my matches and try to replicate that in training.
“But my career-high ranking is No.2 and that was amazing to achieve.
“Ideally, I want to get myself back to that No.2 ranking.
“Myself and the girl who is ranked at No.2 are quite close together and we are quite some way ahead of the girl at No.4, so you can see us swapping places regularly over the coming season.”
Massaro does have a few ranking points to defend in Cleveland as she reached the final last year where, once again, she succumbed to David in the final over four games.
After the success of the past couple of months, Massaro is confident of producing a good performance when the squash tour convenes once more in Ohio.
“I got to the final of the World Finals, which was really good and something to be really excited about,” Massaro said.
“But then I lost in the final so the excitement was taken away a little bit.
“On reflection, it was a really big achievement. I defeated the world No.2 in the semi-final, which was a really big win.
“I had never made it past the quarter-finals of the World Finals before so it was big thing for me to get to the final.”