Laura’s on top of the world

Laura Massaro with the trophy
Laura Massaro with the trophy
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For the first time in her career, Preston-born squash star Laura Massaro believes her achievements have finally captured the imagination of the outside world.

Since becoming world champion for the first time on Sunday, the 30-year-old has seen her name plastered all over the national press.

Yesterday – just hours after returning home from Penang, Malaysia, where she defeated Egyptian teenager Nour El Sherbini in a thrilling five-game final – the current world No.2 was undergoing a gruelling round of media appointments.

National journalists, TV presenters and radio broadcasters were all keen to get the inside track of her world title success – the first time an Englishwoman has achieved the feat since Cassie Campion in 1999.

It is not as though Massaro is new to winning some of the sport’s biggest tournaments.

She won the British Open – widely regarded as the ‘Wimbledon of squash’ – last year.

And as the current world No.2, she is always heavily involved in the latter stages of competitions.

However, her success in Malaysia this weekend has appeared to transcend the sport – and she is loving all the attention. “It’s the first time I have actually felt that my success has gone outside of the sport if that makes sense,” Chorley-based Massaro told the Evening Post.

“Obviously, I’m the world No.2, I have won the British Open – I’ve had a lot of media coverage from within the sport in the past.

“Occasionally, it will break out and I will get a little bit of outside coverage, particularly in my local area, which is 
great.

“But I would say this is the first time it has gone outside of that category of interest and gone national.

“It’s been crazy since I won. I have had national newspapers ringing me up wanting to speak to me.

“People seem to be moving around to accommodate me rather than the other way around.

“I will always try to accommodate media interest as much as I can because I want the sport to have as much coverage as possible.”

Although, Massaro will always treasure the memory of winning the British Open – a tournament she grew up watching as a youngster – she is no doubt that her success last weekend is the biggest of her career to date.

“I always thought the British Open was equal to winning the World Open,” Massaro said.

“When I won the British Open last year it was huge at the time. It was something in my career I could always say was amazing to win.

“But having won the World Open and seen how much it has affected everybody outside of squash and seen how much media coverage it has got, it probably is bigger.

“From a squash player’s point of view, the British Open is just as big – but from a outsider’s point of view, it’s not.

“That’s something I didn’t realise until I won it. So it’s been really nice to have all the interest. It’s a new experience for me.”

Massaro, who becomes the first English woman to hold both the World and British titles at the same time, admits she is still coming to terms with what she has accomplished. “It sounds great to be called a world champion,” Massaro said.

“I’ve been on a high since the final on Sunday.

“I pretty much have had a smile on my face from the moment I stepped off the court.

“It hasn’t 100% sunk in yet. When I hear people call me world champion, I just think, ‘God, that is crazy!’

“It’s slowly starting to sink in but I will have random moments when I think, ‘Wow! Did I really do that?”.

Massaro went into the World Open in a confident frame of mind after winning the Windy City Open in Chicago earlier this month.

She made serene progress in the early rounds in Penang before battling her way into the final against El Sherbini, who had upset world No.1 and home favourite Nicol David in the semi-final.

After a nerve-wracking final which ebbed and flowed, Massaro eventually edged to victory 11-9 in the fifth.

“The final was probably the worst I have played in a long time,” she said.

“My husband Danny, who was coaching me between games, said the match was pretty good.

“I think it was just because of the way I was feeling.

“I felt awful…nervous. It wasn’t free flowing – my arm felt like a piece of wood. I was just glad that I managed to come through.”