A year to remember

I managed to keep away from the mince pies though
I managed to keep away from the mince pies though
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I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and wishing everybody a prosperous new year.

This time of the year always gives me the chance to reflect on my year on the squash Tour and also my aims for the future.

I think it is fair to say, the past 12 months have been the best of my career to date.

Certainly, the first half of the year was better than the second half.

Success at the Kuala Lumpar Open in March gave me a lot of confidence and a platform to build upon.

But the real peak of the year was winning the British Open for the first time in May – beating world No.1 Nicol David in the final.

The tournament, which was held in Hull, is very prestigious in our sport and because of its history, is widely regarded as the ‘Wimbledon of squash’.

I grew up watching the tournament on television and always dreamed of one day lifting the trophy.

A few months later, I nearly backed that achievement up by winning the US Open – another massive tournament – but unfortunately I lost to David in a great final.

That tournament was memorable by the fact that it was the first time the women has been on a equal footing to the men with regards to prize money and TV coverage.

So it was great from my point of view to produce some great squash, especially with the spotlight on women’s squash more intensive than ever before.

I think another thing which has given me a great deal of satisfaction is the fact that I have spent the majority of the year ranked at world No.2, which is the first time I have done that and illustrates how consistent I have been.

My season tailed off a little bit in the final few months, culminating in me being knocked out in the quarter-finals of the Hong Kong Open in November.

Why my second part of the year didn’t quite hit the heights of the first is difficult to explain.

I guess winning the British Open was such a big thing for me and in my head, I really wanted that success to continue.

Without realising it, I probably put a little bit of extra pressure on myself for the rest of the year, which did not allow me to play to my best.

The key now for 2014 is to adapt to my new training ideas and push on to my next level of playing. It’s a very exciting time for me.

A few people have asked me if I was disappointed that my success at the British Open wasn’t featured at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards last month.

On the night, squash got a few seconds of coverage with the spotlight falling on Nick Matthew (left), a friend of mine. Nick’s outstanding year which saw him return to – the top of the men’s world rankings – was rightly recognised, albeit too briefly.

It would have been nice if my British Open win had received a mention. But to be honest, I wasn’t expecting it.

Squash is a minority sport, although the BBC do feature a lot of sports on the programme which are perhaps more of a minority sport than squash.

At least the BBC did show something on squash.

I did actually get invited to this year’s show but I couldn’t go because I was in Ireland visiting family. I went last year and it is a great event.

So my attentions turn to 2014 and I can’t wait to get cracking.

I have continued to train over Christmas and New Year.

A few players I know decided to take a total break away from the game over the holiday season but I have felt really motivated to train hard and practice. While I am feeling like this, I might as well take full advantage.

I have not been able to indulge much over Christmas, which takes a lot of will power…especially when those around you are tucking in to double helpings of Christmas pud.

I aim to be in tip-top shape for the first competition of the year, which is the Tournament of Champions at the end of this month.

This tournament is taking place at Grand Central Station in New York – one of the most iconic locations on the Tour.

That’s the great thing about squash, you can literally put a four-sided glass court anywhere in the world.

The court in Hong Kong overlooked the harbour, and we’ve had also had tournaments in places like the great pyramids of Giza in Egypt.

After the competition in New York, I then fly a few miles west straight to the Cleveland Classic, which is a tournament I have done well in the past, although I missed it last year through illness.

I’m hoping for good performances there which will set me up nicely for the defence of my KL Open crown and then the big one – the British Open.