England’s Tom Richards is hoping he can recapture the form he displayed at the beginning of the 2018/19 PSA World Tour season when professional squash resumes following the COVID-19 global pandemic.
A run to the quarter-finals of the J.P. Morgan China Squash Open saw Richards start the season in fine fettle, before he came close to claiming a stunning upset against then World No.1 Ali Farag.
Atop the Peninsula Shanghai – overlooking the city’s famous Bund – Richards displayed the shot-making talents that have made him a steady member of the world’s top 30 in recent years, ultimately falling just short of claiming one of the biggest wins of his career.
“It’s great to get a good start as it can set the tone for what’s ahead,” Richards said.
“We spend a good couple of months training, so to get an instant reward is gratifying, but I’ve been on tour long enough to know that results aren’t always instant and so as long as you trust you are moving in the right direction, that is the most important thing.
“I started the season well but a couple of bad losses after an initially good start set me back.”
Hersham-based Richards says that appearing at the Channel VAS Championships at St George’s Hill is always one of his season highlights, particularly given he always enjoys the partizan support.
Tom Richards in action
“It’s a privilege to be able to play such a prestigious event at my home club,” Richards said.
“Having family and friends supporting in the flesh is so rare, so to have the opportunity is special. There’s also the added bonus of not having to board yet another plane.”
As well as the Channel VAS Championships, there is also another high-profile tournament that has Richards scanning the calendar to find out when he’ll be appearing there.
“There are certain tournaments where I seem to perform well and the ToC is one of them,” he said.
“I enjoy the atmosphere of sell-out crowds and the hustle and bustle of the [Grand Central Terminal] station, there’s nothing worse than playing to a sparse crowd. I obviously had a bit of a tussle with Leo [Au] to make it to the last 16, but I thought the quality of the match was high and played in a good spirit.”
Time away from the court during lockdown has meant the 33-year-old has had time to reflect on his season, while he also opened up on how he will be counting down the days until the tour resumes.
“I don’t set ranking specific targets, but I do set a few personal goals, which I like to keep to myself. One main goal is to stay fit and healthy, if I achieve this then I generally look back on the season in a positive light.
“It’s tricky [during lockdown] as there’s a lot of uncertainty. I’m trying to not overthink it as it’s a stressful situation for millions of people, so I plan to try do some reading, stay as fit as possible and help out where I can.
“Just spending time with loved ones is something that I enjoy as we can be very busy once the season gets under way.”