It was late in 1994 when Rachael Grinham first made it into the top 40 in the World Rankings. In the following 25-plus years, the Aussie has never dropped below that mark.
In fact, there has only been 22 months in that period of time where the former World No.1 has been outside the top 30 in the World Rankings.
Grinham spent 16 consecutive months at the summit of the rankings in 2004 and 2005, and although she is no longer up there and fighting for major titles anymore, she explained to us how she remains motivated to keep playing on the tour at the age of 43.
“Mostly just my love for the game and that I still hold what I consider to be a very respectable ranking. While I’ve achieved much more in my career in the past I’m still very aware of how hard it is to be in the top 30 in the world,” Grinham explained.
“I know there are a lot of players with dreams of making it as a top ranked player, who work very hard and do everything they can to give themselves the best chance, but still will never make it to where I am now.
“I’ll no doubt be playing squash for the rest of my life anyway so why would I stop playing on the tour when I still hold a very good ranking and still enjoy the challenge.”
Grinham (fore) and Hollie Naughton (back) at the Oracle NetSuite Open
That 25-year period that Grinham has spent inside the top 40 of the World Rankings is a record that she is proud of, and rightly so, considering it is without doubt, one-of-a-kind.
“I am incredibly proud. Of course the tour is much stronger in its depth now than when I first joined the tour over 25 years ago,” the former World No.1 admitted.
“With the depth of strength and numbers of players constantly increasing every year, it’s almost as though you need to improve your standard just to maintain a ranking now so I do feel like I’ve done really well to still be inside the top 30 at this stage.”
For the 43-year-old, the odds of playing someone who is half her age are becoming greater and greater, with the likes of Rowan Elaraby, Hania El Hammamy and plenty of other youngsters coming through the ranks and into the higher echelons of the sport.
Grinham, though, admits that she has become used to that fact.
“Well to be honest it’s basically become the norm for me to be playing someone half my age. The thought that really hits me is that they were not even born when I first began playing on the tour,” she said.
Grinham (left) in action against Annie Au at the U.S. Open
“Sure I’ve had to adapt my game, that’s probably half to do with my age and that I’m not going to be able to grind out rallies/matches as I would have been able to do 15-20 years ago.
“Also, the game has constantly been evolving over the years anyway and I think players are constantly having to look at how they can adapt their own games to keep up with everyone else and to improve.”
The question now, of course, is how long can the Aussie keep going for at this level?
“Who knows! It’s obviously getting harder and harder all the time,” Grinham admitted.
“All of the long-haul flights are definitely taking their toll. I think I’ve kept myself in good physical shape throughout the years and until now have managed to get through without any serious injuries that would have required a considerable break from the tour.
“I’m only getting older though so who knows how much more my joints can really handle. It’s not likely going to be for too much longer but while I don’t have any specific need to retire I can’t really put a date to it yet.”