By RJ Mitchell
Ahead of kicking off his title challenge at the men’s CIB PSA Black Ball Squash Open, Paul Coll has thanked CIB for their support of the PSA World Tour during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the women’s event already concluded and the men’s tournament now in full swing, Coll took time out to highlight the importance of CIB’s support of professional squash over the current truncated campaign.
CIB sponsored three of the five tournaments which were held on the PSA World Tour in the first-half of the campaign, before the latest instalment of the CIB Black Ball Open began on March 12 to begin the second half of the PSA World Tour season.
Meanwhile, the PSA’s recent announcement that both the World Championships and British Open will be held this summer has stoked the Kiwi’s competitive juices as he looks forward to the back end of a campaign that is stacked with potentially history-making squash.
“I’m really excited for what’s coming up and I must make a massive thanks to CIB and Black Ball once again for putting another major event on,” said Coll.
“It’s just phenomenal the support they have shown squash over the last six months which has been tremendous.
“They have always supported squash for all of the time I have been involved but over the last six months they have really stepped up to the mark for squash and I can’t thank them enough.
Coll in action at the CIB Egyptian Open
“Obviously the PSA just announced the roll out with some great tournaments now back up on the schedule and that is just great for the tour and it’s just massive for squash to have the Worlds back in 2021 and especially in Chicago.
“I really like the Windy City and in summer it will be even better as it’s such a beautiful city and I’m really looking forward to going back. So I’m super excited to be going back to Chicago and playing the World Champs there.
“For me, it’s amazing to see that PSA have been able to seal the deal in these times and to get the backing through the Walter family. The Worlds are just the pinnacle and it definitely gives you an extra excitement having a World Championship in the season.
“It just adds an extra dimension to the campaign. For me, if you don’t have a Worlds the season just isn’t the same and it’s given me a real buzz. I’d imaging everyone will be trying to peak for them and that will be fascinating.
“I just view it as the absolute pinnacle and for PSA to have another million-dollar tournament on the calendar in such tough times is just awesome, so they have done a great job.”
The confirmation that the game’s longest-running tournament, the British Open, will also be held between June 14-20 has also excited Coll: “It’s the ‘Wimbledon of Squash’ and to have that and the World Champs in the back end of the season is just fabulous.
“I also think it’s another great sign for the tour that the British is back on the schedule and we have our two greatest tournaments back happening again.
“It was pretty doom and gloom at the beginning of the year but now these are really good signs that things are getting back to normal and now there is just so much to look forward to squash-wise.”
Paul Coll celebrates victory over Simon Rösner at the 2018 CIB Black Ball Open
Coll also revealed that he has recently been competing with the likes of Simon Rösner and Raphael Kandra in a bit to regain some vital match sharpness ahead of his return to competition for the first time in four months.
The 28-year-old said: “There have been no leagues whatsoever in Holland, where I’m based, so I have just been trying to get some quality practice matches in.
“Last weekend I made a second trip to Germany to play four or five matches in four days with the likes of Raphy Kandra and Simon Rösner to try to get that match fitness back.
“Rösner still plays at such a fast pace and with great quality and he is a great practice partner for me and really makes me sharpen up. It was great to get on the court with him again and get my timing fine-tuned.
“Obviously everyone is in the same boat and it’s hard to replicate competition play but I’m just trying to get up to speed for Black Ball. I guess everyone has had that question mark where they haven’t been able to travel as much to get sparring partners and that will make Black Ball interesting.”
The CIB Black Ball Open will also mark the return to competitive squash in Egypt of World No.2 Mohamed ElShorbagy, who is in Coll’s half of the draw and Coll admits it is great to have ‘The Beast’ back in the hunt.
He said: “It’s great for the game that Mohamed is back as he does a great job for our sport and everyone likes to watch him play. He is a seasoned professional and he will be on top of his game for sure.
“Mohamed has more experience than anyone else on the tour and he knows how to prepare. He will be very hungry and whoever draws him will get one tough battle, there is no doubt about that.”