Thursday, 3 November 2011

A Rocky Start

Think it's fair to say I haven’t had the smoothest of starts to this season, started out in Canada and then Barcelona on both occasions losing out in qualification. Slightly more disappointing were the performances but maybe expecting to much from myself instead of just going on court and enjoying my squash.

Although I wasn't performing in the tournaments I wasn't to worried as I knew I had put the work in and I was playing well in training. But squash is all about winning matches and it doesn't matter how well you train if the goods aren't there come match day.

After coming back from those first tournaments I had a bit of time to reflect before my next tournament in Ireland. The first thing I did when I got back was to evaluate the trip in a bit more depth so I sat down with my coach and we tried to diagnose what went wrong and how I could use my experiences to make me a better player.

I also had the opportunity through league squash namely national league and Yorkshire league to try and find some form and which in return would give me some confidence to build on. I also had a small tournament in Coventry the weekend before Ireland to give me some match practice and get me sharp. The week leading up to Ireland proved to be a pivotal one and I felt like I was finding some form with some good performances in league then down in Coventry where I felt I played some of my best squash of recent times.

Importantly I got some long tough matches in my leg and felt confident going into Ireland. First up was Roman Svec of the Czech Republic, I managed to pull through in three (13/11 11/2 11.7) a good performance if not a little nervy at times but I expected as much having not won to many matches recently. The thing that never fails to amaze me is the much higher importance PSA tournaments hold compared to anything else. After all we are playing for money and valuable ranking points.

But its amazing what a win does for you, after the first win it felt like a massive weight had been lifted. Next up was Alex Phillips #WR167 I felt I played well and was happy to come through in three (11/6 11/8 13/11). Just towards the end of the match I managed to slip while moving forward after all I am not the most elegant of movers. Although I managed to come through that match I rushed to ice the injury and tried to do everything I could in the knowledge I had a main draw match waiting the next day.

The next day instead of hitting in the morning before the match like myself and most players tend to do I rested up as the injury if anything had become worse overnight. But there was no way I was going to pull out, I decided to go on enjoy it and see what I could do, I was up against Ben Ford former top 100 player still very classy and with great experience. Didn't start off to well losing the first game in little to no time but as the body warmed up and adrenaline kick in I managed to do alright losing out 11/1 11/8 11/8. I had mixed feelings from the tournament on the one hand I had qualified which I wasn't expected to do but at the same time I had come away with what I knew was a nasty injury and which prevented me from being able to go out all guns blazing in the main draw which is what I needed to do to stand any chance.

Throughout the tournament I had a little bit of media coverage from BBC Gloucestershire which mentioned my results every night in the sports update so thanks to them and in particular Ian Randall.

Still on the mend and sadly was unable to go to Japan after further set backs but hoping to be back soon and have at least two more tournaments planned before the end of the year both of which are in Poland where I am in qualification. Thanks for all the support and words of encouragement recently means a lot. Feeling good and looking forward to a good end to the year.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Being Match Sharp to kick off the Season

A task I myself and many others often struggle with, after months of hard work in the gym or on the track its time to transfer all that hard work into practice and hopefully reap the rewards. No matter how many sessions you do off the court it all comes down to how you perform on it and you can be as fit as a fiddle but if you can't play squash what’s the point.

So after a solid twelve week block of training my priority was to use some of the improvements I have made off the court and start using them on the court. Obviously work still takes place on court over this period however it is usually a time away from competition and a rare opportunity to make some real changes to your game.

As I have mentioned in some of my previous blogs I have been training in Manchester working a lot on the physical aspects of my game alongside some technical work. A benefit of being up in Manchester this summer was that there were a lot of squads for both senior England players and academy players, I was fortunate enough to gain some exposure to some of the worlds leading players. One thing with squash not currently having the attention of other high profile sports is that there are no big egos and all the senior players male and female are easily approachable to ask questions on problems you might be having. It gave me a look at what it takes to hopefully get to that level and what it is they do to make them so good.

Obviously these hits were a massive help in sharpening me up ready for the new season, other methods I used were the obvious ones such as practice matches and smaller tournament which don't take to long out of training. These offer a chance to start to transfer and use some of the things you have been working on in a less controlled environment. However physiological it is often hard to replicate a competitive match environment with the outcome effecting your World Ranking. I know some players who put a wager on practice matches to make it more interesting, however I am not encouraging you to start gambling away your money.

A lot of it is just what works best for you, but I believe and think most players would agree you have to have some sort of recent competitive match player before you first tournament. This year my first tournament outside of England is over in Canada in London, Ontario a fantastic place, it was were I played my first PSA tournament last and a place which brings back fond memories. A tough tournament though and I go there with nothing expected of me as I am one of the lowest ranked players in the qualifying draw. But feeling good learnt a lot about myself this summer and feel ready to get back into tournaments.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Summer Training and a First Taste of Competition

Summer training has seen a large volume of training take place meaning I have barely been able to do anything but crash out on the sofa after training so apologies for not writing a blog sooner. All this sofa time does have its advantages though such as watching endless good films ands TV series which include; Luther, Modern Family and Inglorious Basterds.

During the summer I have found myself training at Sportcity most days which will be familiar to some of you but to those of you who don't know it its the home of the England’s National Squash Centre. This is where I work with the English Institute of Sport (EIS) to improve my physical capabilities on court. This training varies from speed work to heavy weight training aiming to improve all areas of my on court ability. As well as working with the EIS I am able to hit with players at the centre and there are frequent squads at the venue, especially during the summer as everyone is around and trying to get fit and ready for the up and coming season.

Five weeks in and I had my first taste of competitive match play in the Berkhamsted Closed Satellite tournament last weekend. This is one in a series of tournaments around England aiming to provide young pros the chance of getting valuable ranking points without travelling thousands of miles to get them.

The tournament featured a draw of sixteen with several talented players, first up for myself was a local player called Josh Ryan, I managed to come through it 3.0 fairly comfortably but it was good test as I haven't played too many matches recently. Later on that day I was playing James Simpson a good player and always awkward to play as he is extremely tall. I went in with the game plan of trying to stretch out the court as much as possible to hopefully tire him out and force him into errors. I managed to win the match 3.1 winning the first two 11/6 before losing the third after getting a bad start, however, I managed to come out strong in the fourth and wrap things up.

The next day I played Arthur Gaskin in the semi finals a player formally ranked 80 in the world, sadly I went down in five but there were signs of the work I have been doing starting to pay off. Having two game balls in the first seemed to be a crucial point as I went on to lose the first before winning the next two. After the third game I struggled and lost the last two games fairly quickly, all credit must go to my opponent who dug in well to win and then just a few hours later went on to win another marathon in the final. Overall the weekend provided a nice taste of being back in competition but there is still a lot more work to be done and I am really looking forward to hitting the ground running this season and hopefully picking up some good results.

After my last blog I received a question from one of my readers asking , 'Where can I watch    high level squash' the simple answer is psasquashtv which broadcasts all the main PSA tournaments from around the world live and  in replays. It also enables you to watch all the matches from the last two years main events as well as some archive matches featuring some of the all time greats of squash, all for a very reasonable price which can be played per year, tournament or even match. So get watching.

Also if you want more regular updates for how my training is going and what I have coming up you can follow me on Twitter @nathanlake3.//

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Senior Debut in Poland and into Summer Training

Sorry its been a while been a busy few weeks with tournaments in Egypt and Poland and now preparing for next season. Since my last blog first up I was in Egypt a daunting place to play as they are currently the ones to beat and you hear countless stories of a young Egyptian beating experienced pros. I was right to be cautious as I lost 3.2 in my first match, not ideal after going all that way but even more annoying I was playing well. On a lighter note I had a few days left in Egypt and I managed to get some training in and made it a priority to get at least some kind of tan after being compared to looking like a ghost.

After getting back from Egypt I was back into some hard training in Cheltenham and even dabbled with a bit of yoga after it was suggested to me by a few ex-players. Don't get me wrong it was horrible at first but I found it really helpful after a really tough days training to help recovery and allow me to train better the next day.

Next up was the last tournament of the season in Poland for the Senior European Individual Championships, the idea of a young pro like myself going to this tournament is to hopefully get some good matches and gain exposure to the more experienced player. In particular some of the top seeds for the event such as Greg Gaultier and Thierry Lincou.

But I was there too try and win some matches in my eyes and I had a good start knocking out a seed in the first round meaning I was through to the last sixteen where I met Nick Mueller from Switzerland a player ranked 35 in the world. It proved a rather big ask and although I felt I played well it was fairly clear he was the higher ranked player as I went down in just over thirty minutes. There was no time to relax though as the tournament had a monrad scheme meaning you play for a final position, so later that day I had another tough game this time losing in four games to a Dutch player ranked inside the top 110 in the world.

I managed to get one more win though as I beat a Croatian player 3.0 meaning I was playing for a final position of 13th if I won my last match. Up next for me was another Dutch player ranked around the 120 mark. It proved to be one match to many and I lost again in four. On reflection a good tournament, learnt a lot and now it was over I could look forward to week off.

Although I have really enjoyed my first season as a pro it has been a lot more intense so I have grown to enjoy my time off much more now rather than perhaps feeling guilty as I did on previous occasions.
So after getting back from Poland it was time to relax, catching up with a few friends that were back from university and getting some golf in. Also it gave me a bit of time to reflect on how the season had gone and what I had learnt.

Week off over it was into 'summer training' two words no athlete likes to hear. Its fair to say I was both nervous and excited of the challenge ahead and so far it has been just as tough as I thought it would be but the body adjusts and I wouldn’t say its getting easier but I am less daunted by the whole prospect!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Gloucestershire's Nathan Lake becomes European Squash Champion

Gloucestershire's Nathan Lake becomes European Champion

Let me first introduce myself for those who don’t know me my name is Nathan Lake and I am a World Ranked Squash Player based at EG. This is the first in hopefully a series of blogs I will be writing to keep EG members posted on how I am getting on with life on the tour, it will include tournaments I have coming up as well as how my training schedule is going.

To give you an idea of what I have been up to and my achievements to date here is a bit about me and my squash, I have and still am a resident in Cheltenham based at EG as I have been for the last 4years working with the National Junior Coach Fiona Geaves. My time at EG has seen my career go from strength to strength, from being a chubby teenager scrapping into the Under 13s county team to becoming the King of Europe at under 19s and a professional squash player.
So here we go, I am currently ranked 1 in England in the Under 19s age group, and have a World Ranking of 209 which is in the senior game. I have been fortunate enough to represent England on many occasions, including two world championships firstly in India and then last year in Ecuador (not bad venues I know) where I was chosen to Captain the team, however we sadly went out in a close fort semi final to Pakistan.

This year hasn't been bad so far either finishing up 7th in the British Junior Open (The Wimbledon of Squash), Runner Up at the British Closed and then just over a week ago becoming European Champion then being part of a winning team in the European team championships which were held in Lucerne, Switzerland. Without doubt the greatest two weeks I have ever spent near a squash court, having gone the whole individual and team event without dropping a game.

However there was no time to let it sink in just yet after returning home I was straight back into training before being back at the airport a few days later this time off to Egypt. A daunting prospect as I not the big fish I was at the Europeans. Egypt are a bit of a super power in the world of squash and it is a notoriously hard place to go and do well. The event is a sixteen draw with players within the top 50 making an appearance. I however am in the qualifying draw which is a draw of sixteen with the top 4 players going through to the main draw. I am seeded five meaning I am not expected to qualify and I am under no ululations to how tough it will be but hopefully after success at the Europeans I will be able to carry through some of that momentum.

If you wish to ask any further questions about how my career is going you can follow me on Twitter (@nathanlake3) or email me on If any members feel they are in a position and would like to sponsor me in someway shape or form then please feel free to contact me on the above email address or you can contact me on 07917116012.