Laura Massaro: Britain's anonymous squash world champion recognised at last

Never heard of her? Here she tells Rod Gilmour all about her new life in the spotlight

She may have appeared on Blue Peter, left a postman star-struck and taken longer than usual to leave her local David Lloyd fitness centre in the last two months, but Laura Massaro is still perhaps Britain's most unrecognisable world champion.

When she won the women's world title in March she joined Nick Matthew, the men's world No 2, in holding squash's showpiece title. Two current British world champions in the same sport? Unheard of. Remarkable even. However, English squash is revelling in the success and the pair could garner yet more silverware at the British Open, which starts tomorrow at the KC Stadium in Hull.

Twelve months ago Massaro's British Open title barely registered outside the 1,000 who witnessed her dismantling of Nicol David, the Malaysian world No 1 who could achieve 100 months in top spot next March if she can hold off Massaro's continued assault on the summit.

Her world-title win in Malaysia was a different matter. She returned to a full media programme, which included having to lip-sync Take That's "Never Forget" on Blue Peter.

"It was a mental week in what has been a surprising and crazy year," she says. "The worlds went well but I always knew the potential banana skin was my quarter-final."

The world No 2 was pitted against Low Wee Wern, a local playing in front of a frenzied 3,000 crowd. The Lancastrian saved four match balls to set up a clash against Raneem El Weleily, a talented Egyptian, and a player "good enough to beat me". But the pressure had already been lifted and she was soon one step away from successive world finals.

"When Nicol lost in the semi-final, I wasn't sure how to feel. On paper I was seeded to become world champion, but Nour El Sherbini had taken out all the seeds. It was a bizarre feeling not knowing how it was going to go."

It turned out well for Massaro, though nerves returned – she has admitted she was almost sick beforehand – as the England No 1 held off the young Egyptian in a five-game thriller.

Unbeknown to Massaro, the Malaysian federation had produced posters in anticipation of David's eighth world-title success. Massaro's highly respected coach, David Pearson, who steered GB's Matthew to his third world title last November, described the posters as "arrogance of the highest order".

Massaro is more understanding. "All the players were aware that the organisers had put on the event for Nicol to win in her home city," says the 30-year-old. "It made sense and it's nothing to do with Nicol."

But Pearson is very protective of Massaro and equally as passionate in dismissing her critics. "At the end of the day no one has really appreciated the effort that Laura has put into her game, so this is what drives her on," he says.

Massaro laughs at Pearson's passion. "What he means is that if someone had £100 even 10 years ago, they wouldn't have put it on me to become British or world champion," she counters. "The same could be said for Nick too.

"I want to finish my career by saying I squeezed everything out of it. I am aware that people far more talented than me have achieved a little bit less, or equal to."

Despite her global achievements, Massaro's feats are best recognised in her beloved Chorley, Lancashire. "I get random tweets that people were standing behind me in a coffee queue, rather than people coming up to me," she admits. "Or when I was out shopping and the postman asked my husband if this really was where 'Laura Massaro, the squash player, lives?'"

Her local fitness centre, she says, was the biggest surprise. "I have been training there for 10 years and have a court named after me, but I genuinely didn't think anyone knew who I was. For two weeks I couldn't leave reception without being stopped. It is great I can represent my local area like that."

Massaro's status has also been instrumental in bringing parity in prize money with the men in the British Nationals and increasing the women's prize-money for the British Open. Angered by the decision to drop the women's event from last year's World Championship in Manchester, she, along with fellow England players Jenny Duncalf and Alison Waters, wrote to the then England Squash chief executive asking for an explanation.

"It was a bad mistake [not to hold both]," she says. "We said what we needed to say, but they have responded brilliantly and increased prize money for Hull which means we are up from last year [to £60,000, with the men's at £90,000]."

Meanwhile, next week's event, promoted by Hull City chairman Assem Allam, will be held indoors after the glass court – positioned on the KC Stadium penalty area last year – proved problematic due to the weather. Massaro now only has to stop her main rivals raining on her parade.

election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'