The B I G Canary Wharf interview #6: 11 POINTS WITH ADRIAN GRANT
The world No.16 tells ALAN THATCHER he feels 18 again.
He’s a man on a mission trying to help young people get into squash and he’s desperate to see squash become an Olympic sport.
1: I spotted you training with England coach Chris Robertson at Wimbledon on Sunday. What were you working on?
That would be giving it away! Actually, I was working on bringing some new things into my game. We talked about attacking more, but at the right times. It was good to see him just before the tournament. A nice way to sharpen up before the event.
2: It’s good to see you back in Kent. How long is your journey from home to Canary Wharf?
Exactly 20 minutes on the Tube from Dulwich! My parents live in Greenwich and I’m not far away in Dulwich. I moved there recently with my partner, Holly, who works here at Canary Wharf.
3: I hear there’s another young Grant on the junior scene. Please tell us more.
Yes, my little brother Ryan Grant. Squash is one of many hobbies for him and he’s not played many tournaments yet but he did very well in the British, beating one of the top seeds. He’s just enjoying it at the moment and it’s too early to talk about being a pro or anything. He just loves playing and I love getting on court with him whenever I can, and coaching him along with my dad Trevor. Ryan plays mostly at Park Langley in Beckenham and also at Virgin Active in Croydon (the old Esporta club).
4: The Olympics are on your doorstep. Are you going to watch or renting out your penthouse apartment?
Ha! I will be watching bits of it but it will be a difficult time for professional squash players because of the way we feel about not being part of it. I train at Lee Valley with a lot of the top British athletes like Dwain Chambers and hurdler Andy Turner. They can’t believe that squash is not in the Olympics. Every day when I train with those guys I drive past the Olympic Village and it’s quite depressing. It’s a bitter pill to swallow.
Obviously I wanted to win last night. I’m feeling good and playing well. I have a game plan and was looking forward to playing on my own doorstep It was great to play at home and I felt comfortable in the intimate atmosphere at the venue. I did enough to win in my first match for nine days, so I’m confident I will get better.
Mohamed is one of many talented players coming through the Egyptian ranks and on to the world scene. Last time we played I won but since then he has broken into the top ten and improved a lot with his attacking style. I’m looking forward to playing him again. These are the matches and competitions you thrive on as a professional squash player.
Canary Wharf, as always, is a great tournament. The guys at Eventis have always set a high standard consistently down the years. The quality of players and the sell-out crowds prove that they deserve a lot of recognition. I would only ask if they could put on another 12 events throughout the year, preferably in London so I don’t have to travel!
6: Adrian, you are still playing excellent squash at 31. How long do you expect to keep playing?
I never put a marker on it. As long as I can play to the best of my ability then I will carry on. I am still learning so many elements of the game, physically and mentally. Because of that I am actually enjoying it more than ever. Sometimes it feels like I am just starting all over and that helps to keep me refreshed.
7: What are the biggest differences in training and preparation that you have employed over the years?
My training has changed completely over the past ten years and I feel like I’m 18 again! God willing my body will stay in one piece. I am already looking forward to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and I draw a lot of inspiration from watching guys like Thierry Lincou still playing world-class squash at the age of 35.
There is more science involved these days and the attention to detail in every aspect of training helps players to extend the longevity of their careers. Speed and fitness are key areas for squash players. I understand my body better and know the things that work well. The interesting thing is that these elements can be completely different from individual to individual. We all have different genes. I love trying new things to avoid being stale.
We have a great lifestyle and I enjoy this great lifestyle, with so much travelling to interesting places and making so many friends all over the world.
8: The best match you have ever played in, and why?
Beating Gregory Gaultier in the World Open in Manchester was a massive result. In a big tournament worth $200,000, a great arena and a big crowd, that felt good and I managed to scalp a win.
I also played well to beat James Willstrop 3-1 in the British Grand Prix, again in Manchester. More recently, I beat Hisham Ashour 3-0 in the North American Open, and that showed that I can still play the way I want to.
9: Can squash get in to the 2020 Olympics?
I hope so. As I said before, it’s so strange going to the Institute and the other athletes can’t believe we’re not in. Every man and his dog says the same.
We need to reach the handful of people who make the decisions because that’s where we seem to be hitting a brick wall. They are the people we need to convince. The professionalism and athleticism of the leading squash players is so high and we just have to keep pushing to get in. But, like a lot of the players, I feel confident this time.
10: What would you like to do to help?
I will help in any way I can. Maybe go the talk to the IOC, lock them in a room until they get right decision. All the squash guys share the same thoughts about how much it means to them and they all want to help. That is the least we can do to contribute to seeing squash on TV in the Olympics in 2020.
11: Future career plans after playing squash?
Yes. At the moment I am working with Joey Barrington for a London-based organisation called Spirit Of Squash. It is an enrichment programme for young people and we are working with between 40 and 60 kids in north and south London.
Personally, this has a very big place in my heart. They are the next generation and we need to give more opportunities for kids to play squash. We don’t get paid. Joey and I give our own free time to the project. Hopefully more schools will get involved and we can grow the numbers.
I have a few other business proposals involving squash and fitness and hopefully you will hear about these in the near future. When I retire from playing I will always have some involvement in squash. I have met a lot of great people and I want to help where I can. I know what works and what doesn’t.
Away from squash, music is a big passion. I have a new website coming out in the summer. It will be something different. Squash will be the main emphasis but there will be lots of other exciting things as well.