April 2004

Vicky Botwright

She is number 11 in the world this month. She is charming, beautiful, extremely fit, and a very determined young lady (well, yes, at 26, you are still a young lady, dear!).

2004 is a good year for her, as after reaching 2 semi-finals of tournaments in New-York in January this year, she claimed her first WISPA title in Southport, Connecticut, and she did so in a beautiful fashion, as she didn’t lose one game reaching the final.

So, at the Nationals 2004 in Manchester, I caught up with the “famous for maybe the wrong reasons” player, and had a quick chat…
 

At what age did you
start playing squash ?

Around 14

Quite late ...
I used to do athletics before. My mum and dad both played squash, but I wasn’t that keen on it. But because I was at the squash club all the time with them, I just kind of got into it like that. I started playing everyday, and then, I started to really like it!

Did you dream to become
the world number one?

Not at all. When I first started, my ambition was to play in the Lancashire Team, in the County Team. There were only 5 in the team, and I was reserve!

At this point in time, what is your ambition?
At this stage in my life, I want to win a major Championship. In the next year, I want to be definitely ranked top 8 in the world. I also want to play for England and to play in the Commonwealth Games in Australia in 2 years time.

I’m hoping I’m still improving so that I can achieve those things.

So, it would seem that your ambition came with time.
Yes. I would have never thought that I would play on the World Circuit.

Who are you coaching with?
David Pearson, national coach and Paul Carter at the National Squash Centre. I’m very well looked after!

Let’s talk about the famous pictures…
It all got blown out of proportion really. It was when the British Open 2002 was on, and squash had no publicity whatsoever, it didn’t make any of the newspapers, no one even knew it was being played. Andrew Shelley, WISPA’s director, wanted to get squash in the newspapers. So we held an AGM to which I couldn’t go. And the girls at the AGM decided that “sex sells”. And the question was “who should do it”. And they sort of decided I should do it!

The next day, the girls came to me and pleaded with me, and so did Andrew Shelley. And it just span out of control. The next minute, the photographer was telling me “I have the court booked tomorrow at 10am, so can you bring this, and wear this…And don’t worry,” he said, “it will make one newspaper, it will be good”.

And the next day, it made every single newspaper! Not to mention that they wrote an article to go with the photos saying that I wanted to play squash in a thong.

So that was not true?
Absolutely not. I would never play squash, or want to play squash wearing a thong! It was only for publicity, and it did work, as that year, the British Open was mentioned in the newspapers nearly every day. But that “incident” has been staying with me for the last few years, and I wish that it hadn’t.

How did the other
players react?

All the girls that were at the AGM and all my friends knew what was happening, and so did the boys, they all knew it was a publicity stunt. And nobody came up and said to my face that they were against it, but I don’t really know.

Did men’s attitude toward you change after the article?
A little bit. I would like to say that it didn’t, but it did. People start to write rude things, it’s quite upsetting because I didn’t know what was going to happen. There was no way I ever thought I was going to play in a thong, I just did what I thought was good for the organisation. At the end of the day, I was a bit naïve really, and I paid the price for it.

On a more personal level,
do you succeed to have a private life?

Well, I have a boyfriend, an Australian Squash Player, Stuart Boswell. He is injured at the moment, so he went back home. I’m quite sad at the moment, because he is not here.

Is a relationship with another squash player viable?
Well, we have been on and off for quite a long time really. He came and lived in Manchester for a while. When the season is on, he normally lives in England, so it’s not a problem.

A relationship with another squash player works as long as you are quite relaxed about it, as long as you understand that he is going to go away for a month to play squash, and that he understands that you will do the same.

And where do you see yourself in the next 5, 10 years?
I want to play squash for as long as I can, but I also want to have kids! I want a normal life, really.

When you finish your career, in say 20, 30 years time, how would you like people to remember you?
I would like them to remember that I played squash to the best of my capabilities, and that I always tried to be loyal, like for example, I always turn up to play for my county.

Well, I would like people to remember that I was quite a nice person!
 

PAUL CARTER
Assistant National Coach, just turned 40, a very lucky and happy man he is (beautiful family, great house, and a job he adores, what more do you want???), works closely with David Pearson in coaching some of the best English Players around.

How long have you been
training Vicky?

David Pearson and I have been coaching Vicky for now 4, 5 years.

Apart from the fact that she is drop dead gorgeous, what are her major assets?
She is very competitive, and she loves a good challenge. She is also very fit. She has been working closely for a year now here at the National Centre in Manchester with the EIS (English Institute of Sport) strength and conditioning coach, Mike Johnson. She comes in Mondays and Fridays when she is not away obviously.

Did you see a change
in her game?

Yes. Her movement to and out of the front corners has improved because she has built up, she can escape from that position much better. Also, she is more balanced as she hits the ball. Squash players have a tendency to be one-sided, in their muscle development, right leg (if they are right-handed), right arm. Now, thanks to her training, she has re-established her balance.

In your opinion, what is, or would be, preventing her to go to the top?
Give me a moment to think about that one! I think that it’s all in the pot. She’s got everything in there, she’s got to get the recipe right! In Nottingham last October, when she beat Vanessa Atkinson, which was her best win so far, she played perfectly.

We talked how she was going to play Vanessa, what tactics she had to employ during the match, and she carried that out 100%. And she ended up with a really good win. She came very close to beating Rachael Grinham in the semi-final [and again in the Texas quarter-finals this week]. So I think it’s all there, she just needs to get it in the right order!

What is your ambition for her?
I’ve always thought she ought to get in the top ten, which she now has. If she can do what we just said, she could be pushing for a top five spot. She has been a late developer in terms of squash, she is 26 now. What she has got to realise is that she is a contender now.

Up to recently, she has always been just behind. With another good summer’s work, actually a good time to sit down and look at her matches (we have them on video), look at what went right and what went wrong, it may help her putting that back into the perspective that she needs. So, I’d like to think she could create a surprise….