Squash: Alan Clyne targets further title joy at Scottish Championships

Harry Leitch and Alan Clyne
Harry Leitch and Alan Clyne compete against Ryan Cuskelly and Matthew Karwalski of Australia during the men's doubles quarter-final at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow

As he prepared to go in search of his seventh Scottish National Championships title, Alan Clyne issued a warning to his countrymen and players beyond Scotland's borders.

He is 30 years old but the Scottish number one believes he is only now approaching his peak and has plenty of room to improve.

It's a scary prospect for those hoping to dethrone the defending champ at Edinburgh Sports Club this weekend.

Ranked 34th in the world singles, Clyne has been training with national coach Paul Bell at the sport's high performance centre at the Oriam complex in the capital.

"I love playing at home against the players I train with a lot of the time," Clyne told BBC Scotland.

"You've got Dougie Kempsell and you've also got Kevin Moran and Rory Stewart. They are all playing well so it will be a good tournament."

Paul Bell
Paul Bell replaced Roger Flynn as Scotland's senior national squash coach and works in conjunction with elite performance coach Martin Heath, who is based in Rochester, New York

Clyne has been competing on the professional circuit for about a decade and is feeling fit, strong and hungry for titles.

He points to players such as England's Nick Matthew (ranked fourth in the world, aged 36) and the French "physical beast" Gregory Gaultier (ranked third, aged 34) as proof that he has several seasons left in the tank.

"Most people are going into their peak roughly where my age is, maybe late 20s, early 30s. I feel like I'm still improving and getting better. I feel I'm in my peak at the moment and can last a lot longer.

"Making technical adjustments to my grip and swing has been great. It's showing on court.

"I'm also working with the psychologist on the mental aspects. That has helped massively."

New style of squash

Clyne has been playing squash since before he started school and has noticed big changes over the years, not just in terms of the physical dimensions of the doubles court and the lowering of the tin by four inches, but in the styles of play.

"The Egyptians have been coming through massively," he said.

"They've been dominating the juniors and now they are beginning to dominate the seniors. They have a lot of players up in the top 10.

"A lot of them play a new brand of squash, which is very attacking, very explosive, rather than the attritional squash, which is more associated with the English style."

Clyne is from the Black Isle, north of Inverness, which is also the hometown of another squash star in Greg Lobban, who is currently recovering from a hamstring injury.

And while the duo have a distance to go to hit the heights of Dunblane's tennis superstars the Murray brothers, the two former Fortrose Academy pupils have already brought glory to the Black Isle.

In August 2016 they won the World International Doubles Championship in Darwin, and Clyne is hoping that triumph was just the start.

"For me and Greg, in our first international tournament, to go there and win it was crazy, considering we are from the same school," he said.

Alan Clyne
Clyne says Glasgow 2014 was an "amazing experience" but was disappointed to finish just outside the men's doubles medals for the second Commonwealth Games in a row

"We get to defend our title in August [in Manchester]. We work well together and get on really well. We have different strengths and weaknesses and complement each other well."

Other highlights in Clyne's career to date were playing in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, where he and Harry Leitch came fourth, and playing in the Tournament of Champions in an iconic location in New York.

Clyne said: "Only the main draw is in Grand Central Station, and I managed to qualify and played Nick Matthew. They put up a glass court in the train station.

"Once you're on court you don't really think about what's going on, but if you did look through the wall you could see all these people walking past. It's an amazing event, everyone wants to play it."

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