Squash: Laura Massaro ready to defend world title in Cairo

By Piers NewberyBBC Sport
Laura Massaro and Nicol David
Massaro beat Malaysian rival Nicol David in the British Open final in 2013, but was runner-up to her this year
Women's World Championship 2014
Venue: Degla Club, Cairo Dates: 15-20 December

England's Laura Massaro will attempt to win her third world title within nine months in Egypt next week.

The 31-year-old won the delayed 2013 world championship in March of this year, and last week helped England's women win the world team title.

On Monday she will begin the defence of her individual crown as the 2014 event gets under way in Cairo.

"I thought being world champion and world team champion was pretty good," Massaro told BBC Sport.

"But three world titles in one year - there are probably not many people in history who have done that."

Massaro, from Preston, came through a dramatic week to win her first world title in March, saving four match balls in her quarter-final.

Eighteen-year-old Egyptian Nour El Sherbini, who shocked seven-time champion Nicol David in the semi-finals, led 4-0 in the decisive fifth game of the final before Massaro battled back to take it 11-9.

Laura and Danny Massaro
Massaro celebrates with husband and coach Danny after winning her first world title in March

"I genuinely don't think I can ever be as nervous as I was going into that final match, a World Open final," said Massaro.

"Of course it's going to be nerve-wracking and you're always going to want to win, but I've got one under my belt now."

The 2013 championships almost did not take place after the failure to secure a venue during the calendar year, a late offer from Penang in Malaysia eventually saving the day.

Nine months later, Massaro must put her title back on the line.

Women's World Championship top seeds
1. Nicol David (Malaysia)6. Camille Serme (France)
2. Laura Massaro (England)7. Low Wee Wern (Malaysia)
3. Raneem El Welily (Egypt)8. Nour El Tayeb (Egypt)
4. Nour El Sherbini (Egypt)9. Annie Au (Hong Kong)
5. Alison Waters (England)10. Omneya Abdel Kawy (Egypt)

"I've had a lot of good publicity, a lot of good things have come from winning that World Open title," she said.

"Obviously it would have been nice to hold it for a whole year but I had so much coverage that it feels like I've had it ages anyway.

"I'm on the board of the Women's Squash Association and I'm happy that doing it this way means we get our World Open back on track. It's not ideal to have played the 2013 World Open in 2014."

Failure to stage the sport's premier event at the first time of asking highlighted the financial struggle faced by the women's game in particular, and it was announced in October that

England's Sarah-Jane Perry, Emma Beddoes, Alison Waters and Laura Massaro
Massaro (right) helped England's women win their first world team title since 2006 last week

"I'm really excited," said Massaro. "It will help grow the sport as the men's tour is a little stronger than the women's, and I think they're aware that you can't keep growing the men's if the women's side isn't growing with it. As a sport it doesn't look great.

"Together we can hopefully build the sport up to bigger audiences and prize money.

"I think a few of the men were a little bit uncertain. Some were thinking more about what they'd lose rather than what they'd gain, but generally everybody looked at it as the best way for the sport to move forward."

A combined approach is also likely to find favour with the International Olympic Committee, which last week offered another glimmer of hope to squash.

Hopes stirred once again that the sport might yet be included at Tokyo 2020 as on the number of sports allowed at an Olympic Games.

"It's a struggle, because it's out of your hands and you just try to do what you can when it's asked of you," added Massaro. "Hopefully, fingers crossed, Tokyo wants squash in."

Laura Massaro
Massaro became the first English woman to win the world title since Cassie Campion in 1999

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