Lydia Robinson’s ambition to emulate Nick Matthew and James Willstrop

Student journalism series - James Robinson is about to start an MA in Sports Journalism at Sheffield Hallam. He turns the spotlight on a teenage squash player from Beverley.

ON THE RISE: Lydia Robinson of Beverley is a bright young prospect of British squash and has ambitions to reach the very top.

Squash might be the best sport you have never played – and it turns out Yorkshire folk are pretty good at it.

The White Rose county has yet another prospect to add to a long history of elite squash talent.

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Over the past few years, Yorkshire has boasted two of the world’s best male players. Pontefract-based James Willstrop took Commonwealth Gold in 2018, and Sheffield counterpart Nick Matthew has won world championship gold three times since 2010.

Former world No 1 and world champions, Nick Matthew, from Sheffield. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA

Now, another young star is turning heads in the women’s game.

East Yorkshire resident Lydia Robinson has been playing squash since the age of four, and recently rose to the top of the girls Under-17s national rankings. She is currently ranked at No 5 in the girls’ Under-19s category – the last stage of junior competition before the professional circuit.

Her career highlights include being crowned national champion twice, and representing a victorious English side in the European Five Nations tournament. She was also recently voted Young Sportswoman of the Year in the 2019 Sporting Champions Awards.

“Probably the one where I came from two games down, to win it in a tight final game,” says Robinson of her most memorable national victory.

Former world No 2, from Harrogate, Jenny Duncalf. Picture: PA

“That was such a tense battle, I don’t think my parents could watch, they were both so anxious!”

Robinson trains and competes at a variety of venues, including Beverley Squash Club and the University of Hull.

She plays for the Beverley first team on the Yorkshire squash circuit, regularly beating players vastly older and more experienced than herself. She is supported by England elite coach Andy Cockerill, and the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme.

Despite the recent Covid-19 outbreak ending her on-court season, Lydia is still training hard at home.

She juggles her time between completing strength and conditioning routines in the garden and family bike rides in the sun.

Long-term, her ambition is to play squash professionally.

“I’ve just finished school, so I’m hoping to take a year out to play squash full time, and maybe go to university in the United States,” she says.

“For the next year, I’m going to compete in a variety of European junior tournaments, and a few professional ones to see how I get on.”

In squash, younger local players are often handed wildcards into larger tournaments, to gain valuable match experience. Mixing with hardened professionals gives juniors a taste of the big time. This platform can often be the deciding factor in becoming a full-time professional, or pursuing other interests.

The Allam British Open is held in Hull every year. Dubbed the “Wimbledon of squash”, it is one Robinson would dearly love to earn an invite to.

“It would be an amazing opportunity; a great learning experience if nothing else,” she says.

“With it being in Hull, I’ve been able to experience the atmosphere and it’s incredible. I would love to be able to play somewhere like that one day.”

Robinson paid tribute to her support network for helping her get this far. “There are so many people who deserve a mention,” she says. “My family, for always being there. Also, my coaches and school for letting me have time off to go to tournaments.”

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