Israel’s Daniel Poleshchuk is fast becoming a rising star of the game and, after a stunning win at the LOC Charing Cross Classic earlier this month, we chose to put the spotlight on his burgeoning career.
The 19-year-old is 137th in the world rankings and, despite his tender years, already has two PSA World Tour titles under his belt having also captured the Global Relocations Israel Open crown on home soil back in February. He is the first player from Israel to achieve this feat which is something he is proud of.
“It is a great feeling to win the second professional trophy of my career, especially because I have been training very hard for it,” said Poleshchuk.
“To be the first Israeli to achieve this is a great honour and also a responsibility. Wherever I play, I feel my Israeli compatriots wishing me a lot of luck.”
Amidst the excitement of winning the tournaments, Poleshchuk feels a sense of disappointment that squash is not as celebrated in Israel as some other sports.
“When I won my first title in Israel, there were some articles about me in the newspapers but, after winning my second title in London, there was not as much noise as when I won my first one,” he said.
“I feel pretty sad because when sports like tennis or any other Olympic sports achieve something then it goes on the Israeli news straight away. I hope that it will change soon and my future wins will be presented as well when they’re won outside Israel.”
Poleshchuk comes from a strong sporting background, with the majority of his family having been involved in sport. Some of them, like his father, have some professional pedigree and it was Poleshchuk senior who gave him exposure to squash in the first place.
“I come from a sports mad family,” Poleshchuk enthused.
“My dad used to play professional football in Russia, my mum used to be a professional kayaker, my sister was in to athletics, my aunt used to be in gymnastics and my sister’s husband was the Israeli Judo Champion and participated in Europe as well. When I was six, I finished my football practice and went to the squash courts where my dad was playing with his friend. After their match, I went on court to hit the ball and since then it become my life.”
Israel is not a country with a historical association with squash, which means that the facilities and infrastructure that Poleshchuk has to work with there aren’t necessarily as advanced as the ones players in other countries get to enjoy.
“Squash isn’t very popular in Israel,” he admitted.
“We have two main clubs with eight courts each and some other clubs with four courts or less. Overall, I think there are only about 35 courts in Israel. Most of the squash courts are built inside country clubs which have other sports there as well.”
However, this doesn’t deter Poleshchuk, who wants to put Israeli squash firmly on the map.
“I’m certain that my squash compatriots are aiming to follow my lead and will try to fight for their PSA World Tour rankings as well. I’m really aiming to do more to make squash visible in Israel and, if possible, try to inspire more with my game which I know is slowly taking place.”
As a budding squash player growing up, Poleshchuk reveals he admired the Elshorbagy brother and, during his early teens, the pair acted as mentors to help hone his skills on court.
“I looked up to both of the Elshorbagy brothers [Mohamed and Marwa, World No.1 and World No.10, respectively] as I went to the same school as them [Millfield School],” said Poleshchuk.
“At 13-years-old I was training with them on a daily basis until midway through last year. They taught me a lot about the game and I really thank them for what they have done for me over the years, I learned a lot from them.”
On the back of his London success, Poleshchuk is looking to put in the hard work and continue practicing to succeed in future events.
At the moment, confidence is high and he hopes to capitalise on his recent purple patch.
“Every match I win on the tour gives me a lot of confidence,” he said.
“Winning in Israel and London shows me that I can compete at this high level with some players ranked around the world’s top 70. Each win just makes me hungry to win more and more.”
Most athletes will tell you how important it is to prepare well for tournaments and Poleshchuk is certainly no different. He highlights his coach, Maciek Klis, as being an important factor in his development.
“When we first met in early 2013, I wasn’t really into his way of thinking but he showed me a lot of my weaknesses which I wasn’t that aware of,” Poleshchuk remembers.
“He’d also put a very solid push to my strong parts of the game. He came up with a plan and brought in a professional fitness coach [Pawel Salamon]. My daily routine is about solo practise and movement, most of it being at a high pace.
“For match preparation, we’ve got periods of hard physical work between the tournaments and, right before an event, it’s more about consistency and quality.”
The future is bright for the youngster who looks set for another rise up the World Rankings after his recent successes.
With more confidence from winning matches, there is no reason why Poleshchuk can’t set his sights on breaking in to the upper echelons of squash as he continues to pioneer Israel’s path into the sport.
By James Hall