England's former World No.56 Oliver Pett has hung up his racket after a turbulent career during which he battled against multiple injuries and the tragic loss of both of his parents to lift three PSA World Tour titles.
Pett, 27, joined the PSA World Tour in 2008 but his early years on Tour were marred by the tragic death of his father to Motor Neurone Disease. In the wake of his loss Pett seized on the opportunity to make the most of his talents, committing himself to the sport in his father's memory to be rewarded with victory at the Windy City Open in February 2011 – a triumph that saw him break into the world’s top 100 five months later.
A series of positive results then saw Pett rise to a career-high World No.56 ranking only for adversity to rear its head once more. Personal health issues, coupled with his mother being diagnosed with cancer, meant the man from Margate would be absent from the PSA World Tour for two-years.
After a lengthy period of rehabilitation, Pett returned to the Tour in 2014 and looked to have put his personal injury woes to bed as he won the Keith Grainger Memorial Open – a win he dedicated to his mother – in a timely reminder of his ability. But an abductor injury would usher in another spell on the sidelines and a period that saw tragedy strike once again as his mother lost her battle with cancer.
Pett returned to competitive squash action once more a year later, and reached the final of the Open du Gard six months ago, in addition to appearing at the Windy City Open as a qualifier. His last appearance would come in April at the 2016 instalment of the Keith Grainger Open, bringing down the curtain on a career that saw him compete in 56 PSA World Tour events, winning 105 of 158 matches and reaching five finals.
“It has been a difficult few months coming to this conclusion,” said Pett.
“I have been playing squash since I was a boy and it has been my life, and my family's life, for as long as I can remember and it’s always been more than a job for me, it’s been my whole world. This has probably been one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made.
“Although there have been ups and downs, I have always loved playing and loved the game. Sadly, my career has been plagued by injuries. From the normal tears, rips and operations to breaking my back to suffering a mini-stroke on court, it seems that I wasn’t going to get a run without something niggling at my performance.
“Injuries are expected and although they often meant long periods of recovery, the first big blow was actually the death of my dad in 2008. He’d been involved in my career my whole life and losing him left a gap. Mentally, it was very hard.
“I got my head down and worked hard. But later I had a few health issues I had to deal with, and at the same time, my mum was diagnosed with cancer. She fought hard and I fought hard too, and we got better together.
“But I was out for a two-year period. It gave me time to recover and get stronger, to start getting myself into the best shape of my life. One of my all-time favourite memories was after this period when I won the Keith Grainger Memorial Open back in 2014.
“That was an emotional victory and I dedicated it to my mum. I thought we’d come through the worst of it, I was back on track, I was feeling strong and I was climbing the rankings and chasing my dream of reaching the top.
“But I snapped my abductor and was sidelined for a year. At this time, my mum’s cancer returned. Timing is everything and, although it was a miserable period in my life, my injury meant that I was able to dedicate my time to looking after my mum.
“It was precious time together that I’m so grateful for now, as she passed away last September. I cannot even begin to explain what losing her meant, or how my life has changed in the wake of her passing.
“So, the last few months have been a battle. Mentally and physically trying to get back on tour, Traveling with my siblings in January for the Open du Gard, my first tournament back, and then trying to find my form again. I was lucky enough to get a local spot in Chicago, where I could play against the top players again, which was an incredible moment for me.
“It summed up everything I loved in squash and why I had dedicated my life to it. But the squash court is an intense, competitive space, so while I’m still desperate to play, the physical and mental wear and tear of the last few years is beginning to show.
“Although it’s a hard decision to retire, I want to thank so many people for the opportunities I’ve been given. First, my family, who have given everything they had so that I could have the chances I did. I want to thank England Squash who have worked with me since I was a boy. I want to thank Tim Vail for everything, without him I would never have been the person or player I am today.
“He has worked tirelessly with me and gave everything he could to help me succeed. He is an incredible person and I am lucky to have worked with him. I also want to thank the many physios and doctors who have worked with me and Greg Pearman, who has helped me through my life.
“But mostly I want to thank my mother. She was an incredible lady who was the brightest and most fearless person in any situation I have ever met. She taught me everything I know and without her I could not have pushed on as far as I have. So, thank you Mum.
“I love squash too much to leave it completely and there are new chapters to explore now. This puts me at an exciting crossroads. There are many aspects of the game I have always wanted to pursue, physiotherapy, psychology, maybe university. There are lots of things on the cards.
“Right now, I’m looking at staying involved in the game and coaching, helping develop the game in my area. I feel I have a lot to give still and want to be able to share my knowledge and experiences with anyone who is interested.”