“The only plus side to training this much is that I'm able to eat like a horse!” says charismatic American Amanda Sobhy with a laugh as she details the punishing pre-season training programme she's embarked upon ahead of what will be just her second season as a full time player on the PSA World Tour circuit.
Twelve months on from graduating Harvard University with a degree in Social Anthropology, Sobhy sits at No.7 on the World Rankings, a career high, and can reflect on a breakthrough season in which she went from strength-to-strength – reaching a first ever World Series tournament final in January and qualifying for the PSA Dubai World Series Finals in May before ending the season as an established member of the elite top eight.
Amanda Sobhy celebrates during her PSA Dubai World Series Finals clash with Nouran Gohar
But the New York native, who recently celebrated her 23rd birthday, returned to training this month and immediately set her sights firmly on even greater accomplishments ahead of what promises to be a demanding and competitive 2016/17 season – when she expects the level on Tour to be even higher than before.
“Looking back at last season I am very pleased with what I achieved,” said the left-hander.
“I managed to fulfil my seeding or do better in every tournament that I competed in, which I am happy about. In addition, I was able to secure my ranking in the top 8 in the world and get to my first World Series finals – so to be able to do that in my first full year on Tour and first year out of college is something I am pretty content about.
“But my focus for next season is to keep improving my ranking – I would love to crack the top five – and I’m really going to go after some of the bigger titles out there.
“I know it won’t be easy because the level in women’s squash is so high right now. It’s awesome to have such depth and tough competition because it really makes you earn your place in the rankings but I think it is definitely going to be a lot tougher on Tour this year.
“All of the players are so hungry now to get to the top, so it makes the game extremely exciting. The level of play has improved tremendously and nowadays, anybody can beat anybody so it keeps us on our toes, which I like. It adds a little element of surprise to the game – you can’t predict anything anymore.”
Sobhy in action during the 2016 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions
Playing with an attacking style that sees her go for broke from all corners of the court, Sobhy has become a fan favourite for her relentless all-or-nothing approach – an approach that led her to a runner-up finish in January’s Tournament of Champions in her home city of New York.
But while the Boston-based star, who now trains under the tutelage of former men’s World No.1 and World Champion Thierry Lincou, says that experience in New York will go down as the highlight of her career so far, she also points to a series of tough defeats as providing the extra motivation needed during those punishing pre-season training days.
“The Tournament of Champions was the highlight tournament of my career so far – to be able to get to my first World Series final at home in NY in front of a home crowd was extremely special,” she said.
“I think that week everything just clicked, and of course it helped a tremendous amount to have such a boisterous crowd supporting me during every match. It made the atmosphere unbelievable and made me that much more excited to play and focused to win.
“But there were some very tough defeats last season as well. Playing Camille Serme in the quarters of The Windy City Open was brutal since that match lasted over an hour, which is very long for me, and it was just relentless from start to finish. I lost again to her 11-9 in the fifth which was a bit brutal.
“Matches like that, or ones where I lost quickly, were disappointing because I felt that I could’ve done better if I believed in myself a bit more. Some matches or points always stick with you in the back of your mind making you go a bit crazy, but I just try and take the positives out of it and learn from my losses and mistakes.”
And just what does her training schedule look like?
“Training is pretty brutal – I’m not going to lie,” she says. “I’m training 6 days a week, 2-3 times a day with one session being on court and the other 1-2 sessions off court.
“I’m in Boston all summer, which is so nice since I can just stay put and focus on training. Thierry and my fitness coach, Micah, have created a program to get me ready for next season, so I work on specific things like my movement and speed and then I’ll spend a lot time doing more endurance based fitness or playing squash at the University Club in Boston, which is my base club.
“As a result, I walk like a crippled 80 year old at the end of most days and I pretty much shower myself in Tiger Balm every day! But the food is a bonus!”