Melissa Alves has been enjoying a rapid rise up the World Rankings over the last year, rising from outside the world’s top 200 female players, and into the top 50 in the April rankings.
In that time, the Frenchwoman has won three tournaments, and is now the third best player from the country, behind only Coline Aumard and World No.4 Camille Serme.
Along with those two, she helped France to win the World Team Championships in Birmingham earlier this month, beating England in the final of the tournament.
For some, squash is a sport that gets picked up later in childhood years, but for Alves, squash was one of her first passions, as she picked up a racquet for the first time at the age of four.
“When I was four, my parents wanted me to play a sport. Tennis and gymnastics were both very popular for little girls in France at the time, and I was not at all into gymnastics so I wanted to try tennis,” she explained.
“Unfortunately or maybe even fortunately, all of the tennis teams didn’t have any openings. The tennis coach told me there was a new squash coach and that I should give it a try.
“I joined the squash program and never looked back. My coach ‘Christophe’ made me love the sport.”
Alves was born and raised in French Guiana, an overseas region of the mainland country, situated north of Brazil, on the continent of South America.
As she entered the second decade of her young life, she had the choice between two sports, and opted to go for squash.
Alves is currently France's No.3
“I played squash and Judo for a while. But around 11, I decided to stop judo and just focus on squash,” the Frenchwoman said.
“I did this because I wanted to practice more, so I could become more competitive and start travelling to France to play more squash tournaments.”
After making that decision at the age of 11, Alves put her heart and soul into squash, but come her early twenties, she was started to have second thoughts.
However, in June 2017, the then 23-year-old won her first tournament on the PSA Challenger Tour, and that got her back into the game.
“It’s always an amazing feeling to win a tournament. But at that time I was not really sure I wanted to play professionally,” she admitted.
“I was still studying at the University of Pennsylvania and had few injuries that were holding me back a little bit. I wasn’t sure a career in squash was the right thing.
“However, winning a tournament (even a 5K) tells you that, maybe, if you give your all and put you head into it maybe you can have a good career.”
Since that win, though, her rise has been close to meteoric. Alves has won another three tournaments in the last six months, and has shown signs of becoming one of the best on the PSA World Tour.
“I’m very pleased with the way I’m playing, especially at the beginning of the season and at Worlds of course.”
“I was able to train harder after graduation and that’s what I did all summer hoping for a successful start of the season. I definitely played my best squash.”
“I am not too happy with the results I had the past couple of months but it’s part of the game – you win some and you lose some.”
In September 2018, Alves was ranked at World No.202. Today, she is ranked at 46 in the World Rankings. She isn’t finished there, though.
“My goal right now is to keep moving up in the rankings. I am going to continue training hard to improve my game every day. The end goal is to reach the top ten in the coming years.”
That rise included arguably her biggest victory on the PSA World Tour, as she reached the last 16 of the 2018-2019 PSA World Championships presented by the Walter family.
Alves (right) in action against World No.3 Nour El Tayeb at the World Championships
To reach the third round of the tournament, she knocked out Egypt’s Salma Hany, which allowed her to play on the glass court in Chicago’s amazing Union Station.
“Great! Amazing! It’s very rewarding to beat a top 15 player especially at the Worlds. It gave me the opportunity to play on the glass court, which just added to the excitement,” she said of her feelings about the win.
“I never would have imagined achieving a win against one of the top players at the beginning of the season but at the same time this is why I train hard every day. However, right now there is still much more work to do so I can get to that level.”
Another of Alves’ goals will be to become the best French player in the world. To do so, she will have to better Camille Serme, who won the U.S. Open and Tournament of Champions in a three-month spell in 2016-2017.
The 25-year-old looks up to Serme, and says her compatriot is a role model. She also looks up to a certain eight-time World Champion, who she grew up watching.
World No.4 Camille Serme is the best French player on the planet right now
“Obviously, [I look up to] Camille Serme, she’s the first French female to break into the top 5 and win one of the major tournaments,” Alves said.
“She’s a role model for me during practice. She’s extremely hard working and dedicated on the court, and I’m lucky to be able to train with her every day.”
“Then of course I have to mention Nicol David. I grew up watching her play. It was inspiring watching her dominate the game for so long, winning so many tournaments and World Championship. She is always fair, calm, competitive and a fighter.
“I am also very inspired by Nour El Sherbini and Raneem because they completely changed the game, made it more entertaining and aggressive, I love it. They are fast, powerful, talented and skilful. It is always a pleasure to watch these two play.”
Away from the court, Alves is into a lot of different sports, watching movies, and spending time with her nearest and dearest.
“I like watching all kinds of sports on the television. I love soccer, tennis, handball, and basketball. I also love to watch movies – Netflix is one of my best friends,” the Frenchwoman admitted.
“I also love to relax and spend time with my family as much as I can.”
Alves will be at the Allam British Open next week. Her first round match is against US No.2 Olivia Blatchford Clyne at 18:30 local time (UTC+1) on Monday evening.