Exclusive by RJ Mitchell
Daryl Selby has revealed that he has unfinished business with the PSA World Tour and has a bucket list of goals he still wants to tick off before he hangs up his racket.
The former World No.9, who will turn 38 in November, is a veteran of the tour having turned professional 16 years back.
But while the years may have accumulated, they have done nothing to diminish Selby’s wand-like work with the racket and at the St James’s Place Canary Wharf Classic, the final tournament before the COVID-19 enforced suspension of squash, Selby showed he can still cut the top class mustard by defeating World No.10 Joel Makin and taking World Champion Tarek Momen to a decider before succumbing in an epic encounter.
Despite the fact that the former British National champion has increasingly diversified into business interests like his Dynamic 7 Sports Management company, Selby admits that the sudden nature of the suspension, which came three days after his encounter with ‘The Viper’, has meant he has missed out on an emotional swan song at the British Open, as well as a final bow in an England shirt earlier this year at the European Team Squash Championships, which had been scheduled for Holland in the spring.
But rather than look back in anger, the experienced Englishman has compiled a bucket list for what he admits will be his finale on the PSA World Tour: “Canary Wharf was obviously my last tournament and given I beat Joel and pushed Tarek (Momen) all the way, that was really encouraging for me,” said Selby.
He continued: “It showed me I can still cut it with the young guys at the top, I’m still competitive and I’m not cannon fodder at that level. But if at the time I’d have known Canary Wharf was going to be the last tournament before the suspension then I would have enjoyed it that bit more and maybe that would have provided me with closure but of course it wasn’t that way.
“So now I’ve had time to think about it, well I’ve missed quite a bit, like the British Open, playing for England in the Europeans, all of that has been taken from me and that all adds up to unfinished business.”
Selby (right) en route to a thrilling upset against Joel Makin (left) during the 2020 Canary Wharf Classic
For the 2013 WSF Men’s World Team Squash Championship gold medal winner, there is clearly so much he would miss about the tour that time and process will be needed to allow Selby to say his long goodbye:
He reflected: “I think when you can make a definitive decision that you are going to call it, focus on building to that moment, then you can go out on your terms and enjoy definitive closure on your career but that hasn’t been the case with me.
“I’ve also really missed both the competitive aspect of the PSA World Tour and also the social aspect and mixing with the guys and girls and I would really love to experience that all again. Right now, if we resume again, in say September with the new season, then I will be dusting my racket down again and good to go.
“There are definitely two or three things still left on my bucket list and another British Open and a final appearance in an England jersey at a major championship are the two at the top.”
But while squash has been shelved by the COVID-19 pandemic it has allowed Selby to take a look at other sports in which athletes of his fine vintage are increasingly bucking the parameters of age: “You look at professional sport now and players are playing at the top level for longer and longer across the board,” said the World No.26.
“In tennis, Roger Federer has taken the rest of the year off to recover from a surgery but he is coming back to have another go in 2021 when he will be 40. Recently I watched Bundesliga football and Claudio Pizarro, who is 41 years-old, was on the bench for Werder Bremen and obviously still good enough to cut it at the very top level.
“So I think the key thing is as long as you are smart enough and train smart then you can extend your career, if the desire is there, to take it all the way to your very late 30s.
“You’ve also got to factor in the improvement in sports science and the increased depth of your own knowledge and experience in this respect as an experienced athlete. Throw that all in the mix and it can only help to extend your career.”
Selby took World Champ Tarek Momen to five when the pair met in East Wintergarden before the tour suspension
But there is another powerful motivation for Selby’s battle with squash age concern and that involves a fellow 30-something, England’s former World No.1 James Willstrop.
The Colchester born star said: “Obviously Jimbo and I have played together all the way up from the juniors and been through a lot as England team mates including winning a world championship and I’d love to pull on an England jersey and stand next to him again representing our country once final time as proud Englishmen.
“When the tour was suspended, ranking-wise Jimbo and I were both in an England team place and so, selfishly, until someone comes along and knocks me out of that spot, I want another shot at England duty and so does Jimbo, I do believe.”
“To be honest, I think Jimbo’s longevity has been unbelievable. When you consider the hip surgery he has gone through and just what a big guy he is it is unbelievable that he has come back and been as competitive and beaten the quality of players he has.
“I am a lighter and smaller build , so maybe it isn’t such a surprise that I have gotten by without major injuries but Jimbo deserves huge credit for what he has come by and the fact that his appetite to compete is still so strong.
But while Selby looks to the future, he admits that he feels great sympathy for younger squash players trying to make their way into the professional game and up the rankings, as well as those still battling it out for the major honours.
He said: “It’s obviously a very difficult time and I feel for the younger guys and girls coming through and also for the players at the very top of the rankings who are competing for the major titles, this will have really hit them hard.
“For me it’s maybe not so bad, I am just a few months short of my 38th birthday and at the time in my career when I was looking at my options in terms of carrying on. I have three kids to look after at home and try and home school and supply some form of primary school education too and I can tell you that has been a challenge but a rewarding one.
“On top of that I have my own business with Dynamic 7 Sports Management, and I have also been helping a friend out on a consultancy basis with his digital business, so there has been plenty to keep me going. But, if I was still top 10, I don’t know how hard it would have hit and how I would have coped.
Selby in the red of Team England during the 2019 WSF Men's World Team Squash Championship
“So, it must be a real challenge for the top players and also the juniors looking to make the breakthrough, but I know they will get through it and so will squash as a sport.”
As he looks at the log jam of England’s next generation who are still to make the breakthrough at the pinnacle of the PSA rankings, Selby admits that he is anticipating a ‘bun-fight’ of epic proportions in the not too distant future: “Looking at the guys coming through, George Parker would be one who I think has pretty much got it all and if he can get his attitude right then he can easily be a top 20 player.
“But Declan James has been top 20 and he will come again, Ben Coleman is still in his 20s and has the ability to climb high, Richie Fallows and Patrick Rooney are talented and going even younger Sam Todd has the ability to make it into a senior England shirt at a very young age just like James Willstrop did.
“Right now you have Adrian Waller and Tom Richards in their early 30s but in the group just younger than them there is going to be a major bun fight, but I hope that won’t be happening for a while yet.”