The 2019/20 PSA World Tour season has been one of positives for Australia’s Donna Lobban, as she has come back from a serious knee injury to make her way back into the top 25 in the World Rankings.
Following the 2018 FS Investments U.S. Open Squash Championships, the Australian did not feature on the PSA World Tour for 11 months, prior to returning at the season opener in China in September 2019.
She admitted that it was hard to see her ranking fall over that time period when she was unable to play, but that it spurred her on to fight even harder when she returned to the court.
“I was ranked at World No.17 when I injured my knee in November 2018, putting me out for the rest of the 2018/2019 season,” Lobban explained.
“It’s hard and frustrating watching your ranking plummet while you are forced out of action knowing there’s nothing you can do about it.
“I have worked extremely hard to get back to playing at a high level so it’s definitely rewarding to see the ranking moving in the right direction again.”
Lobban in action at the 2018 British Open, prior to her injury
Lobban has been as high as World No.13 during her career, achieving that position in the rankings back in May 2011. She held the position for five months, and is looking to get back up there again.
When the 33-year-old returned from her lengthy lay-off, she had step-by-step goals to climb her way back up the rankings, and it has worked for her.
“When I first got back on the tour again in September 2019, my aim was just to try and get back into the top 48 to guarantee getting into the draws of the Platinum events,” she explained.
“Then it was to try and get into the top 32 to get a seeding in those draws. Now I’m aiming to get into the top 16 again to get a first round bye in those draws! I’d love to be able to crack the top ten one day and I haven’t given up on that dream just yet!”
Prior to the suspension of the PSA World Tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Australian reached the last 16 of a major tournament for the first time since returning from injury, making that mark at the Windy City Open presented by the Walter Family in Chicago.
She played well in both of her opening two matches, in which she saw off one of the home favourites in Olivia Fiechter, before downing then-World No.12 Joshna Chinappa in one of the bigger upsets of the week.
Lobban at the Windy City Open in Chicago
“Chicago was a great week for me, I was really pleased to be back in the last 16 of a major event again. I came through a tricky match in my first round against Olivia, but I was mostly pleased with my second round match against Joshna. I think that might have been the best I’ve played all season,” she admitted.
“I played her at the same stage at the US Open earlier in the season losing 11-9 in the fifth and it was one of the toughest losses I have had. I had been up 9-7 in the fifth and felt like I had the match taken out of my hands.
“It was a good feeling to know that I had been able to make some improvements in my game since then and turn that loss into a win this time.”
Just a couple of weeks before travelling to Chicago, Lobban won her first tournament in two years to cap her great return from injury, as she took the spoils at the Edinburgh Sports Club Open, doing so the hard way.
Lobban with the Edinburgh Sports Club Open trophy
She overcame three of the top four seeds, fought back from 2-0 down in both the quarter-finals and semi-finals, and recovered from a 2-1 deficit in the final, to take the Challenger 20 level title.
“I feel like I’ve been playing better and better as the season has gone on, and I’ve had a few matches where I’ve felt like I may have even played the best squash of my career,” the Aussie said.
“I worked really hard during my recovery to improve certain parts of my game so I think in some ways I have come back from it stronger than before.
“I was unbelievably happy to take the win at the Edinburgh Open for a few reasons. It was my first title after my injury, it was special to have my husband Greg [Lobban, Men’s World No.22] there in my corner all week, it was such a great event and it was amazing to have so many friends in the crowd supporting me as Edinburgh used to be my training base.
Lobban (right) alongside her husband, Greg, the Men's World No.22
“Another reason was because I had to come through three nail-bitingly close five-setters in a row to get the win and I think that made it feel even more rewarding in the end.”
The couple both currently occupy places in the top 25 of the World Rankings, but Donna says that there is not a rivalry between herself and Greg, but that they spur each other on, unless it’s a game of Uno, of course!
“There’s not much of a rivalry as such, it’s honestly the best feeling seeing him do well. It feels better than winning myself! There is a rivalry when it comes to anything else other than squash however with our 2 fiercely competitive personalities, even a game of Uno can become heated (only when Greg loses though)!” Lobban said.
“As far as spurring each other on, it’s nice to know we are always there for each other when one of us might need to be picked up. I remember after the 4th game in one of my five-setters in Edinburgh, I came off the court and told Greg I think I might have just used everything I had left to win that game, he just looked at me and said “No you haven’t, get back on there and keep going. You’re not done yet.” It was exactly what I needed to hear!”