England’s Declan James has admitted that although he is proud to have been able to be a part of the world’s top 30 for almost three years now, it is not what he wants.
His aim is to improve on that World Ranking position and to push further than any Englishman has in the last few years. James wants to make his way into the top ten so he can inspire a generation of young talent.
“I’m definitely proud to have been up in the top 30 for the last few years but I’m not satisfied by that,” James admitted.
“People don’t remember players that were 30 in the world so if I can make my mark in the top ten, then that would leave more of a legacy and example for the younger generation to follow, in the same way that I’m trying to follow the great English players that came before me.
“I feel like I’m playing well inside the top 20 standard so as I always try to maintain, I don’t worry too much about rankings as they tend to follow your form and your results anyway,” he explained.
“If I can keep producing a good level I’ll be back inside that ranking before long. I do believe I can go higher than World No.15 and into the top ten.
James (left) doing battle with Ali Farag at the St. James's Place Canary Wharf Classic
“I don’t think progress is always lineal, and while I’ve plateaued the last year ranking wise, I’ve make good progress in other areas of my game, I do believe I can reach the top ten and wherever you go from there is really up to you as well as some good fortune.”
James has held the English No.1 spot before, and although he does describe it is a great privilege, he believes that it does not hold the prestige it once did, as he was not at the very top of the World Rankings when he assumed the position.
“Being England No.1 was a great privilege of course, but as I always said at the time, it doesn’t mean a great deal in the wider context unless you are at the top of the game as well,” he said.
“It’s a nice thing to say you have been in that position, but honestly it’s not really my main focus anymore, being world class is of more importance.”
The 2019-2020 season did not start well for the Englishman, losing his first three matches to players in the same area of the World Rankings, clashes he feels he should have won.
He suffered second round defeats at the Open de France – Nantes presented by Tailor Capital, Oracle NetSuite Open and the FS Investments U.S. Open Squash Championships, losing out to Mathieu Castagnet, Alan Clyne and Adrian Waller, respectively.
However, his season turned after some stunning performances for his country at the WSF Men’s World Team Squash Championships in Washington, D.C.
James (centre left) with his England team-mates and coaches in Washington, D.C.
His victory over Castagnet in the final match of England’s tie with France saw them make it through to the final at Squash On Fire, where he narrowly lost out to Karim Abdel Gawad, 12-10 in the final game.
However, despite the losses, James looks back on the season in a positive light, as it has allowed him to work on areas of his game, and prepare for the upcoming season.
“The first half of the season was sub par for me, but when you take a step back and look at the big picture, yes I lost my first three matches of the season which on paper I should have won,” he explained.
“But then I bounced back with a good showing against Simon at the World Championships and then played the two best matches of my career back to back in the World Teams Championships.
“So you have to take the rough with the smooth, I look back on that poor start with a positive attitude because it shone a light on areas of my game which needed to be worked at.
“I believe that failure is rich in learning opportunities so I’m glad to have had those lessons. I’m still only 26 so I believe my best years are yet to come.”