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Greg Lobban

Cleveland Skating Club Open Preview: Lobban Finding Answers In Game

The only event on the Challenger Tour this week is the Cleveland Skating Club Open, which takes place from Thursday 7 to Monday 11 October. Scotland’s Greg Lobban will be the top seed for the event, and he believes he is starting to find some answers to some struggles in his game.

The Challenger 30 level tournament will be the biggest event on the Challenger Tour since the six-month suspension due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the event will be held in Cleveland, Ohio, at the Cleveland Skating Club.

Lobban will be the top seed for the tournament, with compatriot Alan Clyne also amongst the top eight seeds for the event. The English duo of Adrian Waller and Tom Richards will also be inside that seeding bracket.

Mexico’s Cesar Salazar, Egypt’s Mohamed ElSherbini, Spaniard Iker Pajares Bernabeu and Frenchman Lucas Serme make up the rest of the top eight seeds for the Challenger 30 level tournament.

The entirety of the 24-man draw, apart form wildcard Daren Ramsey, are currently inside the top 100 in the World Rankings, with another Scot, in World No.91 Rory Stewart, joining Lobban and Clyne in the draw.

Lobban, the top seed, is now the World No.32, and he admitted that his form has dropped off since the Tour returned from COVID, having been playing some of his best squash prior to the tour’s suspension.

“For a while now, I have struggled with my game, probably since we returned from COVID really. I have struggled to find that momentum that I had before we broke off for six months. I won in Cleveland and Hong Kong and had a really good run at the Canary Wharf Classic in 2020,” the Scot said.

“I was building momentum and that broke it, and since then, I have struggled to find my best game over the last year to 18 months. For me, it doesn’t feel like that my game is in the best state it has ever been, but it has been feeling gradually better over the last couple of months, and I am hoping to build on that in the next few events before the New Year.”

The 29-year-old might well be the top seed for the tournament, but in his own words, he does not see himself as the favourite to take home the spoils come Monday evening in Cleveland.

“Going in as the top seed, it adds a little bit of pressure, knowing that on ranking you are the highest-ranked going into the event. However, I have played enough tournaments where I have been one of the seeded players and it is very much just on paper, and not form,” he explained.

“Even personally, I don’t see myself as the favourite going into this event and that helps to take the pressure off. It might say that I am No.1 seed, but for me, I don’t really feel it. I know that the whole draw has great players and anyone in the top ten to fifteen players could win the event and that is genuinely how I see it.

“I am going in knowing that there are loads of great players and I am hoping to get four great matches against players around my standard and ranking, which I haven’t had since COVID, so I am really looking forward to that challenge, if I do get through the entirety of the event, and it should be great going back to the place where I won the title in 2019.”

Lobban has been Scotland’s No.1 male player for three years now, and although it is not something he thinks about too much, he is proud of that fact and is hoping that he can influence the younger generation and increase the popularity of the sport in the country.

“It is not something I think of too much actually, being Scotland’s leading player but I do know that as a junior, I always looked up to the player that was No.1 in my age group, and the leading senior player, whether that was male or female,” he admitted.

“When you think about it, it is a nice thing to have and I hope that there are other junior players that look out for my results, and see themselves doing this job in the future. If that is the case, and I am helping to raise more awareness for squash in Scotland, then that is great!”

The Scot has dropped 11 places in the World Rankings over the last few months, due to a slight drop in form, and he admits that he deserves to be where he is. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel for Lobban, as he believes that he is starting to find that form again, and he wants to show that in the next few events.

“My ranking has dropped down over the last couple of months. I was up at World No.21 for quite a while and I couldn’t quite break that top 20. My ranking is where it is this year with my form and it doesn’t deserve to be any higher.

“It is something that I have to try and find the answers to to turn it around and start moving up the rankings in the right direction again. It is not easy because there are a lot of good players having great results, and beating top 10 and top 20 players.

“A lot of it comes down to form and sometimes luck of the draw as well. There are a few different factors but I feel that I can improve in different areas, and in the last couple of months I have found a few answers. I haven’t had the results just yet but I am starting to crack it and find out what I need to do and I am looking forward to the next few months and see how I get on!

The event takes place from Thursday 7 to Monday 11 October at the Cleveland Skating Club, where Greg Lobban is the top seed for the tournament. Follow the PSA Challenger Tour on Twitter and Facebook for daily updates from the event.

Action from Cleveland will be streamed throughout the week on the Cleveland Squash YouTube channel, where you will be able to watch action throughout the week.

First Round Draw: Cleveland Skating Club Open
[1] Greg Lobban (SCO) – [Bye]
Mohammad Syafiq Kamal (MAS) v [9/16] Leonel Cardenas (MEX)
[9/16] Nathan Lake (ENG) v Sam Todd (ENG)
[6] Tom Richards (ENG) – [Bye]
[8] Alan Clyne (SCO) – [Bye]
Syed Azlan Amjad (QAT) v [9/16] Mahesh Mangaonkar (IND)
[9/16] Ben Coleman (ENG) v Bernat Jaume (ESP)
[4] Mohamed ElSherbini (EGY) – [Bye]
[3] Adrian Waller (ENG) – [Bye]
Christopher Binnie (JAM) v [9/16] Faraz Khan (USA)
[9/16] Shahjahan Khan (USA) v Spencer Lovejoy (USA)
[7] Lucas Serme (FRA) – [Bye]
[5] Iker Pajares Bernabeu (ESP) – [Bye]
[WC] Daren Ramsey (ENG) v [9/16] Patrick Rooney (ENG)
[9/16] Tsz Fung Yip (HKG) v Rory Stewart (SCO)
[2] Cesar Salazar (MEX) – [Bye]

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