Two-time Spanish National Champion Iker Pajares Bernabeu has been going from strength to strength on the PSA World Tour since he broke into the world’s top 100 in 2016.
The 25-year-old is currently sitting at his highest ranking to date of World No.24, and he isn’t planning on stopping his positive momentum.
"I think I've improved a lot and I’m very confident with myself, but I think I need to improve my fitness right now to get closer to the top players."
bernabeu_iker</a> talks us through the improvements he's working on <a href="https://t.co/2PxR9LEJ82">https://t.co/2PxR9LEJ82</a> <a href="https://t.co/ZiSJKB9Ri2">pic.twitter.com/ZiSJKB9Ri2</a></p>— PSA World Tour (PSAWorldTour) January 25, 2022
Pajares has highlighted the huge effect that playing the top players in the world has on his development and just how crucial it is to grow his own game.
“I've been working a lot with with Victor Monserrat, my coach, in these small details, and I'm still fighting with myself,” Pajares explains.
“I have so many things to change and in the last tournaments, I've had the opportunity to play Tarek twice, Ali, and Greg Gaultier. I only lost against top players, and I didn't have the opportunity to play against a top 20 player, I only played and I only lost against the top players. So I learn a lot from from them and I'm working a lot on the small details.”
Although many would highlight Pajares’ fitness as being one of his strong attributes, the Spanish No.1 still sees room for improvement in that area.
He said: “I think I have to improve my fitness. I feel close to the top players, but I'm always getting tired. In the third or fourth games, I'm always tired and I feel I can push myself more. I'm also playing these guys always in second or third rounds, when I had maybe two tough matches before.
“I'm working a lot on my core and on my technical things. I think I have improved a lot and I'm very confident with myself, but I think I need to improve my fitness right now to get closer to them. To be 60, 70, 80 minutes with with them on court is very difficult, because they play now at a very, very high pace and I need to match that.”
Pajares recently picked up his 10th PSA title at the RFES Spanish Open Ciudad de Palencia last month, beating compatriot Ivan Perez in the 10k event final.
Pajares explained the differences between playing Challenger and World Tour events, saying: “It's very, very tricky playing the smaller tournaments because you have the pressure and you have to win all the matches, if you lose in the first or second round, you don't get good points, and then you drop on the rankings. So I like to play the big tournaments. You get better chances, you feel better and you feel more confident in these big tournaments.”
Iker Pajares Bernabeu
The 25-year-old has had plenty of experience of playing the world’s top 10 players on the PSA World Tour and has noticed that experience plays a big part in being able to compete for the big titles in the game. The Spaniard says he is working hard to learn as much as he can from his older opponents.
“All these guys, they are around 30 years old and they’ve got a lot of experience in a lot of matches, and I think I need experience as well. I need to play them so many times to get in those situations,” he said.
“I’m working a lot on holding the ball a bit more, playing more in the the front and attacking much more. Nowadays, squash is very aggressive, it’s very explosive. These top guys, they play a lot in the front, and you have to be very strong physically to get all the balls back. So, I’m just changing my game slightly, trying to be sharper and play more in the front right now.”
Pajares is always watching and learning from other players but, while he admits he admires many players, he wants to develop his own style of play.
“I don’t look at them as an examples,” Pajares revealed.
“James [Willstrop] is James, Tarek is Tarek, they have their own styles, but I’m just looking on developing my style. I like the way Paul Coll and Joel Makin play a lot. They’re very strong physically, but also technically they are very good. They’re reaching a lot of balls, they playing a lot in the front and they’re facing these guys, the Egyptian ones, and winning.”