Naughton Excited For Manchester Open After Putting Difficult December Behind Her

By Hannah King

Canada’s Hollie Naughton, currently ranked World No.20, says that she is looking forward to competing at this week’s Manchester Open after a difficult season had seen her lose her enjoyment for squash.

After reaching top 16 in the world, Naughton, 29, put immense pressure on herself to push further up the rankings, which caused her to stop enjoying the sport.

Naughton spoke about how, in December of last year, she had reached a low point. After winning at the Nash cup, on home soil, in September 2023, Naughton was unable to reach the quarter-finals or later at her next four events.

“This season has been very up and down,” said Naughton.

“For myself, I’ve just been trying to figure out what I want out of squash.

“I felt like all I needed was one or two big wins in Platinum events and I would have been knocking on the door of the top 10.

“When that didn’t happen, I think I heaped the pressure on more and I didn’t handle it well, I didn’t speak to anyone.

“December was a really low point for me, I was really quite lost and since then I’ve tried to think about what squash looks like and I think I’m feeling better about that.”

Naughton has said she is beginning to enjoy the sport more, finding excitement from seeing improvements in her matchplay.

Speaking about the upcoming Manchester Open, taking place between May 22-26 at the National Squash Centre, she said:

“I went straight from Calgary to Egypt for the World Champs and then my draw was tough, so Manchester seemed like a good event for me to play.

“I’m excited to play it and I lost that feeling for a good few years.”

Naughton – who is based in Pontefract – admits that she has felt extra pressure as a result of the travel required when competing at tournaments, so is excited to play an event relatively close to home.

“Being based in Pontefract for the majority of the time, it’s a close one for me and after having a conversation with James [Willstrop], I’m trying to cut down on travel a bit, so this one is very easy for me.

“I can get there on the train and I think that’s a factor in me looking forward to it, I can go the day before so it’s really easy and it doesn’t disrupt any preparations too.

“Sometimes there is some extra pressure to perform when you travel quite far and obviously there is a cost to get there. If you’ve spent the money It’s something that I try not to think about too much.

“I’m quite keen to turn up and enjoy my time on court and showcase my best squash.

“It’s been a long season, bodies and minds are tired so hopefully I can keep my quality together for longer than I have in recent events, and have something positive come out of my second to last event.”