Welcome to my new blog for The Huffington Post. To introduce myself briefly: my name is James Willstrop and I am currently the number one squash player in the world, from Yorkshire in the north of England. Squash, for those who may not know, is a game of rackets, played inside an enclosed court. The idea is that when the small black ball is hit (between two players usually) with the racket, it must hit the front wall, the most obvious and important rule to understand. As with many sports, there are one or two more complex and quirky rules, but the basic premise is simple: hit the ball against the front wall, away from your opponent, until he or she can't get the ball back off the first bounce. I dare say I hardly need to delve with any greater depth in to the rules of squash. I intend to draw readers in, not away!
I am coached by my father Malcolm and my brother David and am funded and supported by England squash, Sport England and operate under the umbrella of the English Institute of Sport, which is currently providing support for many of Great Britain's Olympic athletes. Speaking of which, squash is not part of the Olympic programme, and so as one of their most successful teams, the England squash outfit unfortunately won't be a part of it in 2012.
I reached number one in the world rankings for the first time in January of this year, after winning three major tournaments in a row in November and December. I lost that position in the February ranking list to world champion and fellow Yorkshire rival Nick Matthew, after losing to him in the final of the glitzy Tournament of Champions in Grand Central, New York, at the end of January. I took it back again in March after winning the North American Open in Richmond, Virginia.
All of this coincided with the release of my first book, 'Shot and a Ghost', which chronicled in diary form my experiences of life playing one of the toughest sports in the world. In it I detail the horror of the hardest training sessions or matches, how I deal with injuries and big rivals, and more intimate issues like the effect my mother Lesley's death to cancer had on me in 2000.
I have always enjoyed writing, and currently have a column in the Yorkshire Evening Post weekly.
I am nearing the end of a tough season of squash, but one of the biggest tournaments is yet to come and begins this week: it's the British Open squash championships, the most recognisable and prestigious tournament in the sport, which takes place at the O2 Arena in London. I go in to it as top seed, and am looking forward with anticipation to what should be an outstanding event; after so much travelling all year, it is very exciting to be facing the prospect of playing such a tournament in front of a home crowd, minus any travel and jet lag issues.
Before the O2 finale, the European Team Championships took place in Germany. Squash is an individual sport, so we very rarely get the chance to play in a team; it made for a week of squash with a completely different emphasis.
I look forward to hopefully sharing some of my thoughts with you over the coming months.
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