LAURA Massaro believes she is not under any extra pressure as she bids to become the first British woman to defend the Allam British Open in 55 years.
The world number two from Chorley lifted the title last year – ending 21 years without a home winner since Lisa Opie in 1991 – and gets her defence under way in Hull today.
The 30-year-old made headline news when she beat world number one Nicol David in a memorable final 12 months ago.
And she has been in the spotlight since, winning the World Championship for the first time and being named world player of the year.
But despite the added attention, Massaro believes it is business as usual – despite attempting to match compatriot Janet Morgan’s achievement of 1959 by retaining the title.
“People may think I may be under extra pressure because I won it last year and I am world champion but I don’t see it that way,” said the former Albany High School pupil.
“I will approach the tournament like I would any other, take each round at a time and respect each opponent I face.
“I don’t like to think too far ahead. I’m aware of who is in my side of the draw and who I could face but I don’t think too much about that because that is when you could come unstuck.”
‘Massaro mania’ reached fever pitch in March after she won the World Championship in Malaysia beating Egyptian teenager Nour El Sherbini in the final.
“It was pretty hectic stuff,” said Massaro. “I’m used to doing interviews but it was the pure volume.
“I gave myself about a week and a half off to enjoy the achievement but then I got back to training “ Massaro believes the distraction of her running her own tournament – the Courtcare Open at David Lloyd Chorley – has helped her prepare for the British Open.
“That was a great help because it took the attention away from me,” she said. “As organiser my job was just to look after the girls and make sure it ran smoothly.”
Massaro goes to Hull in confident mood having helped England to yet another European Team title in Italy – the 36th time they have won it since they were launched 37th years ago.
She has been involved in six of those successes but despite England being the dominant force, she did have some tough games – including losing her match to Camille Serme in the final against France.
“It is a tournament we have dominated and one we are expected to win so to that extent it is a no-win situation for us.
“But I had a couple of tough matches whch was good preparation for me.”
Massaro also played in the final of the Premier Squash League for Benz-Bavarian Duffield who lost 3-2 to Integrity Surrey Health and Raquets – although Massaro did beat her England team-mate Alison Waters.
Massaro is not one to look for lucky omens but she begins her defence against China’s Joey Chan – a player she beat at the same stage last year.
“Joey is a handy player but I haven’t played her since,” added Massaro. “I’m not really one for lucky omens but if I was, playing her again in the first round isn’t a bad one, is it!”