Charlie Lee looks to carry flag for England's next squash generation

Rod Gilmour of The Telegraph explains that there is a theme running through English squash at the moment.

It started with Nick Matthew, the three-time world champion, who announced his retirement last month and is on a final tour of squash’s top-tier events ahead of the Commonwealth Games, where he will hope to land a remarkable third singles’ gold a few months short of his 38th birthday.

Daryl Selby is on a similar path. After 18 years on the PSA Tour, Selby’s mind is set on the enjoyment factor and Essex’s world No 14, who is 35 next month, has started the season by playing pressure-free squash in the process.
On Wednesday, Selby competes in the $100,000 (£75,270) Channel VAS Championships in Surrey – the first UK event of the season – in which six of the world’s top 10 are in action, including Egypt’s Bristol-based brothers, Mohamed and Marwan Elshorbagy.
Meanwhile, England’s top two, Matthew and James Willstrop, are choosing their events with age and body in mind, following the recent US Open and with the World Championships in Manchester on the horizon.
It leaves an in-form Selby as the leading Englishman in the 16-man draw at St George’s Hill. Nestled at the bottom sits wild card Charlie Lee, the English Under-19 champion, who plays second seed Ali Farag, one of Egypt’s breed of no-holds barred players.
The draw is a pertinent one. With England’s top trio well into their thirties – Willstrop is also 34 – Lee is just setting out as a professional. He knows the road will be a long one given that Danny, his father and coach, played in the Jahangir Khan-dominated era.
“It’s a great lifestyle and certainly beats an office,” says Lee. “Dad has some great stories from playing and it’s great to have him and my brother [Joe, the world No 59] showing me the way. I know what to expect but it was a good decision to turn pro when I left school.”
Lee’s introduction to professional life has not all been plain sailing. He has dropped more than 100 places to world No 273 – “I don’t know what it is any more,” he states – after knee, ankle and hamstring troubles.
But he looked good two weeks ago as he outlasted compatriot George Parker in a Premier Squash League clash for Luxfords St George’s Hill.
The teenager now trains with Parker, with the burgeoning Surrey player also being coached by former pro Rob Owen at West Warwickshire, the club where Dan Evans first played squash before switching to tennis.
“Rob has added a lot of intensity, racket preparation and how to hit different shots,” Lee says. Intensity is one attribute he will need against world No 5 Farag’s graceful style and pouncing racket.
It will certainly be a night of learning. Egyptians tend to burst on to the scene as soon as they reach senior ranks, thanks to a frenetic, almost gladiatorial national set-up, while English players blossom much later.
So can he make the grade? “He moves well and has every chance,” says Lee Snr. “The danger for a youngster is rest and staying injury free. But we’re watching the game evolve and we want to go with them.”
One of these players is Diego Elias, Peru’s 20-year-old rising star. Outside the world’s top 250 three years ago, he is now a top-20 fixture and has been labelled as “the next Jansher Khan” in a compelling storyline for the sport.
Selby, who plays Elias in his first round, said: “It is frankly amazing what he’s done, coming out of Peru with absolutely no history of top players in the game.”
Selby admits that the enjoyment factor has contributed to a trio of quarter-finals this season. Last week he reached the last eight of the US Open, adding to runs at the Netsuite and China Opens.
“It’s always nice to get a good run at a big tournament early in the season,” he said. “It's more for confidence than anything else and although I’m disappointed not to do a little better in the quarters I was happy with my week.
“The Surrey tournament is a great one for me as it's so close to home. I normally play well in England so it's nice to have another big tournament here."
The 2017 Channel VAS Squash Championships take place from October 16-22 at St George’s Hill, Weybridge. Tickets are available from
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