Who Is Alison Waters

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When Alison Waters (right) reached the final of the British nationals in 2005, losing to a rampant Linda Elriani, there must have been a lot of scratched heads around the country. Who is Alison Waters?

The facts of Miss Waters’ life are at odds with her late showing, at the age of 21. She was hitting a ball at the age of four, wanting to be around her mother, father and elder brother, who were all squash players. Her mother, Robin (not Robyn??)was more than a club player; she was a Level 2 squash coach who ran the junior coaching at Southgate Squash Club for 15 years. From the very start Alison showed a feel for the game, claims Mrs Waters.

“Immediately I saw she had an aptitude,” she recalls. “You could tell right away she had an eye for the ball. She was four or five years old and she was able to play a game at six. She could serve high to the back of the court and score the game. She understood what to do and read the ball well. Reading the ball came naturally; hitting the ball came naturally.”

Alison was nine-and-a-half years old when she won her first national title – the British Under 12, which she won again the following year. Up to that point her coaching had come from her parents, but they realised it was time for her to move on.

“We knew she needed her technique to be sorted and needed a coach to give her more than we could give her, so we approached Paul Carter,” Mrs Waters says.

Carter had a lot of work to do with this diminutive girl.

“He worked on my technique and tactics and on building up my fitness,” explains Alison. “My strong points were that I was fairly quick and read the ball quite well. But technically I wasn’t very good. I had a massive straight arm swing – probably because I was very small for my age and the straight arm helped me to get a bit of power.”

Her mother confirms this: “She was tiny. Andrew Shelley wrote that the racket was bigger than her.”

Once she was under Carter’s direction Waters started getting into the England squads and, at the age of 16, she received Lottery funding. But to most squash followers Alison still had not appeared on the radar screen. She was unfortunate to be in the same group as the Egyptian Omneya Abdel Kawy, who beat Waters three times in the final of the British Open Under 14 Championships.

Her size was still against her but she finally had her growth spurt between 14 and 16, although it wasn’t for another three years that she added the all-important strength.

Her parents were careful not to let her overtrain.

“Before her A Levels we just let her play when she wanted. But once she had finished her A Levels she went full time and was able to train on a daily basis to get to the level that she is now,” says Robin. “This is only her third year as a pro and she has come into her own since she has had more intensive coaching, playing every day of the week.”

Still it wasn’t until this year that all the training, Carter input and Lottery money started to show a return. Alison admits that she was overawed and lacked the killer instinct. But in Kuala Lumpur in December in the Women’s World Open, she beat Abdel Kawy, fighting back from two games down. In the next round she lost to Nicol David 3/1, two of the lost games going to 10-8.

“That gave me a lot of confidence. When you start out you come up against the top players and it’s daunting at times. But the more you play them the more you get used to them and then you look forward to playing them to see what you can do against them,” Waters says. “When you get a good result, that helps your confidence. You believe you can go on and beat them.”

With the start of the new year, this new-found confidence started to produce significant results. In her first tournament, the Greenwich Open in the US, she got to semis, where she lost to Linda Elriani. In the next tournament she chalked up her first ever WISPA Tour title by winning the Forbes Open.

Waters was in the fast lane when she went to the British Nationals unseeded. First she beat number eight seed Tania Bailey, she followed this by knocking out fourth seed Vicki Botwright and then she got her first victory over Rebecca Macree, the number two seed. She had reached the final, where she was beaten by Elriani, a player who was on a sparkling comeback run.

That loss was what could be called a good loss. Just getting to the final was another boost to Waters’ confidence. (At £2,000, it was also her biggest pay day.) She was rewarded with selection for the European Team Championship, which she went through unbeaten.

There was a further sign of recognition, this time by her peers, at the first ever World Squash Awards, where she was nominated for the title of Young Female Player of the Year. She was understandably beaten by Nicol David (who is now ranked four in the world) but it was another confidence builder for Waters.

Waters has it all going for her, She has a good temperament on and off the court, without any histrionics on decisions or losses. She works out at the Potters Bar club with Paul Carter, who has attracted a regular group of elite players such as Tania Bailey, Vicky Botwright and Dominique Lloyd-Walter. She can also hit with the likes of Ben Garner, and the Barker brothers, Peter and Phil. At her own club, Southgate, she has regular games with men including Mark Cowley, the British Over 45 champion, and she still plays her brother Steve. “We have some close games,” Waters says, refusing to say who wins.

She also likes training and does so six days a week: ghosting, courts sprints and gym work for strength. Indeed after Hurghada, her final tournament of the season, she says that she will have just one week off before embarking on another summer of hard training, still working on technique – especially her backhand.

Off the court she has no special hobbies and just likes to hang out with her friends and “let her hair down.” Apart from an aberrant liking for Liverpool FC, she has no other sporting interests.

“I always knew I wanted to be a squash professional. Squash has always been number one with me,” she says with a finality that brooks no argument.

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