More Than Just A Ranking is a series where we get a personal insight into squash players about more than just who they are on court.
We speak with Japanese number one and World Number 17 Satomi Watanabe about her career hopes, her plans outside of squash and how squash being an Olympic sport will help squash grow in Japan.
“I started playing squash in Japan, which is quite rare, I guess, and that was when I was eight. I used to do ballet and my friend’s mum used to play squash.”
“I always like I was the like quite active child, so I did like swimming or gymnastic was one of those kids.”
“Then she told me like, would you like to try something to do to have something in your hands, with swimming and gymnastics. you usually just use your body. I was like, Yeah, why not? I’ll give it a try then: that’s how I started to know squash.”
“I was in Japan until 12 years old and then I moved to Malaysia for squash and then been there for five years to just to build my foundation of squash.”
“I think that’s something different for me and other players in Japan because most of them just stay in Japan playing, maybe couples junior overseas tournament, but then that’s it’s
“So I think that’s why I’m a little bit different in a way, there are more players who made it into top rankings in the PSA but I would say because I’ve trained in other places than Japan it brings me to this level.”
“I was really lucky to have Low Wee Wern when I was 12, and then she’s at the point where she’s already in top ten and top five at one point, which is unfortunate that she tore her ACL
at the point where she was highest. But I was really lucky to have her when I was there the whole time and then her coach, Aaron Soyza, coached me as well.”
“Once I finished [In Malaysia], I’ve got no sort of visa to stay so I went back to Japan and then I was little bit lost in my life.”
“That was at the point of where my junior career finished and so I wasn’t really sure whether I want to go to university in the States because when I was at that point, I think university in the States wasn’t really flexible enough to play PSA.
“Then also COVID happened so couldn’t leave Japan for two years but that made me think that well you can be a squash player but at the same time what if, because at that time the whole world just stopped like squash, somehow I can’t play squash: I’ve got nothing than high school graduate.
“So I was like, I guess time for me to think about something after my career. So I chose to move to England because I heard that it allows me to play some PSA tournament as well and and have a good training around the area and then also studying. I’m studying sports and exercise science.”
“I’m proud that I made it to the top 20 for the first time ever as a Japanese player so yeah that I can give other Japanese players a little hope. It is really important for me and hopefully for other squash players in Japan to grow the squash more in Japan.
“In Japan the Olympics is really a big thing for sport and then it’s a big difference whether your sport is in Olympics or not because usually the sports that are not in Olympics won’t get recognised like even like live TV shows won’t livestream or anything.”
“So hopefully with squash being in Olympics it could help but to actually make squash more popular in Japan”