Dubai: Adil Maqbool, the UAE’s number one squash player, is embarking on one final push to realise his dream of breaking into the top 20 of the Professional Squash Association (PSA) world rankings following a two-year hiatus.
The 25-year-old Pakistani, once ranked 66th in the world, has been off the world circuit while studying computer science in the UK. After that came marriage and the birth of his first child. But while life may have taken its course, his sporting ambitions haven’t waned.
The one-time U13, U15 and U17 junior World No 1 saw his senior ranking drop to as low as 244th during his studies, but now he’s back to 117th with dreams of halving that on his return to form.
“I achieved a lot when I was very young and always thought I had time,” said Maqbool, who has been UAE No 1 for 11 years and remains the highest ranked UAE-born squash player of all time. “But now I’ve told myself it’s the last push. My ambition is to get back into the top 100 and top 20 is my career goal.
“Players don’t retire until they are in their early 30s so I have five years ahead of me and I still feel I can break into the world’s top 20. But, if I wait any longer, it’s just going to get harder and harder to get back.”
Having reached a career-best final and semi-final on the PSA World Tour in Iran and Qatar in 2012, two of his total seven quarter-final finishes have also occurred in the last month in Kuwait and Pakistan.
Domestically, he won his ninth Abu Dhabi title last week and looks likely to secure his third Dubai title this weekend. He must also defend his Dubai doubles title held since 2004 along with his father and coach Maqbool Khawaja.
Of his decision to take a break from the game, Maqbool added: “I had to make a decision. My father advised me to get a degree as the lifespan of a professional athlete is small so I needed a backup. I knew it would disrupt my squash in a big way but now I’m trying to get back.
“Many players have had their careers cut short with injury and they had not prepared themselves with any alternative, so in that way I’m glad to have taken precautions.
“But when you see that the guys I used to beat are now in the top 20 – when I look at it from that point of view, yes, I do regret it. Generally speaking, though, I’m probably better off now I have a backup plan.”
Maqbool’s father and coach, Maqbool Khawaja, said: “It was a very painful decision for him to choose university over squash but education is as important as oxygen. Now he has a good education as well as good sporting record and he is a more well-rounded individual.
“Studies posed many difficulties with time constraints but now that’s done it’s easier and there are more possibilities. It’s a very reasonable target to get back into the top 100 and within six months he will be back to his best.
“We have decided to push these two or three years to see if it works for him if not he can do whatever he wants. But having devoted a major part of his life to this sport, it seems a waste not to have one final push.”