2022 Tournament of Champions

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Coll on a Roll

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January 14, 2017
by Brad Burke

There was no let up in the aftermath of Paul Coll’s breakthrough win last month – he even trained on Christmas Day back in New Zealand.Several days earlier, the Kiwi qualifier at this year’s J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions had won the Channel Vas Championship in Surrey, England. His victory was so unexpected that he had to buy two new airline tickets for himself and his girlfriend, Belgium pro Nele Gilis, because the previous pair were non-refundable and booked before the semi-finals.

Coll’s win also propelled him into the PSA world’s top 20 for the first time. And having beaten four higher-ranked opponents as a qualifier along the way, it also gave an extra bow to his armoury after previously being lavished with nicknames such as ‘Spiderman’ following his diving antics which have gone viral on the web.

Not one to rest or celebrate wildly following his win in the lucrative $122,000 event near London, Coll then returned home to his parents and kept in shape ahead of his pursuit of a World Series Finals berth in the summer. “I wasn’t as strict as I perhaps was in the season,” he admitted of his Christmas training. Yet it still included two hard gym sessions before Christmas lunch. He said: “You’ve got to earn your calories. I kept the body moving for sure as I find it tough to stop.”

Coll’s rise up the rankings coincided with his move to Europe. Based at the Meer Club just outside Amsterdam and coached by Tommy Berden, the Kiwi number one hails his decision as a career “game changer. It was a great decision for me,” he said. “In New Zealand, there are limited people to train with. But being over in Europe, I am exposed to higher levels of squash, plus it’s easier to travel everywhere.”

He has certainly settled in well in the Big Apple. On Friday, he went up against England’s Chris Simpson in his first- round match and was mightily impressive in an 4-11, 11-6, 11-9, 11-6 victory. “It gives a little bit more hunger knowing that you haven’t beaten someone before,” said Coll. “It gives an edge and in the back of mind it’s tough to deal with but I was pretty keen to have that first win.”

He now plays Egypt’s Ali Farag in the last 16 on Sunday.

Rod Gilmour