In a country known for having the greatest tennis players, such as Roger Federer, Switzerland’s Cindy Merlo ranked 56th in the world for squash, is shining the light on her sport.
Zushan Hashmi: Squash isn’t the first sport that comes to mind in a country with a very rich tennis history and existence. How did you get into playing the game?
Cindy Merlo: Well, I played tennis too when I was younger as one of many sports including Squash. Overtime the other were not the same and I needed more time after school for Squash, so I stopped the other sports one by one. Fun fact however, people used to and still do now tell me I should change to Tennis. I love Tennis and many underestimate that sport, but for me I never really saw any other sport as an option for me.
Why did you continue to play and take up the pro tour?
Honestly, I think because I could not imagine a day without Squash. I gave up and sacrificed too many things for the sport in order for me to be all in, and I would do it again.
What has been the highlight of your career and why?
There is not a specific highlight.
For example, the feeling after a very tough session when the endorphins hit, when you are dead but extremely happy at the same time. Or the rush of adrenaline when you are on the court playing an intense match. Or even the relief after a win or maybe sometimes the confirmation that you are on the right track when you lose. So feelings and emotions are the highlights.
Who have been some of the squash players you’ve looked up to and why?
Oh, there are a couple of great players! However, everyone is different. I can look at them and admire what they can do and what some have achieved, but I am not them. I am not someone who looks at a player and thinks I want to be like them. No, I want to be better and I want to be and stay myself and find my own way to success.
You’re nearing the top 50 at a young age, what is your focus for the coming year, with the tour back in action and why?
Rising in the ranking gives me confidence and confirmation that I am on the right track. Therefore, the focus will be on improving the areas in which I lack, and set higher standards on the rest. I am looking forward to every event I get to play and enjoying the training more than ever. I guess this break made me realize that I should be grateful for the time I can spend on a Squash Court.
What is the response like when you talk about squash in Switzerland (amongst average people who may or may not know the game)?
People seem interested in Squash and want to know more about it, or they are intrigued about the sport and feel like playing.
Squash players tend to be very close especially on the tour, and the camaraderie is great to see. What do you guys often get up to outside of the game, while travelling, and do you have any fun/interesting stories to share?
I tend to be more of a lone wolf. I like time for myself, to listen to my body and take care of things while I am away. Additionally, I have my studies on the side which I prefer to do at tournaments to keep my brain sharp.
How has yoga helped your squash career and why do you think it is important for athletes and others generally?
I love this Question!
For me personally Yoga is a huge part of my life also because of Squash. It helps me balance and be centered. Its helps me connect body, mind and spirit.
Yoga teaches me how to control my emotions, my general awareness, expands my subconscious. In and builds strength. All these benefits from Yoga Practice are pluses for my Squash too and improve my mindset and skills on and off Court.
Playing such a fast-paced game, what are some of the challenges that you face from a physical and mental health perspective (ie. mental game, staying in the zone etc.)?
Because it is such a fast pace game, there is no time to think, it’s just about the reaction. The reaction of the body of course but also the reaction of the mind. Being able to adjust and stay focused in all situations. It’s challenging.