Edinburgh squash player Doug Kempsell won’t need to wait until Hogmanay before pondering his New Year resolutions because he already knows what he’ll be doing in 2016.
In April, he marries fiancée Lucy and he’ll then continue his bid to break into the world’s top 50.
The 22-year-old reached a significant milestone when he made the top 100 for the first time after climbing four places in last week’s updated rankings. That was his reward for an outstanding 2015, which included his maiden PSA title in Geneva in March plus two more in Australia this summer.
Kempsell’s rise from a ranking of 422 in 2012 has been meteoric, but he is far from satisfied and believes there is much more to come. “It’s a tough ask to get into the top 50 in the next 12 months, but I feel that’s a reasonable aim, even though I haven’t sat down yet with my coach Stuart Crawford to go over our goals and aims.”
One massive advantage for Kempsell is that he is not operating in a vacuum but is part of a group of world-class Scottish players. Long-time national number one Alan Clyne has been in the top 40 since 2011 and was recently joined there by Greg Lobban. They and Kempsell train together at Heriot-Watt University and the trio will form a powerful Scotland squad at next month’s World Team Championship in Kuwait.
Lobban’s success in particular has rubbed off on Kempsell, who confirmed: “Greg is only one year older than me, so it’s been very beneficial to see him flying up the rankings so fast. That’s been a big boost for me. Alan and Greg are regularly playing against top 20 players in some of the biggest tournaments in the world, so training with them can only be good for me.”
But while training partners, coaching, nutrition and many other factors are crucial in the hunt for success, players must ultimately take responsibility for their career and make sure they swim rather than sink on the international stage.
Luckily, Kempsell has consistently demonstrated a winning mentality from the time he made his name as a virtual unknown in the Scotland squad.
“I had a pretty good World Team Championship two years ago, winning several of my matches. That was a good platform for me,” he recalled.
“I must admit I’m in awe of some of the higher-ranked guys, but I’m also able to relax when I’m up against them on court. I played (triple world champion) Nick Matthew at the Europeans two years ago and I was definitely in awe of him, but I still played really well against him. I also beat Jon Kemp, who was in the top 30 in the world, and I’ve regularly beaten top 80 players.”
Kempsell will require all of his multi-tasking skills next spring when he gets married in April before jetting off to a major championship in Poland.
“The European Teams is just after the wedding, so we’ll have to postpone the honeymoon,” he explained.
“Lucy accepts that I have to go away to tournaments, and although it was difficult to go to Australia for six weeks this summer, she’s very understanding. Lucy’s in Rome at the moment for work (as a project manager for a pharmaceutical company), so I’m not the only one who travels.
“She comes to support me and watch me play, and she says she wants to get into playing squash too. We’re moving into a new house (in South Queensferry) as we speak.”
Training partner Lobban is in a relationship with top Australian player Donna Urquhart, who joins him on the circuit and competes in many of the same events, but Kempsell prefers to keep his professional and private lives separate. “I don’t think I would survive seeing my missus 24/7!” he joked.