Greg Lobban’s head, he ruefully admits, is all too often in the clouds. The inevitable consequence of making a living on squash’s global tour, darting from city to city, continent to continent, with the occasional splash of home comforts back at his base in Edinburgh.
The 25-year-old will arrive in Hong Kong today in search of ranking points and kudos. Then it will be destination Marseille as part of Scotland’s squad for the world team championships and a week-long stint of practice matches with English rivals in Manchester. “I’d say this year, I’ve only had 50 per cent tops of my time at home,” the Highlander reflects. “It’s been manic. But I try to enjoy it.”
His sightseeing guide to the Gold Coast has not yet been thumbed and on recent form, any time for sightseeing amid the competitive heat of the Commonwealth Games may be limited to the bus route between Village and court. As world champions in 2016 and runners-up a year later, Lobban and his doubles partner Alan Clyne will be presumed medal contenders when they suit up for Scotland in six months’ time with their places in the team formally confirmed this week.
Both, individually, sit inside the world top 50. Together they frequently reign supreme. “We’ve proven to ourselves that we’re capable of bringing home a medal from the Gold Coast,” Lobban acknowledges. “There is some expectation there – but we are trying to look past that. We can only control when we do on the squash court. We’ve mapped out a roadmap towards the Gold Coast that gives us as good a chance a possible.”
He will take nothing for granted. The axis can shift, he knows, in the blink of an eye or the turn of a foot. Last year, he was in Chicago, on the cusp of winning the Chicago Open – just two points shy, in fact – when a tweak became a trauma. He chased down a ball but, with his hamstring torn, the brakes were off and the pain was torrid.
“My body weight crashed at full speed into the wall,” he recounts. “There was nothing there. The hamstrings are there for that purpose and I just collapsed in a heap. It was so tough not being able to move. I played out the match but I was really emotional afterwards. I was in Chicago on my own which made it harder – my coach wasn’t there. Neither was Alan or my fiancée. I just broke down because I didn’t have any idea what would happen after that.”
What followed was six months of tedious, deliberate recuperation in which even minor humdrum tasks were turned into beacons of triumph. No longer does he take gains for granted. “It has made me stronger and wiser,” Lobban reflects. Back in peak shape, he has made up lost ground but is now ascending into fresh terrain. “I’m lucky enough that the surgery and rehab went so well that I can go beyond where I was before.”