Avery Park: 'As an American, being ESF No.1 is really cool!'

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Avery Park: 'As an American, being ESF No.1 is really cool!'

Avery Park says being ESF girls' No.1 is "really, really cool" and she relishes the "different kind of squash challenge" the circuit gives her compared to the USA.

The 17-year-old has travelled over from her hometown of Baltimore regularly for ESF junior competitions since she was 12 years old.

She hit top spot for the first time in the U17 rankings in February last year - then quickly made it to No.1 in the U19s in August where she remains to this day.

It is believed she is the first American player ever to be ESF-ranked No.1 - and she takes great pride in that achievement.

"When I first started coming over to Europe I didn't really know what to expect, but as I've progressed it became my goal to be No.1 overall because of the results I was getting," she tells us. 

"I was showing myself that I had the potential to do it. I was performing more consistently - arguably more than I was in the US - and that really motivated me.

"Flying over here is quite a lot of pressure in itself because I want to make it worth my parents spending all the money on flights and hotels.

"Now that I am No.1 it's really, really cool. No American we know has ever done that before. It's nice to see it all coming together."

Park trains at Dreadsport Squash & Fitness in Baltimore with her Botswanian coach, Lefika Ragontse, who has coached 16 US national junior champions.

Park was part of a large American squad who flew over for the British Junior Open in early January. Unfortunately, despite completing (and winning!) her third round match against Canada's Ocean Ma, Park sustained a shoulder injury which forced her to withdraw from her quarter-final against Egypt's Janna Galal.

This minor setback shouldn't affect Park's confidence too much though after a stunning 2023, during which she won the Czech and German Junior Open trophies and finished runner-up at the Italian and Swiss Junior Opens.

Park says there are many benefits to playing on the ESF circuit - both inside and outside the court.

"In the US, especially as a girl, I feel like you play the same people all the time," she said. "In Europe, I feel like the players themselves are different because they are in the top three in their own countries, so they all have that winner's mindset which makes it a real challenge.

"I really like the exposure to different kinds of squash too. In America it's all about pace and I feel like now there's more of an emphasis on fitness. But I feel like in the ESF, generally the players have more developed hands and they make more use of the court rather than following strict rules.

"Learning specific game plans is more of a thing in the US, but in the ESF they really follow their instincts and go for more shots - that's my observation anyway!"

Park also enjoys the off-court camaraderie on the European tour. "I've made so many friendships with people I would never otherwise have got to meet," she says. "It's made me really interested in travelling abroad and learning new languages which I had never thought about before. Now I have friends all over the world which is really cool!"


(Main pic: SquashPage.net)

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