“The louder the crowd, the better” – Coll Ready To Harness Alexandra Palace Atmosphere

Paul Coll.

“The louder the crowd, the better,” admitted World No.2 Paul Coll when asked about the prospect of playing at the world-famous Alexandra Palace for the inaugural edition of the Gillen Markets London Squash Classic.

“We always want to put on a show, so whenever we get that atmosphere, and the people are loving it, it spurs us on to go harder. I think everyone loves a good atmosphere, especially me.”

The Gold-level London Squash Classic, which will take place between March 27 – April 1, is a continuation of the iconic Canary Wharf Classic on the PSA World Tour calendar – an event at which Coll has enjoyed vast amounts of success in the past.

Proposed refurbishments to the East Wintergarden venue – where the Canary Wharf Classic has been held over the last two decades – have meant a trip across the capital to the renowned sports venue, Alexandra Palace, which has become well-known for hosting the PDC World Darts Championship.

Coll, who claimed titles at the Canary Wharf Classic in 2019, 2021, and most recently in 2023, when he came back from a game down to defeat Welshman Joel Makin, is now looking to transfer this past success to the event’s brand new home.

The New Zealander will enter this year’s draw as the top seed and title favourite following an impressive season that has already seen him capture four trophies on the PSA World Tour.

“This is one of the events on tour that I really like,” Coll said. “I know it is a different venue, but Tim [Garner] is still the organiser and I’m sure they will make it into just as good an atmosphere and event to play at.

“I’ve watched the World Darts Championships at Alexandra Palace every year, and the place looks like it is always rocking, so I’m looking forward to playing there for sure.

“I’m hoping it has the same sort of atmosphere as the Canary Wharf Classic and that the London people turn up the same way they did, because the location is going to be awesome and I’m really excited for it.

“I just think the history of Alexandra Palace is brilliant. It’s had some big events there and I think it showcases whatever is involved brilliantly, and hopefully it does that for squash. It should be a great court there and the whole theatre of it looks amazing. I really think it will be a great venue for squash.”

Coll has enjoyed significant success when playing on English soil during his career to date, with seven of his 13 World Tour victories coming in the country. Just last week, the 31-year-old added his latest success to this list, as he came away victorious from the Gold-level Optasia Championships in Wimbledon after a string of highly impressive performances.

The 31-year-old lived up to his nickname ‘Superman’ on his way to capturing the title, clawing his way back from 2-0 down to defeat World No.1 Ali Farag in the final, saving a match ball in the fourth game along the way.

What was evident during the title decider, though, was the string of animated New Zealand fans in the crowd – support that Coll thinks adds yet another level to his game when taking to the court.

“I’ve got plenty of Kiwi mates who live over here, so to see a lot of familiar faces and friends gives me a really big vibe and it definitely helps my squash,” he said. “My coach is also over in the UK, so I spend a lot of time here, and it is a very familiar place.

“I love the crowds as well. They enjoy their squash and are very knowledgable. They give us a good vibe to play here.”

The London Squash Classic 2024 will also see a return to the best-of-three format up until the semi-finals, with Coll seeded to play Fares Dessouky and last year’s runner-up Makin in his opening two matches before the event switches back to the traditional best-of-five games.

And although the shorter, sharper format typically helps those with an attack-minded game, and in turn, could take away from Coll’s physicality on the court, the New Zealander believes that his consistency in pressure moments is an equally important factor.

“It definitely adds a bit more pressure, for sure,” Coll said on the best-of-three format. “You’ve got to be on your toes from the get-go otherwise you can fall behind quickly.

“I’ve historically had some good results in the best-of-three format. A lot of people think it rewards shot playing, but it puts a lot of pressure on your shots and if you have a bad game, you’re under pressure.

“I think it’s all about consistency, playing every point as though it is a big point because there is so much pressure about winning that first game and getting an early lead. I quite like the pressure aspect of it, and although it takes a little bit of physicality out of it, it adds a tonne of pressure.

“It’s a mental challenge and I enjoy that aspect of it.”

So far this season, Coll’s consistency has made him a force to be reckoned with on the PSA World Tour, having already lifted titles in four different continents and subsequently rising back up to No.2 in the world rankings. The Kiwi also remains the only player so far this campaign to have defeated World No.1 Farag, with Coll recording victories in the finals of the U.S. Open, the Hong Kong Open and the Optasia Championships.

Despite getting the better of Farag on three of five occasions this season, Coll still admitted there is a mountain to climb before he stands a chance of returning to the summit of the world rankings, a position he last held back in October 2022.

He said: “I’m not thinking too much about the World No.1 spot at the moment. Ali [Farag] is miles above us at the moment, so I think it is about focusing on my own squash and getting the consistency that he has at the moment.

“It really impresses me how he can back it up tournament after tournament. I’m sure he’s had days where he’s not feeling too good, and he still manages to win events, so it’s impressive what he is doing, and he is inspiring me to try and reach that level of consistency.

“I’ve got things I’m working on in my own game and I’ve got things to improve, so maybe in the next year, we might be able to close that gap.”