Haley Mendez announced her retirement this week after 13 years on the PSA World tour.
Here she opens up to Squash IQ about her most bizarre tour experience, and whether she will continue to play squash post-retirement…
60 seconds with Haley Mendez…
Hi Haley. You graduate business school in June and have said you are keen to “try something away from squash and give myself a new challenge”. How often do you think you will find time to play now you’ve retired from the tour?
I still plan to play several times a week – I need to stay good enough that I can still beat [husband] Nathan [Lake] at a double bounce game! But I love squash, and I would go crazy if I didn’t exercise every day, so I imagine it will stay a pretty big part of our lives.
The PSA has come up with nicknames for a couple of your compatriots, including ‘The Roadrunner’ [Sabrina Sobhy] and Amanda ‘Southpaw’ Sobhy. Did you ever have a nickname informally, and if not, what would have been an apt one for you?
Hmm… The Brooklyn Boss
Who did you have the closest battles with on tour?
Honestly, I have never had a more heated battle than the bi-weekly matches I would play with my sister during Covid. She would be allowed two bounces, her scoring was American (point per rally) and mine was English (only scored on my serve), and her biased fiancé was the referee. Oh. My. God. Blood, sweat, tears, swearing, and 100 court sprints to finish every time.
29 is relatively young to retire by today’s standards. Did a part of you feel you could pull a Rachael Grinham or James Willstrop and play on to a high standard well into your 30s?
I am grateful to be retiring on my own terms and not because of injury or fatigue. I am sure I could have continued to push myself and improve, but I felt it was time for a new challenge. As hard as I have worked in my squash career, I have also put a lot of time and effort into my two degrees and now I want to try and flex those muscles.
What was your career high?
Getting to live out my dream and call professional squash my job!
Which player has made you laugh the most during your time as a pro?
Lucy Beecroft – ask her to see some action shots from when she was a 10 year old squasher.
What was your strangest experience on tour?
One of the weirder events I played was in Macau – I have never seen so many security cameras in my life. It was also the only event I ever played where we were paid cash on site.
How would you compare the health of squash in the US now to when you turned pro (see compatriot Sabrina Sobhy’s thoughts here)?
Squash is growing in the US and around the world. It is amazing to see new facilities being built all over the country, urban squash programmes expanding, and the sheer number of tournaments in North America continuing to dwarf any other country. Squash still has a long way to go, but it is on the right track!
Name one thing governing bodies or referees could do to improve squash for viewers.
Increase visibility and awareness – whatever the price is, just get SquashTV on mainstream sports channels!
What’s the best piece of advice you were ever given by a coach or fellow player?
“There are 1.4 billion people in China that don’t give a **** if you win or lose.”
“Don’t be afraid of the airplane bathroom. Drink loads on the plane.”
“Play hard. Have fun.”
What will you miss most about being on the tour?
That feeling when you win a huge point or intense match on the biggest stage.
How would you like to be remembered in the game?
The most important thing to me is to be remembered for always trying my hardest, playing with integrity and grit, and being a top ambassador for the game both on and off the court.