THE months and months that Lisa Aitken was forced out of her sport through illness seemed to last forever.

But Scotland’s top squash player now realises that as challenging as her lay-off was at the time, it has given her a new lease of life.

In 2014, while competing in a tournament in Malaysia, Aitken contracted dengue fever from a mosquito bite, which proceeded to knock her career off track. For over two years, she was wiped of energy and at times, wondered if she would ever return to top level squash.

But after returning to the squash tour in January last year, a remarkable run of performances saw her win a trio of tournaments, leading to her selection for Team Scotland for Gold Coast 2018, which begins in less than two weeks.

It will be the second Commonwealth Games for the 28-year-old from Dundee, who is ranked 58th in the world, but while she admits that the journey to get to this point has not been easy, she is, in a funny way, glad her illness happened when it did.

“It was a bit of a rollercoaster time, both emotionally and physically,” she said. “There were moments that I didn’t think that I was strong enough, physically or mentally, to get back playing. But you find a lot out about yourself when you’re really tested and you strip everything back and reflect on what you’ve done and what you want as an athlete and as a person.”

As well as learning much about herself, she also discovered what she needed to do with her training to make the most of her sessions.

“It was a really tough time but it was a really great time in character building and self-development,” she said. “I learned that less is definitely more in terms of training - I was doing a lot of things in the past that I thought were making a difference but having that time to sit back and look at whether it was making an impact has helped me.

"I’ve just turned 28 so in terms of athletic career, some people might think that I’m coming to the end or that I should be in my peak but having had that time off, I feel much fresher. My body feels great and I think that’s a lot to do with how I’m training now.”

Aitken will play singles, ladies doubles and mixed doubles in Gold Coast and while it is in singles that she has made a significant impact since coming back, it is in mixed doubles alongside her playing partner Kevin Moran that she harbours medal ambitions in Gold Coast. With doubles rarely contested on tour, no pair goes into the Commonwealth Games as clear favourites meaning the Scots have a real medal opportunity.

“The doubles is going really well,” she said. “Because doubles in squash is played only once every four years at the Commonwealth Games, you can develop a new tactic, new shot or new style of play that wasn’t around four years before. So we have a couple of tricks up our sleeve that we’ll be trying out - we’ve got nothing to lose.”

And with Scotland not having won a medal in squash since 1998, Aitken finds the prospect of bringing that drought to an end thrilling.

“I try not to think about winning a medal too much but that’s what motivates me and I’d be lying if I said I never thought about it,” she said.

“And as the Games get closer, I’m thinking about it more while trying not to get carried away at the same time. I know there is a chance it can happen so I’ll just try my best to make it happen. It would be huge for the sport. This is the best team we’ve had in a very long time so we’ll see how it goes.”